This is the first time I ever remember my family buying a brand-new car, and it was purchased by and for my grandmother, Mema. She’d had a stroke in 2010 and had more or less quit driving. When she moved to Oklahoma and in with us that same year, my mother or (after I got her license) I would take her where she needed to go. But Mema sold her house in mid-2014 and had some bucks kicking around, so—after convincing us she still had enough of her faculties to drive safely—she decided she wanted a new car.
Mema initially tried to get a Camaro 1LE, since she’d had Camaros when my mom and uncle were little, but one attempt at crawling in and out of it was enough to disabuse her of the notion that this was a good idea. So then it came down to crossovers, in particular subcompact ones. The finalists were the Nissan Juke and the Kia Soul. While I thought the Juke’s styling was vomit-inducing, Mema liked it and we both thought it was pleasingly athletic to drive. But the triangular cargo hold did not fit her walker without one of the rear seats folded down, and that was a non-starter.
So, the Soul it was, and fortunately the Soul had just been redesigned and moved into a second generation for 2014. Mema test-drove a fully loaded Exclaim model with all the bells and whistles, but balked at the $27,500 sticker. The salesman asked her if she needed the leather or the sunroof. She said no, and that she only wanted the navigation and the sound package. So, that’s what we got, a Plus model with those options. The choice was between Shadow Black and Alien II (Green). She asked me what I thought, and I told her “You gotta go with the green, Mema.”
Mema loved the Soul, and it had only put 15,000 miles on it when she passed away in early 2019. She didn’t leave a will or codify it in writing, but she’d made it abundantly clear that the car was to go to my little sister when she passed. Everyone agreed not to contest that, so my adult sister hurried up and got her license, then I took the car to her in Houston.
In the meantime, it was in my care. I hadn’t driven it too much beforehand, but I quickly found it not to my liking. The 2.0-liter N/A I4 (which was actually the mid-spec engine; base models came with a 1.6-liter N/A I4) needed to stay at high RPMs on the highway, and it had to work extra hard to combat the Soul’s boxy silhouette. I suspect the engine would have been more tolerable in something more aerodynamic, like the contemporary Forte, but not much. The highway trip I took to deliver the car to Little Sister had me gritting my teeth each time it downshifted twice in order for me to make a passing maneuver. The short wheelbase also didn’t do the car any favors for comfort. It was still a good car for most people, I thought; it’s just that my standards had risen above what it could provide. Maybe the Turbo model would’ve been better.
The Soul served Little Sister well enough until early 2022, when—with just under 60K miles—it began stuttering every so often and eventually threw a rod straight through the block. Turns out it was part of the Hyundai and Kia 2.0-liter issue, and an extended campaign meant that we would receive a replacement engine at no cost to us. That said, it was a tough process to work with the dealership and make that happen, and they were so behind, it took three months. In the meantime, the Kia dealerships had all sold off their loaner fleets during the shortage, so we rented cars for Little Sister for a bit, running up at least a couple grand in rental fees.
Now, she has the car back, replete with a new engine. It seems to work as fine as it ever did. Still, there’s the fact that the engine failed in the first place, Kia Corporate’s nonchalance about my sister having transportation, and the dealerships’ horrid treatment of my sister. A year earlier, my mother’s 2012 Hyundai Sonata 2.4 Limited engine failed in much the same manner, and we went through something similar, though at least she got a loaner for two months. Still, I’m beginning to see why Hyundai and Kia products are perhaps scary propositions long-term. That mess, combined with the recent news that certain US-market Hyundais and Kias lack immobilizers, including my Little Sister’s Soul, means we won’t be buying another of their vehicles anytime soon. A shame, because they’re really nice.
2005 Lincoln Town Car Signature Limited
This one ended up in my driveway because it was my now-ex’s car. When he moved in, it became part of my fleet. As you’re probably all aware, the Lincoln Town Car—along with its Panther-platform Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis/Marauder siblings—was the last gasp of the traditional perimeter-frame large American sedan. Well, it was more of a long, protracted last breath, really, since the final Panthers lasted from 1998 to 2011. In that time, it seemed like the materials continued to get worse and worse as Ford continued to neglect these cars.
And so it was that I wasn’t particularly enamored with the Town Car. I don’t even think I ever took pictures of it, but it was gold. I hated the seats, which were flat and unsupportive. I hated the cheap wood that didn’t even pretend it wasn’t plastic, and I hated the leather, which was no better than you’d have gotten on a contemporary Taurus or even a nice Focus. And the handling? Woof. That said, I was always fascinated with my ex’s ability to drive the Town Car like a bat out of hell, flooring the accelerator from a dead stop and going around corners at speed, one hand draped lazily over the wheel and shoulder leaned to one side. My ex’s tastes were certainly more Civic Si or Subaru WRX than Town Car, but circumstances had caused that car to fall into his possession. He must have tricked himself into pretending it was a livelier, sportier car, and he took it to the limits of its handling capabilities, perhaps out of protest.
