. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Mark Stevenson

Before I say anything about the Kia Soul, I need to confess something.

I drove a Nissan Cube. Actually, I owned a Nissan Cube. It was baby blue. And I drove it for an entire year. Yep, sure did.

With that out of the way, you can see where this is probably going to go. Though this isn’t a comparison test, there will surely be a healthy amount of comparison between Kia’s “boar with big front shoulders, sloping back to its rear legs, wearing a back pack for utility” and Nissan’s “bulldog wearing sunglasses”. I am not pulling this stuff out of thin air, but instead directly from the marketing folks, who say they got it from the designers.

I think I smell something…

When the Soul arrived on the scene in 2009 as a 2010 model, its natural competitor was the Cube. Both were two-box designs, powering the front wheels with four-cylinder engines, and neither can be had with all-wheel drive. Also, both looked so weird that Scion’s current xB looked boring in comparison. But, if you look at the sales numbers, it’s easy to see Kia is the champion of the segment.

And with the 2014 Soul set to arrive, we wanted to take one last look at this first generation.

. Click image to enlarge

The Soul, which looks like a high-top rollerskate, was the right product at the right time. It was funky enough for young people to like but not over-the-top like the Cube with its asymmetric rear door glass and ripple roofliner.

But, just because the Soul is the best amongst its competitors doesn’t mean that it is perfect. It is far from it. For everything that’s good about the Soul, there is something bad about it, too.

Our tester was a 2013 Kia Soul 4U Luxury with optional Sterling Metallic paint. With the additional LED lighting and alloy wheels, it really is a sharp looking car. But, it did cause a dilemma.

. Click image to enlarge

The more I looked at it, the more I liked it.

The more I liked it, the more I wanted to drive it.

The more I drove it, the less I liked it.

The less I liked it, the more I looked at it.

Rinse, wash, repeat.

This was the vicious circle I had to deal with for the week. It does not drive how it looks and it does not look how it drives. It should drive like a Cube and it doesn’t.

First, the good stuff; it is phenomenally good looking if you are into this kind of car. Just the right amount of funk went into the Soul. Not too much. Not too little. We are talking about George Clinton levels of funk, not James Brown (let’s be honest, James Brown had a much larger selection in his medicine cabinet).

On the inside, you get a centre-dash speaker instead of a piece of shag carpet, dark interior colours, and ambient lighting that grooves to your tunes with you. What you don’t get are over-designed pieces of kitsch that serve absolutely no purpose other than to exist. There is more substance to the coolness, instead of a lack of substance to the weirdness.

So far, so good.

It’s quite well equipped as well. In 4U trim you can have sport-tuned suspension, satellite radio, and steering wheel mounted controls. 4U Luxury even goes so far as adding navigation, push button start, and automatic climate control (which has to be one of my favourite options on any car).

Connect with Autos.ca