Craig Scime: The Kia Soul is out of the ordinary in many ways, but it's not just this crazy box styling. What sets the Soul apart is really that something so eccentric can be a hit among buyers.
Amanda Salas: This five-passenger compact hit the showrooms in the spring of 2009 and was unchanged through 2011. But for 2012, Kia decided that the Soul needed a little bit more?soul.
Craig: When the Soul first came out, the Scion xB was the only other player in the unorthodox-box market. Since then, the Nissan Cube has entered the ring, and the xB has been updated, too.
Amanda: But, just like the xB, the updates to the Soul are pretty subtle and include new headlights and front and rear fascias-not to mention a ton of new colors to choose from.
Craig: The real updates lie inside the Soul and underneath the redesigned hood. Plus there's lots of high-tech goodies as part of the improved layout.
Amanda: Even in this base model you get an auxiliary audio jack, USB port and three free months of Sirius satellite radio.
Craig: You can also select from the Plus and Exclaim trims. The range-topping Exclaim comes with a sand-and-black interior trim and hound's-tooth inserts.
Amanda: And don't forget the Infiniti premium audio system that comes standard on the Exclaim. So it's got the look and sound to turn heads, and in most cases, it's got the fun ride to back it up!
Craig: Now the base engine makes 138 horsepower, which is on par with the competition, but with this six-speed automatic, it won't feel like much.
Amanda: To get some energy out of the Soul, AutoTrader recommends going with the six-speed manual or upping the ante with the two-liter engine that comes on the Soul Plus or Exclaim.
Craig: You know, this engine gets 164 horsepower, and that's 16 percent more from the same size engine from last year.
Amanda: That's great, but you know, Craig, no matter what engine you choose, you're still gonna get better fuel economy than last year.
The base engine gets as much as 36 miles per gallon highway with the Eco package. The more powerful two-liter gets just one mpg less in each category.
Craig: Now, you can't really measure how much excitement you get out of a car, but the Soul is definitely more fun to drive than expected. It's got nimble city handling, and the ride on the highway isn't harsh at all.
Amanda: And pricing isn't harsh, either! Base MSRP is just under $14,000, and an Exclaim model with several options tops out at around $23,000.
Craig: So, to get the most for your money, AutoTrader recommends the Kia Soul Plus with the audio upgrade and the sunroof.
Amanda: And with Kia's amazing 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, you're going to have a lot of fun driving your 2012 Kia Soul long after your payments are done!