Southern Oregon drivers know a thing or two about an active lifestyle. With scalding summers, icy winters, mountains all around and the Pacific Ocean an afternoon’s drive away, a vehicle’s versatility can be just as important, if not more so, than its appearance. Designed with regions like ours in mind, the Active Lifestyle Vehicle (ALV) awards honor vehicles built, in the words of coordinator Tyson Hugie, for “the outdoorsy people – triathletes, ball players, kayakers and adventure-seekers of any type.”
It will come as no surprise to anyone who has gotten behind the wheel of a Kia Soul that the car first marketed by hamsters as the alternative to the daily routine is the undisputed king of the ALV awards. The Soul is difficult to categorize in conventional terms. Part crossover, part wagon, and all original, the Soul has done what other unconventionally shaped vehicles, like the Honda Element, couldn’t: stay competitive and popular in a market dominated by small SUVs.
The Soul went head to head with the Fiat 500x, the Scion iA, and the Scion iM. All four vehicles offer versatility and driving appeal for under $25,000, but the Soul distanced itself from its competition by providing a real punch. The Soul is fun to drive, surprisingly spacious, and, for the fifth (!) year in a row, Active Lifestyle Vehicle champion.
In many ways, the Soul is the perfect distillation of the change we’ve seen at Kia in the past 10 years. People have long memories, especially when it comes to vehicles, and Kia’s reputation as a budget car brand will likely live on with some people for years to come. But reality and perception are often very different things. The Soul is not just a hamster car, or an usual looking gimmick; it’s an exciting vehicle, and if its package isn’t what people typically associate with excitement, then all the better for those who are in on the surprise!