The Soul is about six inches shorter overall than the new xB and about six inches longer than the first-gen Scion -- and just as long as the Fit, with a 12-in.-longer wheelbase. It isn't a performance car, but does feel sportier than basic cars in this size and price category. Suspension was tuned to provide a firmer ride, which it achieves, but some may not like the amount of bumps and road irregularities transmitted into the cabin. What didn't come through, even in our preproduction model, were any squeaks or rattles. We did notice that in turns, the Soul exhibited a bit more body roll than expected.

The interior is a lot more appealing than a traditional economy car's and less out-there than the xB's. With basic black cloth like our tester's, most of the cabin was black with red LED lighting on the stereo and red accents on the gauges. The red and black cloth interior gives the Soul a much more youthful attitude. Aux and USB jacks are standard, and options include Sirius, Bluetooth, power sunroof, redundant steering-wheel controls, and an eight-speaker system. Front and rear rows are surprisingly roomy, but long-legged passengers should try to get the front seat -- the front seats are backed by hard plastic. There's plenty of headroom, and the car is surprisingly spacious overall.

On the sensible side, the Soul comes standard with dual front, front-seat-mounted, and full-length side-curtain airbags; TPMS; and front-seat active headrests. ABS with EBD, stability control, and rear disc brakes are standard on all but the base model.

The Soul could change the perception of the company as that of a maker of boring, cheap cars, and could bring in a lot of first-time Kia buyers. Kia's hope is that it can sell 50,000 units a year in North America.

The Soul's style, attitude, and charm come with the economy and value Kia is known for, but for young buyers, this has to be the most appealing car Kia has ever made. We'll soon see if Kia can pull Gen Y away from the Scion and the Fit, as well as the upcoming Cube.

Base Price $15,000-$19,000 (est)
Vehicle Layout Front engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatch
Engines 1.6L/122-hp/115-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4; 2.0L/142-hp/137-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4
Transmissions 5-speed manual; 4-speed automatic
Curb Weight 3000 lb (est)
Wheelbase 100.4 in
Length x Width x Height 161.6 x 70.3 x 63.4 in
0-60 mph 8.5-9.5 sec (MT est)
EPA City/Hwy Econ 28-31/31-36 mpg (MT est)
CO2 Emissions 0.59-0.66 lb/mile
On Sale In U.S. March 2009