I avoided driving it, but it remained my ex’s daily for a while after he moved in. He was a sort of home-health therapist, a job that sent him all over town, including to sketchier places. There, the Town Car blended in effortlessly and didn’t attract much attention. When I acquired a second car that was rather new and that could serve as a better daily for him, the Town Car got relegated to a car he drove only to the scariest parts of town…an ignominious demotion for what was supposed to be a fancy car.
As to what was wrong with the Town Car…quite a bit, actually. For one thing, any heavy rain would have the rear floorboard soaked. We checked and cleared all of the seals and drains, including the sunroof (this one was equipped with that rare option), and the windshield scuttle, and couldn’t find the place of water ingress. We thought that prior accident damage wasn’t repaired properly, and was letting water in. It also had a leak somewhere in the air suspension lines, so the compressor for the rear air suspension was constantly cycling on and off; I’m surprised it didn’t burn out. According to my ex, he had this looked at a number of times and no one could figure it out. Finally, toward the end of its tenure in my ex’s possession, one or more of the blend doors in the dashboard failed, and so the climate control didn’t really work.
Frankly, all of the other could have been fixed (I myself could have done it), but I just found it such a detestable car that I never bothered, and my ex just treated it like an appliance. I do remember replacing the hazed headlamps, because an aftermarket OEM-copy set was $90 on eBay. But that was about it for repairs or attention. The only thing it ever did that was a true showstopper was the time it shot out a spark plug, a common issue with the 2V Ford Modular engines, but we had it back on the road a couple of days later. From what I understand, my ex sold it shortly after we split up and now drives a 2011 Lexus GS 450h with a recently replaced high-voltage battery.
I wanted to like the Town Car, but I couldn’t. It was just too…crude, especially after having owned an example of its replacement. If they had maybe tightened up the handling, and put better seats and better materials in it, I’d have been a fan.
I will say that the Town Car was an interesting counterpart to the other contemporary, large luxury FoMoCo sedan we had in the driveway, which you’ll hear about very soon.
I’ve always thought it fascinating how the senior demographic has shifted over the years. For a long time, it was the province of Buick and Mercury sedans. The latter went away sometime ago and, although Buicks still tend to go to geezers, there was definitely a shift to vehicles no one had thought the elderly would choose.
The minivan has always been popular but if the older person has few young grandchildren, the first new geezermobile was the Chrylser PT Cruiser, followed closely by the Chevy HHR. Besides the retro styling, there was definitely a practicality to those cars and, combined with the high seating position and ability to carry a bunch of cargo for such a small vehicle, it was the surprise hit of the geriatric crowd.
But when both of those vehicles went out of production, something had to take their place and, surprise!, it’s now the Kia Soul that many older drivers flock to. One wonders what the next vehicle for older drivers will be when the Soul eventually ends its very long run.
The original Scion xB was also popular with the elderly, cheap, tall and easy to park. I’m not sure about the second generation, but FWIW a local cab company ran a fleet of them.
An older couple around the corner, and by older I mean probably in their seventies, has two Souls. Not the only couple I’ve known over the years with nearly identical cars, but it still surprises me as we’ve always had complementary vehicles. I rented a green Soul like this in Florida a few years ago. I liked the seating position and visibility, and the power train (1.6? 2.0? I dunno, I wasn’t motivated to open the hood), which shows that either my standards are lower or 4 cylinder automatics have gotten a lot better since I used to rent them more often until about 15 years ago. But the controls seemed awkward and the fuel economy was pretty poor for dead flat Florida backroads.
It’s been a while since I’ve looked at them, but I don’t think an automatic can be had with one of those base, 1.6L Souls. In fact, I’m not sure there’s anything different between them except the color, and that might even be limited to silver or white.
As of now, I don’t think a manual is available in a Soul any more.
That is a shame about the Soul’s engine, and disappointing that the company could not avoid the problems in the first place. However, I am not sure how many other manufacturers would provide a new engine on an 8 year old car with essentially no questions asked.
My ardor for those Town Cars has cooled as time has passed. It seems that the longer they went, the more cost-cutting got done until the last ones were not all that appealing.
Oh, that’s just it; there were a lot of questions asked. It was like pulling teeth to get the new engine.
As far as the Town Car, I have a particular affinity for the ~92-94 models, back when they still tried.
