$7,664 - $10,499

2013 Kia Soul Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2013 Kia Soul was new.


Performance: 7.2

Most reviewers are pleased with the 2013 Kia Soul’s performance. They like both of its engines, but several prefer the optional 2.0-liter engine because it’s more powerful. Test drivers also report that the Soul is easy to park, but wish the automatic transmission made smoother transitions between gears.

  • "Soul is a bit more stable and relaxed in highway driving compared to some subcompacts, but its fun-to-drive character might shine through best in urban driving." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Once your hands and feet fine-tune their inputs, the Soul is exactly the type of dart-and-turn urban transport you would expect at this price point. We even found the highway ride to be surprisingly comfortable despite the vehicle's relatively short wheelbase." -- Autoblog (2012)

Acceleration and Power

The base 2013 Kia Soul has a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 138 horsepower, while a 2.0-liter engine that makes 164 horsepower is optional. Both engines have a standard six-speed manual transmission, and a six-speed automatic is optional. According to the EPA, the base Soul averages 25/30 mpg city/highway with either transmission. Eco models average up to 26/31 mpg with the automatic.

Of the two available engines, test drivers tend to prefer the 2.0-liter engine because it is more powerful. Still, they say those who choose the base engine won’t be disappointed because it has plenty of power for city driving. Test drivers say the automatic transmission is smooth, but a few complain about the way it shifts gears. As for the manual transmission, one test driver says it shifts gears easily, but thinks it doesn’t add any entertainment value to the Soul.

  • "With plenty of power on tap, the 2013 Kia Soul is enjoyable around town and confident when merging onto a freeway. However, while there's ample power with the 1.6-liter engine, we still think most buyers will be happier with the gutsy 164-hp 2.0-liter, especially since the difference in fuel economy is so small. Both the six-speed manual and automatic transmissions are well-matched to either engine." -- Edmunds
  • "Models with 2.0-liter engine are strong all around, and highway merging and passing power is impressive for a subcompact. The 6-speed automatic transmission is smooth and alert, but one test vehicle occasionally clunked when upshifting at low speed." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "The recent addition of a 6-speed automatic transmission provides quieter and more fuel-efficient cruising, but needs to downshift sometimes two gears to get the car up inclines or to pass other vehicles." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The manual in the lesser Soul was easy to shift, but not a lot of fun." -- USA Today (2012)
  • "The 1.6-liter I-4 is peppy and spunky and is a hoot to use around town. Sadly, equipped with the automatic transmission and start/stop system like this example, the fun ends there. The transmission is hesitant to downshift and loves to shift up to sixth gear as quickly as it can to save fuel." -- Automobile Magazine (2012)

Handling and Braking

Though test drivers are quick to note that the 2013 Soul’s handling isn’t as agile as that of competitors like the smaller Chevrolet Sonic and Ford Fiesta, they think that overall, the Soul’s steering is accurate. Several reviewers also mention that a tight turning radius makes the Soul easy to park and maneuver on city streets. Their praise continues to the brakes, which they say are smooth and confidence-inspiring. While many assessments of the Soul’s handling and braking capabilities are positive, one test driver is disappointed with the Soul’s suspension, which is not smooth over rough pavement.

  • "Soul is reasonably nimble, but there is some noticeable body lean in turns. Accurate steering provides good road feel, and the brakes are smooth and strong. Soul's small size and reasonably tight turning radius make for good close-quarters maneuverability." -- Consumer Guide
  • "In terms of handling, the Soul doesn't offer the sort of zippy agility found in the Chevy Sonic or Ford Fiesta, but the Kia isn't a soft snooze-mobile like the Nissan Cube either. The steering has a reassuring weightiness to its effort level at highway speeds, while the response proves crisp and linear on a twisting road." -- Edmunds
  • "It's also a snap to parallel park and easy to maneuver through neighborhoods with twisty roads and in and out of parking lots all over town." -- Cars.com (2012)
  • "When the test car hit speed bumps or potholes just a little faster than normal, the car whammed and felt as if the suspension would really rather be someplace else. Over wrinkled asphalt it was a teeth-slammer." -- USA Today (2012)

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