2012 Kia Soul Long Term Report

Let me start this long term look at the Kia Soul ! (exclaim) by saying we haven’t taken delivery yet.  That happens tomorrow.

While it’s financially impossible (at least for most of us auto writers) to purchase a car every so often, we really should, just to keep our fingers on the retail pulse.  It’s fun and rewarding to write about the latest in auto tech but it’s a completely different thing to try and purchase it.

Perhaps you think I’m about to launch into a horror story about predatory dealerships and unsavory sales tactics.  Nope.  By and large the stores we visited treated us with respect and courtesy.  There were two that were pretty bad, one salesperson was clueless, the other an outright lying sack of shit.  I let them know.  I doubt they cared.

If you think it was easy for me to buy a car because my reviews air on the dominant TV station in the Seattle area, again, nope.  I took a very low shopping profile to find out how everyone gets treated. It’s amazing how different I look with no toilet paper in sight and wearing a baseball hat that hides my goofy hair.  It wasn’t until I was signing the papers that the sales person asked me what I did for a living and even then it took him a few minutes to realize I’m the guy that stuffs TP into the trunk at Costco.  And that’s the way I wanted it.  I gained a lot of insight, surprisingly mostly positive.

And that experience is how I’m starting the long term Soul review.

The biggest surprise we found is how hard it is to find ANY of the vehicles we wanted.  Volt we expected.  Same with anything from Toyota or Honda because of the floods and tsunami.  But even Equinox, Outback, Jetta SportWagen, Tiguan, and yes, Soul were in short supply. And here I thought the economy was in the toilet…

We wanted to work with the closest Kia dealership to Mariko’s workplace just to make service easy (you know, free loaner cars and all).  Every time we called though they informed us there were no ! models on the lot.  They checked incoming supply but the only one on their list was dipped in Dune paint, and really, if you’re buying a Soul, beige sort of defeats the purpose.  Right?

We wanted to buy before the end of the year.  Not because of tax shelters, I don’t pull down Jeremy Clarkson coin (nor would he be seen dead driving a Kia).  So checked the entire Puget Sound area.  Who knew there were so many Kia dealerships?  Should be a cinch to snag a ! model.  Quite the opposite, any 2012 Soul was hard to find.

Is this because of lack of components?  Flooding in Thailand?  High demand?  Well-to-do hamsters?  Hard to know.  Soul has been around for a few years and I never got the impression it was made of unobtanium.  Maybe lots of people were waiting for the 2012 refresh.

I asked Mariko if she would settle for a + model but for her the ! with the Premium Package was the deal breaker.  For less than 23K it’s a car with decent scoot, lots of room, hatchback utility, plus heated leather seats, sat nav, auto climate, keyless ignition, sunroof, killer Infinity sound and, most important, good visibility for her petite frame.  Unfortunately there were none in the pipeline according to Kia dealerships.  Zero.  Zip.  Nada.  None.

I got back to the dealer with the Dune model.  It was sold.

I floated the idea of the VW wagon again but she liked the value and style of the Soul.  Driving a white Volvo wagon for 11 years apparently creates design deprivation.  She likes the Jetta wagon but not the understated sheetmetal. Tiguan resurfaced again but she isn’t too crazy about paying 10K more for a vehicle the same size as Soul (albeit with all-wheel drive).  She reconsidered Outback, the same price as Tiguan but a larger vehicle.

And so I started calling around and found very few of the vehicles at VW and Subaru dealers to be what she wanted.  They were either stripped, loaded or a color she just couldn’t stomach (the white color compromise on the Volvo is one she is unwilling to make this time around).  Stock was low at every dealer I talked to.

At this point I wanted to shut myself in our closet and shout into a pillow.

So for grins I started calling Kia dealerships in Spokane, Bellingham, and Vancouver (InfoMcNugget- There’s one in Washington state too, not just Canada).  Not one had a !  coming.  Then I called one last time to the local dealers.  Just because.  And that’s when Kenny at Lee Johnson Kia said “let me call you tomorrow because our inventory sheet is being updated tonight”.

The next day he spoke the words “We have an Exclaim model in Moss with a premium package coming in December”. This was so unexpected I said “no, we’re looking for an Exclaim model”.  “Sir, this one IS an Exclaim model”.  Huh?

I’ll be honest.  Years of savvy strategery (thanks W) on how to buy a car were blown at that moment. “I’ll take it” spilled out of my mouth before I could stuff the words back in.  And at that moment I was the equivalent of a wounded caribou in a National Geographic documentary.  Price had not been discussed and he could add a “second sticker” that would take a sizable chunk out of the national debt.

