2010 Kia Soul: Small Rollin’

Written by Kimatni D. Rawlins

I had a quizzical premonition after returning to chilly Maryland from Miami following an amusing test drive in Kia’s new, small people mover dubbed the “Soul.” From Washington Dulles Airport, I jumped in our newly arrived, long-term BMW 7-Series. Driving home in traffic with the latest technology, I had much time to think. Would I rather be up north in the cold with a luxury tourer, or back on the beach in Miami finding my Soul? My answer was confirmed by Face Book friends who agreed with being back in the M.I.A.!

With the all-new Soul, Kia believes they have the right car at the right time. For the Soul is cool, urban and youthful. According to their marketing strategy, “it’s a new way to roll.” And that is true indeed. I concur totally. Especially in Miami where the mind is free, spirits are high and daily priorities become mere tasks in the midst of white sand beaches, boating, sunshine, loud colors, daytime drinks and everything else. Whereas business meetings are held in five-star hotel cabanas, trendy consumers are open to everything. A quick examination on Ocean Drive in front of Wet Willies proved this theory as I parked my Jet Black Soul with 18s out front. Ironically, it was Spring Break. Everyone was there including NFL speedy wideout Santana Moss who vehemently stated “I would drive the hell out of that thing.” Pretty impressive coming from a young and well-off pro athlete that owns Range Rovers, Hummers and Benzes.

The Soul has all the right ingredients to make it accepting among the young crowd Kia is targeting. The only thing really lacking in the Soul is some soul under the hood. The 1.6-liter makes 122 horsepower and the 2.0-liter 142. It goes nowhere fast. An aftermarket turbo or supercharger is definitely in order. Yet, with Bluetooth, Sirius Radio, a 30-pin iPod connection, available 18s, two-toned interior, and an incredible upgraded Infinity sound system from Harman-Kardon, the Soul has the formula. Even the interior is rich with insightful placements of user controls and the use of good plastics and happy colors. Turn up the 315 watts emitting from the 7-channel 10-speaker system and you’ll think the Soul was a DJ booth! Seriously, the Infinity system rocks harder than the Cold Play and Jay-Z remix! “Soul offers the perfect combination of style, value and personalized options,” said Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing, Kia Motors America. “It defies categorization and has a long list of features and available accessories that really speaks to today’s consumer.”

There is ample room for five and the second row folds flat for those adventurous days when bikes and scooters need to be transported. The question is whether Kia can trade in their average customer age (52) into the target age (23). With a starting price of $13,300, the Soul is surely in the economic range of the target demographic. Kia says their targets are online on such sites as Twitter, YouTube, The Onion, and HULU. They like sports, networking events, concerts and road trips, and of course use mobile gadgets such as iPods and Blackberrys. I’m 35 and I fit the profile. During my Miami stay I was Tweeting about the Soul on my “Tweeterberry” and constantly updating my Face Book profile with Kia Soul references from Kia’s media room. So the point here is that you never know who your audience might be until time and experience defines it for you. Honda and their Element and Toyota with their Scion learned the hard way. The Element’s average age was old enough to be my grandparents and Scion went after underground hip-hop too hard. If you give rappers a free car they will certainly drive it, but that doesn’t mean they will buy it. And if old heads tend to gravitate towards your brand then roll with it. A sale is a sale. Dealers certainly won’t care. The Soul comes in four trim levels: Soul, Soul+, Soul! and Soul sport. Pricing starts at $13,300 for the little guy and can jump to $18,600 with all available options.

After a long day’s drive around Coconut Grove, Coral Gables and South Beach I headed back downtown where we were resting our heads at the succulent Mandarin Oriental. I slowly cruised by the triple A (American Airlines Arena) where the Miami Heat where hosting the Bulls. D-Wade was to receive Kia’s Performance Award for Player of the Month. How badly I wanted to skip fresh grilled chicken and fish at Kia’s Beach Party at the Mandarin and take in some dogs, fries and beer to see Wade in action. Well, Kia is the official car of the NBA so I’m sure there will be more opportunities!

{flickr-album}Type=Photoset, User=45173781@N04, Photoset= 72157623136537750{/flickr-album}