Car Review Time!

I usually don’t do posts reviewing cars (at least I haven’t in a while), but I recently test-drove a 2017 Kia Soul. My sister enlisted my help in finding a good car for her, and like any good car-loving brother, I obliged. Somehow, there were no strings attached. We made a stop at the local Kia dealer, and looked at a few Souls. Next up was a test drive. Here are my thoughts on the 2017 Soul:

It’s a great little car. Decent power for it’s size and class. Yeah, I might want a bit more power when passing at higher speeds, or when it’s loaded down with people and gear, but that’s what the new turbocharged version is for! That being said, for everyday driving, it’s perfectly adequate. I’ll talk more about the driving dynamics in a bit.

Now onto how it looks. They’re certainly not for everybody, but I think it looks cool. It’s very roomy inside because of the styling, and the tail lights are cool. Yeah, the front end could look better, but that’s just me. Other people like it. Because of its boxier styling, it’s got great visibility. The windshield is big, and when you’re backing up, you’ve got great visibility. Because it’s a compact car with a very good turning radius, it’s great for big cities where space is at a premium. In white, it looks like an enlarged stormtrooper helmet.

This is the Soul "+" (Plus) model shown.
This is the Soul “+” (Plus) model shown.

The salesman was telling us that his first client was a big, tattooed, Harley-Davidson-riding guy, who really wanted a white Kia Soul because it “looked like a stormtrooper helmet.” It turned out that he was tired of nearly getting hit by cars all the time, so he decided to get a car and keep the Harley for nicer weather.

Yes, those are all of the available colors for the 2017 Soul!
Yes, those are all of the available colors for the 2017 Soul!

Inside the Soul, you’ll find a nice interior. By no means is it a Mercedes-Benz interior, but for what you pay for, it’s great. If you’re tall and find yourself in the backseat, don’t worry! I’m 6 feet tall, and had plenty of room behind the driver’s seat set to my liking! I could easily share the backseat with 2 other people. It’s also very quiet, thanks to Kia’s use of expansion foam in the body cavities. There’s a convenient USB charging port on the front console. There are also available fast-charging ports located inside and on the back of the center console. The overhead LED reading lamps work well. It also has fully automatic climate control.

Pretty swanky for a compact hatchback, don't you think?
Pretty swanky for a compact hatchback, don’t you think?

If you want a backup camera, you’ll get a bigger screen than the cars without  one. Spring for the navigation system and you’ll have a much larger screen (8 inches). You’ll also a 3-month SiriusXM All Access trial subscription, which gives you access to over 160 channels. The available UVO infotainment system (Kia’s intuitive infotainment system) has some neat features that are integrated onto your smartphone: it can keep track of where you parked your Soul, download Kia recommended apps through their App Download Center, monitor your driving habits and provide suggestions on how to improve fuel economy, etc., access 911 Connect or Enhanced Roadside Assistance, and check any maintenance requirements through Vehicle Diagnostics, all on the touch screen. What sweetens the UVO pot is the fact that there are no suscription fees for the first 10 years of access to the UVO system! It’s also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible!

It’s also got a suite of safety features, some available and some standard. You can get a rearview camera, a forward collision warning system, a lane departure warning system, and one of the more appreciated features is the blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert. It’s especially helpful when you have to back out into traffic.

This is a picture of the backseat of a Soul EV, but it's the same thing for all essential purposes.
This is a picture of the backseat of a Soul EV, but it’s the same thing for all essential purposes.

Now, onto how it drives. As I said previously, it drives well for something in it’s class. It won’t keep up with a Porsche 911 by any means, but you can have some fun with it, too. You can also change drive modes on the fly with the Drive Mode Select System, which has a button conveniently located on the perfectly sized steering wheel. There’s an Eco mode, which works well in heavier traffic, and a Sport Mode, which is great for merging onto a freeway, or just having some fun. Yeah, the engine gets buzzy at higher rpms, but it’s not a high performance engine. The transmission is smooth; maybe even a bit too smooth for me. It does what you ask of it, but it won’t ever be as quick as a dual-clutch transmission. There’s even a nice EV model that is supposed to drive even better (I didn’t drive it, so I can’t say).

Kia offers industry-leading warranties. You get a 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, a 5-year/60,000 mile basic warranty, a 5-year/100,000 mile anti-perforation warranty, and a 5-year/60,000 mile 24-hour roadside assistance warranty.

