2011 Kia Soul (US Spec): Climbing The Hawaiin Volcano of Indecision [Review]


And we’re BACK to our regularly scheduled Monday programming.

By CarEnvy.ca

I’m indecisive.

That’s how it looks, anyways. Based on the indeterminate scowl that spreads across my normally handsome face whenever I’m thinking in earnest, it’s a fair assumption. But it’s still just an assumption. To my eyes, what’s the rush? I just want to make the best choice I can given the data at my disposal – and that means that I’m rarely inclined to trust my gut– preferring to methodically weigh the merits of delayed gratification vs. instant gratification and head vs. heart. So it’s really not that I’m a slow decision maker, but that I invoke my conscious, rather than unconscious, decision-making mechanisms as frequently as I can. To call it “indecisiveness” is ad hominem at best and distracting to my contemplation at worst.

But, over the Christmas Holidays, when the cheery young Hawaiian man at the Dollar Rental Car counter at the Kahului Airport in Maui asked me if I’d prefer a Dodge Caliber or a Kia Soul, I knew that this decision required no further thought. The only hemming and hawing came when he offered us car insurance. For the fairly pricey sum of $200 for 2 weeks, I did a rough calculation, and decisively resolved to keep my Benjamins firmly in my pocket.

Flipping open the crusty, gummied switchblade key to our 18k mile Soul, the-future-Mrs. CarEnvy (we are recently engaged!) and I tossed our bags into the capacious trunk and set off for Kapalua and our condo on the golf course, or more specifically, our condo on the driving range of the Kapalua Plantation Course: site of the 2012 Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

Over the next two weeks, we would ask the Soul to take us for coffee in Lahaina (where we bumped into the lonely shell of pro golfer Rory Sabbatini), to the 10,000 ft peak of Haleakala for a blustery midnight stargaze, down the serpentine coastal roads to Hana and beyond, to the pristine Makena beach in the remote southwest, and so much more. We even had the gall to ask the Soul if it wouldn’t mind being a bit adventurous by going off-road (gasp!) towards a lookout point known simply as Jaws. There was little in the way of signage on this particular red clay path, cut like a river out of the brushy 8’ tall sugarcane. Up and down freshly rained upon inclines that you’d swear would require a Land Rover, Wrangler, or one of the million local Tacomas to traverse, the peppy Soul hiked up its Hanbok and just went. The all-season tires occasionally scrambled for traction, but only momentarily before the its Korean composure was regained. The-future-Mrs. CarEnvy wasn’t always as trusting of the Soul’s abilities as I was, but the funky compact crossover eventually wooed her over with its spaciousness, faultless interior ergonomics, visibility, immensely comfortable seating, and attractiveness compared to the Scion xB.

Over more than 1000 miles, averaging 40 mph, the Soul earned our trust by achieving a perfectly unremarkable MPG of 28 (8.4L/100km) and proving itself to be up to the challenge of polyclimatic island life. Perhaps the only niggle, and it’s a little one, was the USB port. Go ahead and laugh, but you can certainly measure a car by how well it integrates with technology, and the USB port failed spectacularly in this endeavour. The USB port, allegedly designed for music devices, functioned for not one solitary Apple device – not iPad nor iPod nor iPhone – and appeared to serve only to charge my watch battery.

Yes, it’s true, my watch battery is charged through a USB port. My watch also happens to relay the accumulated data from my most recent jogs to my laptop, and its battery just so happened to run low on our trip, an unlikely occurrence given the months of standby capacity per charge. Now that we’re well and gone on this tangent, you’ll want to know that this particular watch also drew the admiration of none other than Le Mans Champion Justin Bell, who we fortuitously and mysteriously bumped into at the 2011 LA Auto Show. Justin was himself wearing a $15,000 Devon Tread 1 at the time, a watch he helped design after working on the Devon GTX project, but he was nonetheless impressed by this magical watch that can track running distances, count calories burned, and apparently be charged by a Kia Soul.

So there you have it. The 2011 Kia Soul can climb volcanoes, traverse the off-road, charge watches, and even charm a beautiful girl. Between the Soul, the waning Dodge Caliber and the uninspiring Scion xB, we’ll take the Soul every time. Even for someone as indecisive as me, it’s an easy decision.

See you next week, dear reader.

[Photo credits: author]