Home » Newer Stickshift Runabouts: 2011 Kia Soul vs 2012 Hyundai Veloster

Newer Stickshift Runabouts: 2011 Kia Soul vs 2012 Hyundai Veloster

Sbsd 4 25 2024

Good morning! On today’s Shitbox Showdown, we’re looking at some cars that were built this century for once. Heck, they’re only twelve and thirteen years old! That’s practically new. And they’re both sticks, and hatchbacks too!

Yesterday I was kind of mean to you all, asking you to choose between two really awful cars. There really wasn’t a good choice, but in that price range, you can’t get too picky. The Avenger won, but really I think it just lost less than the Outlander.

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I think I’d have to drive them both before I decided. They’re kind of a toss-up in the maintenance department, with one having a V6 turned the wrong way and the other having all-wheel-drive, which seriously clutters up the underside of these little crossovers. Could I live with the crack in the Mitsubishi’s windshield until next payday when I could get it replaced? Does the Avenger’s stained interior include an olfactory component? These are the questions you can only answer about a car in person.

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Now then: There was a time when a twelve-year-old Korean economy car simply didn’t exist, or if it did, it certainly wasn’t worth buying. Can you imagine what one of the few surviving ’86 Hyundai Excels looked like by 1998? When was the last time you saw an Excel, period? Talk about an extinct car.


But times have changed, and Hyundai and Kia now make pretty good little cars. Nothing special to drive, and they still have their share of problems, but they hold together reasonably well – at least, if you pick the ones with the right engines in them. These both have the “good” engine, and even better, the proper number of pedals for a small car. Let’s check them out.

2011 Kia Soul – $3,900

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.6 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD

Location: Huntsville, AL

Odometer reading: 116,000 miles


Operational status: Runs and drives great

I can’t remember which of my friends pointed it out first, but not very long after the Kia Soul hit the streets, someone pointed out a white one going by and said, “That looks just like a Stormtrooper’s helmet.” And ever since then, that’s all I can see when I look at one. That, and those stupid hamsters.

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The Soul was targeted at young buyers, much like Toyota’s similarly-shaped Scion xB, but the combination of low cost, easy ingress and egress, and high seating attracted a far older demographic, and you’re as likely to see gray hair behind the wheel of a Soul as you are a hoodie. As such, manual transmissions are uncommon. This celery-green color, however, is not; it was pretty popular, and it’s nice to see a bold color get chosen so often.

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This Soul doesn’t have a lot of miles on it, only 116,000. It runs and drives well, according to the seller, and everything works. It’s powered by Hyundai-Kia’s 1.6 liter “Gamma II” engine, which has a far better reputation than the ill-fated Theta motor. With the five-speed, I’m sure it’s plenty of power, and probably pretty fun to wring out in that “slow car fast” kind of way.

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It’s in pretty good shape, both inside and out, though there are a couple of dings and dents, and the back bumper is a slightly different shade of green than the rest, making me think that it was replaced at some point. It does still have a clean title, so whatever happeend must not have been too bad.

2012 Hyundai Veloster – $3,995

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.6 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, six-speed manual, FWD


Location: Springfield, MO

Odometer reading: 163,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives great

The Hyundai Veloster, built on the same platform as the Kia Soul, also has a nickname around our house: the “Velociraptor.” My wife thought that’s what it said on the back when she saw one in traffic, and the name stuck. And for a while, I didn’t realize the odd door configuration, and assumed it was available in both two-door and four-door forms – as it could have been – until I saw one parked.

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The Velociraptor- sorry, Veloster – gives up a door to its Kia Soul cousin, but it gains a forward gear. I think the manual take rate on Velosters was comparatively high, and those who chose one with three pedals were rewarded with a six-speed manual. It’s powered by the same 1.6 liter Gamma II engine as the Soul, but this one has direct injection and puts out just a little more power.

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It runs and drives great, according to the seller, and it looks like it’s in great shape. The inside shows a little wear and tear, but nothing out of the ordinary for the mileage. You can tell the Veloster was meant to be a sportier car than the Soul; not only is it low-slung, but the seats don’t look nearly as comfy.

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My only real problem with the Veloster, and it’s a problem I have with a lot of cars of this era, is that the dashboard is absolutely hideous. It’s busy, and there’s so much silver plastic and weird angular shapes that it looks like one of those cheap stereos they were selling at Best Buy twenty years ago.


Minor styling quibbles and silly nicknames aside, Hyundai and Kia have come a long way from the Excel and Sephia days. These are both competent, efficient, useful little cars that still have life in them. And since they’re so close mechanically, it almost comes down to personal preference. Which one is your pick?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Christopher Warren
Christopher Warren
1 month ago

Give me the Soul with the glow in the dark Soul lettering on the seats and the Alien movie monster head shaped center dash stack, and the glove compartment designed to fit a laptop inside.

Timothy Swanson
Timothy Swanson
1 month ago

Needs a “both” option. I have kids who need cars, and these are fun but not dangerously fast. I went with the Soul because it isn’t grey. But either is good.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
1 month ago

I’ll take the more forgiving H-point of the Soul over what may be the increased lower-case-soul of the Veloster.

1 month ago

My wife still drives her 2012 Veloster. We can afford to get her another car, but she doesn’t want anything available today so she keeps it.

I’ve gotta say, even though she’s got the horrible DCT instead of the manual, it’s a fun little spud to drive. No, it’s not fast, but then neither was my old ’91 CRX, and coincidentally they do 0-60 within a couple of 10ths of each other. Driving her Veloster is a lot like driving a CRX if it was updated to a more modern interior. The handling feels *very* similar, and it’s one hell of a fun car to toss around. It’s also got the other advantage of the CRX which is that its hatchback can swallow a lot more cargo than you’d think. Before we got a pickup, we’d haul an amazing amount of yard and building crap in that thing.

Great little car, especially considering that less than 10 years prior, Hyundai was the kind of car you bought because you couldn’t afford a used Cavalier.

1 month ago

Easy one this time since I can’t stand the Soul…gimmee the Veloster please even though it’s body style is terrible

1 month ago

I’ll take the more practical Soul from less rusty Alabama. I’d be perfectly happy to daily that.

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