Here’s my takeaway:

Now, would I recommend it? Absolutely, no questions asked. I would even consider buying one for myself. Plus, they’re inexpensive, very reliable, safe, and pretty darn fun cars. Yeah, they would be pretty impractical for somebody who has kids in booster seats, but you could absolutely make it work. They have a lot of space, are safe, and last forever. Oh, and they look neat, especially in white. Kia has some pretty wild colors, which some people like (makes it easier for cops to spot them!).

The Car Forum!

Hi all, I hope that you’ve all had a good week.  I’ve had a good one.  It’s time for that monthly Q&A for cars.  Here we go.

Forum user Sherry has two questions.  We’ll go one at a time.

  1. “What is a Johnson rod and what do I do if Zayz tells me it is dragging?”  First of all, there is NO such thing as a Johnson Rod!  Good try, Zayz!  Ignore him – you have nothing to worry about unless your drive shaft is dragging.  In that case, you won’t be going anywhere!
  2. “Okay, seriously.  What is wrong with your transmission when your back wheels go forward?”  There are many things that could cause this.  One likely possibility is that it may be your differential, not your transmission.  The differential is what puts the power down to the ground.  Bring this up to your mechanic if this happens.  If you have a manual transmission in your car, it could be that you need a new clutch.  If it is, in fact, your transmission, it’s most likely you’ve stripped the gears, so the car can’t go forwards.

Forum user Zayzee has two questions here.  I’m sensing a theme here…

  1. “What is the total cost in dollars to build a Humvee, ship it to Iraq, watch it fall into the hands of ISIS, then send a plane to bomb and destroy it?  I assume that a question re a Humvee falls within your guidelines of being a car related question.”  I guess it does, technically.  HUMMER stopped making the HUMVEE back in 2010 when GM killed the brand.  HUMVEEs were made by AM General, an also-defunct company.  The cost of an unarmored HUMVEE was $65,000, and the price of an armored HUMVEE was $140,000.  I don’t know the exact price of how much it would cost to send one to Iraq, but I’m guessing it’s in the vicinity of $10,000 or so.  Sending a plane with a bomb to destroy it is ridiculously expensive.  Most bombs designed for that kind of damage are about $100,000 each, and the cost to fly a plane/drone to find and drop the bomb is probably close to, if not $100,000 as well.
  2. “What are the two most popular car colors of 2014…first and second?”  Well, Zayzee, 2014 isn’t up yet, but so far it seems that black and white are.

Forum user Papa has a good question:  “Now that the Lincoln Town Car is discontinued, what is the most popular car used for Livery?”  There are a couple of popular vehicles for livery service now.  The Cadillac XTS, Lincoln MKS, Lincoln MKT, Lexus GS, and the Chevrolet Suburban round out the top 5.  Cadillac came out with the XTS right about the same time the Lincoln Town Car went out of production, so many livery services use the XTS for it’s fuel economy, space, and gadgetry.  The Lincoln MKT is good for it’s generous space, just like the Suburban.

Rounding this good salvo of reader questions is a tricky one from forum user Grandma.  She wants to know, “If someone shoots your car with invisible ink, what is the best way to get it off?”  Wow, that’s a tricky question.  I really don’t know the answer to that.  I’d call a paint/body shop and see what they recommend.  I’m guessing you’ll have to take it in and let them do their magic.  I’ve never heard of that before, and I couldn’t find anything on any car forums out in the vast expanses of the internet.  Sorry that I couldn’t help with that question.

I hope you have a nice weekend!

Bring on the Questions!

Due to an overwhelming lack of reader questions for the Car Forum, I have been forced to delay the Forum until Friday.  Please think of a question (a bad question is one that you don’t ask) so I can answer it for you on Friday.  There must be SOMETHING about cars that’s burning a hole in your brain!

