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Had to take an overnight trip this weekend and rented a car through Thrifty. When I got to the counter (no express service at this particular airport), they were going to give me a Mitsubishi Galant, but I said "Meh - What else ya got?". Guy says "Got a Kia Soul - want that?" My daughter and I both laughed at the coincidence, since our 2012 Exclaim only has about 1300 miles on it at this point.

Turns out to be a 2011 Plus model, gray over black, with about 18K miles on it. A few random thoughts after putting 200 (mostly highway) miles on it:

The difference in refinement, quietness and smoothness between the '12 and the '11 is HUGE. No offense to owners of the earlier models, but I can honestly say that if the improvements hadn't been made in the 2012s, I wouldn't have bought a Soul.

The engine noise and vibration was ever-present in the 2011. Whether idling, accelerating or just cruising, the engine was a dominant sound in the car. Also, there's a huge difference in the overall road noise, with the 2012 being almost "luxury-car-hushed", while the 2011 left no doubt that it was an economy car.

The seats felt firmer to me in the 2011, which seemed to make them less comfortable. (or, I could just be imagining that)

The (automatic) transmission shifted smoothly, but only having 4 gears really hurts the acceleration, particularly given the 2011's 20+ less horsepower.

I actually liked the steering better in the 2011. It seemed to have substantially less power assistance, which made it feel more reassuring.

The ride comfort was different than our car, but direct comparisons are hard to make since our Exclaim has the blingy 18" wheels and tires, vs. 16s on the 2011. I can definitely feel the extra weight of the 2012's wheel/tire setup in the suspension's response, and that's not always a good thing.

The interior materials and design in the 2011 didn't seem as nice, but I'm not certain how much of that is just the difference between the Exclaim and Plus models.

We averaged 27.4 mpg over 205 miles, 185 of which were highway miles. That's about 1 mpg better than our 2012 so far.

In sum, to me the 2012 represents a big improvement over the earlier model, taking the Soul from being a cute city runabout to a more well-rounded, do-everything car. It's great to see Kia making such huge strides in such a short time, and I for one hope that trend continues.
 
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