$5,271 - $7,273

2011 Kia Soul Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 Kia Soul was new.


Performance: 7.2

For the most part, the automotive press says the 2011 Kia Soul will satisfy daily drivers who don’t need much excitement or inspiration because the Soul is about looks and affordability, not driving capabilities. Reviewers agree that the Soul definitely isn’t sporty, but compared with the Scion xB, it’s got a touch of pep. Downsides include a sometimes choppy ride, weak engine and an unpredictable manual transmission.

  • "The Soul isn't a bad car, but it isn't sporty, despite the fact that our test car was the sport model. The large wheels and stiffer suspension just accentuate its economy car roots on bad roads." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "We drove the 2.0-liter Soul over 90 miles of Korean roads, mostly on smooth expressways. Its power is respectable, its handling is neutral in the manner of most four-cylinder tall boxes (it has an independent front and torsion-beam rear suspension), and it's fairly quiet inside at 70 mph." -- Car and Driver
  • "The Soul's ride is compliant and smooth even with the 18-inch wheels -- at least, on the tarmac roads in rural Korea. Handling is adequate, with about as much sway as one experiences in a standard xB, but it's not particularly sharp or inspiring." -- AutoWeek
  • "It's not often that a car's name actually matches its personality. But for the $17,645 Kia Soul Sport, the name fits. The Soul Sport was easily the most fun to drive of the three boxes here." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "But sometimes zip trumps force. In city driving, the Soul can give you those bursts of speed needed to wedge into the turning lane. Overall, it's only 161.6 inches long, and that means it will easily squeeze into tight city parking spaces or the third spot on a suburban driveway." -- The Detroit News
  • "The Soul's saving grace is its surprisingly low 2875-lb curb weight, which could help it generate some more impressive numbers with a bump in power. Still, its performance is just behind the xB and ahead of the Cube." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

The base Soul has a 1.6-liter 122-horsepower four-cylinder engine. The Soul (+), Soul (!) and Soul Sport get a 2.0-liter 142-horsepower four-cylinder engine. All trims have the same standard transmission, which is a five-speed manual. A four-speed automatic is also available, but you can’t get it with the base model, and it’s optional on the Soul (+) trim. Combined, the Soul’s engine and transmission do not create a sporty ride. Reviewers note that the Soul has a weak engine.

Few have tested the base engine, but reviewers find the 2.0-liter engine is adequate enough. However, some criticize the manual transmission, saying it’s unpredictable. According to the EPA, the Soul gets up to 26/31 mpg city/highway. 

  • "The 2.0-liter engine has decent torque and midrange punch, but don't try to rev it to the moon as all you really get is noise. Additionally, the five-speed manual gearbox has vague feel and first gear seemingly disappeared on more than one occasion during my drive. We can only hope that there was something wrong with our test vehicle and the shifter feel we experienced is not typical." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The shifter is vague, sloppy, and notchy. Shifting is no fun, although clutch takeup is light and predictable." -- Car and Driver
  • "We tried out the five-speed manual and the four-speed automatic flavors, both equipped with the up-level, 142-hp, 2.0-liter engine. While the Soul proved relatively quick and nimble in city traffic, on the highway, the engine could use a bit more pluck and the automatic transmission an extra gear." -- Motor Trend
  • "The Soul accelerates with as much verve as any of its competitors, at least with the manual transmission, and Kia predicts class-leading EPA mileage ratings." -- New Car Test Drive

Handling and Braking

The 2011 Kia Soul’s handling isn’t best in class. While some reviewers say the Soul’s handling is sub-par, others claim it poses competition to other hatchbacks.

  • "With a short, 100.4-inch wheelbase, you'd expect harsh ride that makes logs of tar marks in the road. Nope. Soul minimizes bumps and bruises." -- Chicago Tribune
  • "Unfortunately, the Soul's cost-saving conception inflicts it with road manners that aren't too far removed from those of the fairly uncouth Rio. Initial damping has been tightened, but the resultant ride can verge on cruel over imperfect pavement. And although you'd expect such stiffness to pay off in the curves, the Soul's tallish, mini-minivan body wallows and wobbles during spirited driving." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Despite the sporty look and our tester's Sport trim level and retuned suspension, the Soul exhibited a bit more body roll than expected and posted an average grip of 0.83 g around our skidpad. ... But despite the average numbers, all its handling figures best those of its direct competitors, so it's very competitive in its segment. One quibble we have is with the Soul's steering, which feels heavy at low speeds and lighter at high speeds -- not exactly a great combination." -- Motor Trend
  • "With strut suspension up front and a transverse torsion-beam rear axle, the Soul Sport model proved agile yet stable, giving it turning that made it somewhat harsh on normal roads, yet surprisingly compliant on knotty canyon routes." -- Popular Mechanics

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