Kia Soul

I've had my new car long enough to need to fill the tank up, about a month, so I figure I've had it long enough to share some thoughts on its grooviness or lack thereof. I did quite a bit of research before buying this car and the biggest complaint I heard was a lack of pep; something that I haven't noticed at all. (Some people say the car is hideously ugly, but I think it's universally agreed that hideously ugly is in the eye of the beholder.)

I was looking for an inexpensive car with excellent safety ratings that didn't guzzle gas and has room for my six foot tall sons and my big dog. After looking at reviews for what seemed to be several years I decided on the Kia Sport, which has very high ratings from the super duper safety ratings folks and is beloved by tall folks, college aged folks and big dog owning folks. Of course just because a car looks good on paper doesn't mean it's comfortable or fun or feels solid so a trip to the dealership was in order.

A couple of weeks after visiting a dealer I bought an alien green Kia Soul Plus, although ultimately from the third dealer I checked out. I was disappointed to find out that you can't order a Kia from the factory with the color and fancy gadgets that you want. You have to take what comes down the pike, which is pretty annoying, but not annoying enough to put me off the car.

My car came with a fancy stereo system with some elements I really don't care about. There are lights around the speakers that pulse in time with the music and change color, which is kind of cute but also distracting? I'm not about to tear them out and I could see why someone would enjoy them but I usually think of this as more of a bug than a feature. The stereo is nice and comes with three months free satellite radio, which I'm not sure I'll keep.

The Soul has surprising features that I'm still noticing. For instance my son tried to lock the driver's door and close it while the keys were still in the ignition and he couldn't do it. The lock kept popping open, preventing him from locking the keys in the car. Once you close the door you can lock from the inside, so you can still hang out in the car and listen to the radio with the door locked; an important part of growing up for many teens.

The dashboard lights go from dim to bright when I drive through a tunnel or when the clouds pass overhead, or if I drive under a bunch of trees. This is really nice as I can see my gauges easily but it can lead to trouble because it can make me think my headlights are on when they aren't. My old car, a Toyota Corolla which I had for six years, had automatic daytime running lights so when I see the bright dash I think headlights on. I'm just going to have to be extra careful.

The cargo net seems pretty pointless to me, but maybe someone can get some use out of it. I like the way the seats can lay flat, which has been surprisingly useful as I've had to buy a new air conditioner and a new toilet in the same week, as my house slowly dissolves around us. My dog, an Akita, adores the back seat and loves how much space he has as compared to the Toyota. He's not so hot on the electric windows, which he hasn't encountered before, and jumps every time I use them, but he likes that I can roll the window down without having to pull over and crank the window down manually.

The Soul Plus comes with Bluetooth, which I haven't set up yet as I'm one of the few remaining new car shoppers who don't have a cell phone. (Remember Cell? Me too. There are also radio controls set into the steering wheel, with the idea that it's safer to fiddle with the steering wheel than to take your hands off the wheel and reach across the cabin. I'm not sure about this as you'd have to memorize the new system before using it, which I haven't done at all. But then I'm kind of hyper about the whole thing and get my navigator/passenger to adjust the radio and the climate control. Speaking of which the air conditioner in the Soul is awesome, which is critical for me as I live in the Washington DC area where we have disgustingly hot, humid summers. The dash also tells me the outside temp, which is kind of fun.

If you've got mobility problems you just might love the Kia Soul. The driver's seat is high enough off the ground that getting in and out is a breeze; a million times easier and more comfortable on the old knees and back than a sedan, and the visibility is great. There is room in the back to put a folded wheelchair or the kind of walker you can sit and rest in and I've heard you can put a scooter back there, although I haven't tried it.

So far my gas mileage is spot on, exactly what the manufacturer advertises. It's not wonderful, clocking in around 24 miles per gallon, but its okay.

I had a lot of trouble finding a dealer with a good reputation and I was extremely unhappy with my own buying experience. I went through a buying program with my credit union, so I do have an advocate to argue on my behalf. If you belong to Costco, or USAA, or a credit union that offers one of these programs you might want to use it so you have a third party to help you if you need it.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is a fantastic review of Transformers three by Lisa Hanawalt, who is an artist who makes comics and illustrations. This is definitely the best review of this terrible, overdone, over hyped, film I've seen. Pure fun from start to finish. I would go to the movies with Lisa any day.