Hot news for 2010: Kia adds a little Soul for the new model year, a compact vehicle with a lot of character. Ÿ Forte sedan and two-door Forte Koup provide solid replacements for older product while adding diversity. Ÿ It’s a game of wait and see for the one-year-old Borrego; no 2010 model, but will there be a 2011?
Carryover: Rio/Rio5; Rondo; Sedona; Sportage
Gone?: Spectra and Spectra 5
Going, going . . . gone?: Borrego
n Kia has brought out a trio of new vehicles for the 2010 model year, but as interesting as the new Forte sedan and Forte Koup, the small-and-tall Soul is stealing the show. Always ready to seize upon a trend or even generate a new one, Kia’s California design studio penned this boxy bridge to the youth market, enhanced by a slanted roofline, rakish beltline, snub-nosed fascia and wheels positioned to the far reaches of each corner.
The Soul’s near-vertical walls and extra-wide liftgate maximize interior space on an all-new compact platform. Just as much thought went into the interior; the dash layout is bold without being overly trendy and the shape of the center control panel, with its built-in main audio speaker and 14 storage bins, is especially inviting. This abbreviated Kia is shorter than the Toyota Matrix, Pontiac Vibe and Dodge Caliber by 10-12 inches, but is somewhat larger than Nissan’s Cube.
Exactly what and/or whom you plan to carry could play a role in your choice of powertrains. The starting point is a 122-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder connected to a five-speed manual transmission. Added performance and enhanced content selection accompany the upper-level trims that include a 142-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder connected to a five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic. Kia has cleverly packaged the Soul for maximum customization and a wide range of price points.
The base model includes tilt steering, power windows, locks and mirrors, rear wiper/washer and a sound system that accommodates external audio players. The “Soul +” adds air and cruise, keyless remote entry, dash-mounted tweeter speakers, hands-free phone connectivity, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and 16-inch alloy rims. The next-level “Soul !” gets upgraded interior trim, power moonroof, fog lights, 18-inch wheels and a more powerful 315-watt stereo, while the Sport provides a uniquely styled front and rear fascia, sport-tuned suspension, styled-metal foot pedals, sport bucket seats and metal-finish interior trim. Though geared to appeal to the youthful end of the market, you can’t pin down your audience, so don’t be surprised to see people of all ages driving the Soul as well as the 2010 Forte Koup. As with its new sedan counterpart, the Koup has been neatly styled into one trim little package. There’s a sizable trunk and the 60:40 split rear seat can be folded flat when the need arises.
Although the Koup shares its platform with the Forte sedan, the body profile is a bit lower and shorter overall. In addition, the suspension and steering rack have been modified for better high-speed stability and more direct feel. Available sport-tuned (firmer) shocks and struts on up-level models should further improve cornering performance.
Base models are fitted with a 156-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that operates through a five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic. Optional is a 173-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder that runs with a six-speed manual transmission or available five-speed.