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Nice Little Touches

Kia UVO: Mainstream Infotainment In The 2012 Soul
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The Soul Exclaim isn’t a technological marvel. It's no $50 000 luxury sedan, either. But Kia does incorporate a couple of nice touches that give the car a little extra flair, distinguishing it from the competition (including Scion's xB and Nissan's Cube). Again, Kia caters the Soul to a youthful audience using ads starring hip hamsters and top-40 music tracks, which made us want to put the Soul into a giant, transparent ball and drive it around town.

In our last look at automotive technology, the 2012 Ford Focus Titanium included adjustable footwell lighting that did a great job illuminating the carpet without drawing attention to itself. Kia one-ups Ford with the Soul's selectable (red, green, blue, and more) speaker lights that come standard on the Exclaim trim, and are part of the optional Infinity Audio System package on the lower-end Plus trim.

To say the feature is unique puts it lightly. Kia allows the driver to select one of two lighting modes: music or mood lighting. Switch into music mode and the speaker lights pulse to the bass in your music. At low volume levels, the pulsing is pretty dim. But once you start cranking up the sound, the light gets brighter. At full blast, it becomes possible (maybe even desirable?) to rock out with L.M.F.A.O. in a hamster costume.

Of course, if flashing speaker lights and head-bobbing rodents aren't your thing, you can turn the lights off entirely or use the mood setting for a soft, ambient glow.

Steering wheel controls are standard on all Soul models, enabling easy access to standard audio functions like volume, presets, source, and mute settings. Phone answering and hang-up buttons are located separately towards the bottom of the steering wheel, opposite the dedicated UVO button. We find the steering wheel control placement excellent, and we had no problem acclimating to each button's location (without needing to look down).

Exclusive to the Exclaim trim level are LED running lights reminiscent of Audi's most recent offerings. Projector housings for the low-beam headlights complement those LEDs, yielding very clear nighttime visibility with a sharp cut-off from standard halogen bulbs. Unfortunately, Kia does not offer a Xenon-based high-intensity discharge option. The tail lights are also bright LEDs, though this feature is exclusive to the Exclaim trim, too.

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