The Monthly Automotive Forum

This is the place where automotive enthusiasts can pose any sort of automotive-related question for me to answer.  On the first Tuesday of every month, I will answer the questions put up for me.  You can choose where to put your question up as a comment – it can be on the previous post, or on the Monthly Automotive Forum post from the previous month.  Mark your calendars.  Here are the questions that I have gotten so far:

Debating about which car to lease. I was thinking about the Audi Q5, the Acura RDX, etc.  Something in the 5 seat Hatchback SUV/Crossover type but I want the best car, best value, highest mileage, car I can get. I need to be able to transport 4 people comfortably when I take clients out, as well as have room and access for items I’m always picking up or samples to bring to customers. What gets your vote?  This question comes from Robert Weinberg.  Thanks for the question.  I have some ideas for you:  On the smaller side of the spectrum is the Mazda CX-5.  However, I think that that is a bit too small for you.  Check out the Acura RDX, Ford Edge, Lincoln MKC, and the Audi Q5.  The RDX may be a bit bland in it’s driving behaviors, but it gets the job done quietly, efficiently, and luxuriously.  The Ford Edge may not have the best looks, but it seats 5 comfortably with room for stuff in the back, and comes with a plethora of options.  The Lincoln MKC falls on the smaller side of the spectrum, but it will hopefully be a pivotal car for Lincoln when they need it.  It has gotten plenty of positive reviews, and it looks pretty dang good.  The Audi Q5 is a great little SUV, but it does not get stellar fuel economy.  That being said, it comes with plenty of bang for the buck in the segment, tons of options very few people will use, and is reliable.  Check all of them out, and see what you think.  Hope this helps!

Question: do manual transmission car drivers have fewer car accidents?

Question: what is the average age of drivers ticketed for texting and driving?  These two good questions come from Sherry.  It’s hard to tell, but I can tell you this:  Driver inattention accounts for about 25% of all accidents on the road today.  Driving a manual transmission does give some stress to drivers, as they always have to constantly pay more attention to the road ahead to shift, depress the clutch, etc.  But, studies have shown that new drivers with manual transmissions have about 1/2 the accidents of those with automatic transmissions.  It is unclear how these results were found, but it was a study done in England in 2012.  The average age of drivers ticketed for texting and driving is…wait for it…28!  Yep, believe it or not, new drivers are less prone to check their cell phone while driving.  That’s not to say that they don’t – many do, but 28-year-olds just get caught more.

Robin Levander has a couple of questions:

Hi Candler,

Thanks for a great forum idea!

OK here are two car questions. At some point we will need to replace our fleet of aging vehicles with low-mileage used vehicles (2-3 years old). What are some suggestions you have for:

1. A more comfortable car than my current Honda Accord that gets good gas mileage, is quieter, and is a hatchback?

2. A pick-up truck suggestion that is quieter, vibrates less, more car-like ride and has great repair/reliability record.

RL.  First of all, you’re welcome.  Second of all.  Check out the Mazda 3, Ford Focus, and the Subaru Impreza.  I don’t know if you want a manual transmission or not, but all of those cars come standard with a stick shift.  The Impreza comes with AWD, and is a good, reliable choice for those who need an all-weather car.  The Mazda 3 and Ford Focus are both very good cars, but get the Focus with the 5-speed manual!  You’ll thank me later.  As for the pickup truck, check out the Toyota Tacoma and the Nissan Frontier.  If you need something bigger, the Ram 1500 is a solid choice, and rides very much like a full-size sedan, thanks to an industry-first rear leaf spring suspension.  All of these trucks are quiet, reliable, and easy to drive.  Hope this helps!

This question comes from Cynthia Weissbein.  Love the idea! Question: who are the safest drivers?  I’m glad that you love the idea.  I do too.  The safest drivers are always the drivers who drive appropriately for the road conditions, are courteous to other drivers, never cut in front of anybody, and never endanger others.  Plus, they usually wave at you when you are a nice driver to them.

All righty then, that’s a wrap for our first automotive forum.  I consider it a success.  I hope that you do too!  Those who I helped with car suggestions – let me know if they work!

A Monthly Forum for Any Automotive-Related Question!

I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, so I don’t know why I didn’t implement the idea earlier.  Anyways, this is what I have finally decided to implement:  At the beginning of every month, post your automotive-related questions as a comment on the most recent post.  I will see your questions and publish them in my forum post.  I will answer them to the best of my abilities.  It doesn’t matter what kind of automotive-related question it is, as long as it’s appropriate for all ages (I’ll leave that to you to figure out…).

Since I am implementing this, simply post your questions as comments, and the next post will be the Q & A session.  While some of these questions will be a piece of cake for me, others will not be so easy.  Bring ’em on.