There’s something endearing about watching Kia’s commercials for the Soul hatchback with gargantuan, yet utterly hip, hamsters rocking out while cruising around in the small people-mover. It probably explains why the 2011 Kia Soul has run away from the subcompact class with 65,118 sold through July — almost 14,000 more than the next-best 2011 Nissan Versa.
For 2012, Kia is upgrading the boxy hatchback. No, it’s not going to come standard with a hanging water bottle, but both the 1.6- and 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines are receiving power and fuel efficiency bumps. The 1.6 will jump from 122 to 138 horsepower, and the 2.0 goes up from 142 to 164 horsepower. Both engines will be paired to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. The 1.6 manual will enjoy a 4 mpg increase to an EPA-estimated 35 mpg on the highway, and all models will eventually feature start-stop technology that saves gas at stoplights by shutting off the engine.
Additionally, the Soul gets updated styling, inside and out, with upgraded materials, a standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and stability control. The base Soul, which comes with a host of standard features, starts at $14,650 including $750 for destination. Automatic models will carry a base price of $16,450.
Look for the 2012 Kia Soul to hit showrooms late this year.