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Kia and Microsoft come together to bring you UVO, a Windows Embedded Automotive-based infotainment system. We spent a week with Kia's 2012 Soul, armed with UVO, and have a full run-down of what we did and didn't like about the mainstream tech package.
Kia Motors is one of the oldest automotive manufacturers from South Korea, preceding Hyundai Motor Company by more than 20 years. Perhaps you remember the first time you heard of Kia, when it introduced the first-generation 1994 model-year Sephia. But the presence of Kia-built vehicles in North America goes back even further than that to Ford's 1987 Festiva. Ford owned an interest in Kia and outsourced production of the Mazda-designed Festiva for export to the United States and Canada.
This lead to a joint-development between Ford and Kia for the second-generation Ford Festiva, sold in the U.S. as Ford's Aspire. It was a mediocre hatchback that sent droves of domestic buyers into imported compact cars. Kia itself didn’t fare too well in the '90s, and was forced into bankruptcy late in the decade. Hyundai swooped in to purchase 51 percent of the company. Kia is now stronger than ever, with yearly sales and revenue growth from a model line-up that targets drivers looking for European styling and comfort at a more value-oriented price.
As we mentioned in SYNC With MyFord Touch: Automotive Infotainment For All, we're primarily interested in the infotainment and technological features of the cars we drive. While Ford has its SYNC system, Kia has UVO, short for “Your Voice,” which is an infotainment solution available across most of its line-up.
We acquired a 2012 Kia Soul in the Exclaim trim package, equipped with Kia’s UVO system. This particular version of UVO includes USB media storage and device connectivity, auxiliary audio input, on-board music storage, HD Radio, and a backup camera. Our car does not have the Premium package, which swaps out UVO for Navigation with SiriusXM Traffic and push-button start. Really, the UVO system in Kia's Soul Exclaim is just about the music.
The Kia Soul was refreshed for the 2012 model year with revised trim packages, updated motors, and new lighting niceties, which we'll cover shortly. The car is a tall hatchback that was, interestingly, designed in California. As you may have guessed from the company's hamster-driven ads, the Soul targets a younger demographic. Don’t call it a sub-compact, though, because the Rio fills that spot. Think of Kia's Soul as a side-step from the traditional sub-compact, and for a different type of buyer. It's a funky little hatch for the party-rocking crowd.
As an interesting side-note, Kia's Soul shares much of its platform and powertrain combinations with the previous-generation Rio, developed as the successor to the Avella (Kia’s re-badge of the Ford Aspire in its home market).