Instead, he patiently explained they were tough to find (duh) and quoted me a firm but quite reasonable price.  No mark up? “Deal”, I said.

At the showroom they showed me the paperwork and invoice.  They stuck to the agreed price and didn’t try to up sell me on anything.  Since the car is still on the boat from Korea, they could delete the spoiler option that gets installed in port just down the road in Tacoma.  I name the dealer because they treated me with respect.  My friend and production assistant Martin Campbell bought his Optima from the same dealer and he was treated the same as me.

This is important- No doubt many of you will have a nasty time of it when haggling with a salesperson.  I sympathize.  But unless you really NEED a particular car, I would encourage you to walk out the door and try a different dealership or brand of car if you feel disrespected.  If the sales experience is poor, can the service be any better?  Do you really want a dealer that doesn’t respect you to get your hard earned money?

If you have followed the process over the months you’ll know I was sure that she would choose the Jetta SportWagen.  Hmm, I’ll have to prove how well I know her at Christmas I suppose.  When you consider the lack of inventory, color choices, optional equipment, the sales experience and the fact that two people need to agree somewhat on a car, it’s a wonder we ended up with anything at all.

I’m looking forward to closing out the purchase process.  Now if I can just get her to not scrape up the rims for the first few months…


  1. I was curious how your experience was at Smith Kia of Bellingham?

    • TV says:

      I called them to ask if they had the car we wanted. They politely said they didn’t have any Exclaims and couldn’t say if they would have any by the end of the year. That’s the extent of the conversation, much like most of the phone calls I made. Like your user name by the way.

  2. jlkdmd298d says:

    Hi Tom. I’m very close to buying a new car and I have posted a comment about how much I really like the new elantra. I recently test drove the Soul and now i like this car a lot too. They are really different in the looks department but are roughly the same price with the same available options. Can you think of any reasons to pick one over the other. Any insight would be most appreciated.

    • CalgaryGuy says:

      Sorry. I’m not Tom. Here’s my view for discussion purposes (I’m sure there are lots of good ideas here).

      I’d go Soul for carrying big boxy things (table saws), especially around town. Excellent for rear-seat passengers. Elantra for fuel economy (39 mpg highway) and driving experience. Both are very stylish.

      For hatchback practicality with better driving dynamics and reliability you could choose the Mazda3 hatch (the Soul is average, the Elantra 13% better than average, and Mazda3 37% better, according to Consumer Reports). It is also good for passengers. Mazda content is almost (but not) as good as the Koreans.

      Have you considered the Hyundai Veloster? It is a hatch, so it has the practicality of the Soul. Has great fuel economy and (I’m told) drives even better than Elantra. The base model is LOADED with content. But it sits lower to the ground, not as good for rear passengers and (like the Soul) it has very distinctive styling.

    • TV says:

      Well… the Soul certainly has a strong style to it. Some like it, others not. Our car was out in the yard today as I was working in the garage and I must have had 5 people say “what a great car!’. So obviously some folks are keen on it.

      It’s also a hatchback which is really useful. That’s why Mariko wanted it.

      It also seems like the Soul has a roomier back seat (that’s without checking the specs). The high roof gives it a very airy feeling. Very easy to get in and out of.

      Those are the big differences other than the Elantra gets better fuel economy (about 4-5 MPGs). If I think of any others I’ll let you know.

  3. macbrun says:

    I just went through the buying process, too (and ended up with a Kia Sportage SX). Pleasantly surprised by the salespeople I dealt with. Oddly, when I went to the Chevy dealership I was pretty much ignored, despite spending a lot of time sitting in the vehicles, opening hoods, etc.
    Oh, and we bought a Soul! for my daughter two years ago – very nice vehicle, especially for the money.

  4. CalgaryGuy says:

    Love the ingress/egress to both front and back. A car in which rear-seat passengers actually matter.

    I take it your wife still imagines the kids will be riding with her many years into the future. My wife shares the same dream.

    As for price. You should have waited until they have them lined up by the millions on the car-lots.
    Wait until you can place that down-payment on a house, by merely using the incentives.
    Wait until the whole Kia/Hyundai fad blows over. That’s what I’m doing.

    This is just a fad, isn’t it?

    • beau2 says:

      i dont know about that, i have a feeling the kia hyundai thing is just starting. They’re making some really good cars and people are obviously buying them, as tom found out. i dont see any reason for the popularity to just drop off any time soon

  5. kenwenzel says:

    So did you find the key to the hat closet yet?

    • TV says:

      No but a locksmith came on Friday (or so I’ve been told). Really sorry, will be in touch with you all by email soon. Promise. Really.