The basics: The Soul comes in four trim lines. The base model is powered by a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine that makes 122 hp and 115 pounds-feet of torque. A 2.0-liter four cylinder, capable of 142 hp and 137 pounds feet of torque, is standard on the other trims.
A five-speed manual transmission is standard; a four-speed automatic is optional on all but the base model.
Although its chief competitor, the xB, has more power and interior room, the Soul trumps the Scion on fuel economy. The base Soul with manual transmission gets 26 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway. The 2.0-liter with the manual and automatic comes in at 24/30. The xB gets 22/28 with both manual and automatic transmissions.
Notable features: Standard equipment on the base model, which is priced at $13,995, including shipping, includes power door locks and windows, side curtain airbags, antilock brakes and electronic stability control. The standard audio system includes four speakers with AM/FM radio, CD player and satellite radio.
The top-of-the-line sport model includes 18-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, an audio upgrade, four-speed automatic transmission, power moonroof and sport tuned suspension. The price is $19,295, including shipping.
What Kia says: "Soul is a halo car that people can afford to buy," says Tom Loveless, Kia Motors America's sales chief. "It might actually become cool to drive a Kia."
Compromises and shortcomings: Red speaker lights blink off and on to give the vehicle a club feel, but they are distracting.
The market: With lower fuel prices, smaller vehicles have lost much of their appeal. Sales of the xB have dropped dramatically despite its being redesigned for the 2009 model year.
The skinny: Kia hopes to sell 40,000 Souls annually. Company officials say the Soul's 11 exterior colors, two-tone interiors and the 50 accessories will make the car a winner.