The new Kia Soul begs one big question: Is this thing cool?

The Soul is a five-door hatch about a half-foot shorter than a Scion xB, one of the youth-market vehicles that likely inspired Kia to enter this niche (the Honda Element is another; ditto the Nissan Cube, the all-new version of which will arrive here next spring as a 2009 model). The Soul began life as a very cool concept car in 2006, but the powerful, big-haunch look and a lot of the trick, appealing aspects have been finessed out in the obligatory production compromise.

Looks are the whole ballgame here, because beneath the radically angled window line and the buff fender bulges and the seat fabric that glows in the dark with the word “soul” is basically a good-sized but unspectacular economy box.

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    Tires and wheels
    Tire care For proper maintenance, safety, and maximum fuel economy, you must always maintain recommended tire inflation pressures and stay within the load limits and weight distribution recommen ...

    Seat belts
    Seat belt restraint system WARNING: • For maximum restraint system protection, the seat belts must always be used whenever the car is moving. • Seat belts are most effective when seatbacks ...

    Trailer towing
    We do not recommend using this vehicle for trailer towing. ...