It was either 2019 or 2020 that was the last year for manual transmission Kia Souls. Now they are all CVTs. I have had two Kia Souls. The first was a 2012 manual 1..6 that I traded in last summer. It had around 127, 000 on it when I traded it in. Never any big problems with it. I bought it in 2016 with around 43,000 miles on it. I liked the six speed. Wasn’t a muscle car but the acceleration wasn’t too bad. My “new to me” Soul was a 2018 I bought last summer with 23,000 miles on it. It is an automatic. It now has 32,000 on it. It is a good vehicle for one person or a couple. I am in my late 50s and like the height for getting in and out of it. It also has good visibility and is good on gas. My 2012 manual got around 37-38 MPG and my 2018 automatic is about 34-35 with all season tires and around 31-32 MPG with my studded snows. The Soul is a good basic car. I worry about the durability of the CVT in the 2020 and up models. My 2018 has the 6 speed auto. The car hauls a lot but sometimes I wish it was a little longer. About 4 feet with the back seat folded down is all you get for length. The 1.6 in my 2012 used oil towards the end but my 2018 is doing very well on oil consumption so far. A Kia Soul is a good vehicle overall and I have heard about the 2.0 liter engine problems. They are easy to drive. Mine two Souls also ahve been the base model with just a radio. No fancy screens. Simple to fix and repair overall. Repair costs aren’t bad for them either. Good access under the hood. I am pleased with the two I’ve had. Not perfect but not a bad vehicle overall.
The Soul was/is not engineered or built like a Toyota. But for a simple two-box design with an elevated stance and driver’s seat for a small car, and the relatively low price of admission, it gets the job done. The majority of owners probably don’t have unrealistic expectations and seem to be satisfied with them.
I am the happy owner of a low mileage Town Car Signature Limited and love it. Although not as OTT excessive luxury as previously owned 78 and 89 Town Cars, for me it’s the BEST and will never let it go 😀! 🏆. Dad worked for years at Inland Steel! If I ever bought a foreign brand car, he would come out of his grave and slap me into the LAND of the RIGHTEOUS! 😉
Luckily for you the oil level of the Soul was ok.What could be so bad on this ’16 Hyundai Sonata that the CAR WIZARD is sending it to the junk yard?
We own a 2017 Soul+ with the 2.0. I was not in the know about the engine issues. Well, shit. We’re at 70k so far and no issues. Knock on wood.
Is it just me or are about 90% of Kia Souls that shade of green?
IIRC, that shade of green was known as something like ‘Alien’. And, yeah, there are a lot of Souls in that color.
Mema wanted a Camaro 1LE – God bless her she’s one in a million
The hamster car.
Cars made in the 2010’s are still throwing rods? At 60K? I’m dumbfounded. Was it run out of oil? Oil never changed? Any of that usual stuff? Or was it just like a cheap lawnmower engine that one day decides to ventilate itself?
The latter. H/K has struggled with their direct injected 2.0 and 2.4 Theta II engine family for years, and they were installed in a lot of cars & crossovers. A spate of manufacturing flaws that left metal debris in the 2.4 engines (and premature failure) nearly 10 years ago scared me away from the Sonata and Optima, and reports of early excessive oil consumption and failures like this have become far more frequent across multiple models using the engines. I’ve seen several recent era (~2016-2018) Sonatas puff smoke out of the exhaust at throttle application. I don’t really consider it the owner’s fault if the engine is run out of oil because the engine ate all of that oil between standard changes.
At minimum I’d stay away from anything with Theta II engines. Personally, wouldn’t recommend this brand at all to anyone outside of short term leasing. C&D just had the dual-clutch transmission fail on their turbo Kia Sorento, with Kia only footing the bill for a remanufactured unit. Hyundai/Kia have received a massive amount of good press for their rapid competitive improvement, but I don’t think they have post-warranty reliability figured out yet.
Good to see you back, Kyree. Real shame about the poor quality of the Kia, I had one as a rental and thought it was a perky little runabout that did a lot of things well, including eating Scion’s lunch. This is what the xB should have remained.
Panther platforms never impressed me either, though well-kept ones seem to be having a resurgence on Bring a Trailer. There’s charm to be found in what we can’t have anymore, and V8 ladder frame sedans aren’t coming back.
If it’s any consolation, those Kia Souls seem to hold up well in an accident. My brother had one, actually the same green color (he called it the “Snotbox”) but with a 6 speed manual. He, we think, had a seizure while driving and ended up flipping the car end over end before sliding upside down in a parking lot. He was unbelted and was in pretty bad shape but he survived. I was surprised how well the car held up. Had he been wearing his seatbelt I’m betting he would have had minor injuries.
That’s quite a yin and yang situation with a Soul and a Town Car. A Lexus LS 400 or the JDM Nissan President would be the apotheosis of a Town Car, keeping the basic size shape but resolving all of the crude and cheap details.
the only person I know with a Kia Soul just replaced it with a used Mazda CX-5 after his 2010 Soul was totaled. Having cleared rust and the MZR engine Mazda seems to have sorted the combination of reliability, quality and driving feel better than even Toyota.