Home » The New Class Of Freshmen: 2011 Kia Soul vs 2012 Chevy Cruze

The New Class Of Freshmen: 2011 Kia Soul vs 2012 Chevy Cruze

Sbsd 8 8 2023
ADVERTISEMENT

Welcome back! Today on Shitbox Showdown, we’re leaving the ’80s nostalgia behind (finally, I can hear some of you saying) and looking at two cars that are only just starting to age into bought-for-cash beater territory. But before we do, let’s take one more trip back in time and finish up yesterday’s broken classics:

Screen Shot 2023 08 07 At 5.24.16 Pm

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Wait. Stop the presses! A Saab has lost a Shitbox Showdown! I don’t think that has happened before. Not only that, but it lost to a Mitsubishi. Didn’t see that one coming. Honestly, I’d happily wrench on either of them. But I do think I’d have more fun with the Montero.

Now, I’ve been looking at (and buying) cheap cars from the classifieds for a whole lot longer than I’ve been writing this column. And it has been fascinating to watch over the years as cars gradually drop into beater price ranges, and at the other end, sometimes frustratingly, rise in price into classic territory. Today’s shiny new cars are tomorrow’s shitboxes, and today’s shitboxes are tomorrow’s shiny classics, and if you can’t see that, you don’t know shitbox from Shinola. (Yes, that was a long way to go for that pun, but I stand by it.)

The cars we’re going to look at today are at or under the average age for cars on the road in the US these days – 12 years or more – but they still look remarkably good. By contrast, I remember scrapping a rusted-out 1984 Honda Accord that was so far gone I couldn’t even jack it up to replace a rotted brake line. That was in 1995. They really don’t make ’em like they used to, and in a lot of ways, that’s a good thing. Which one of these is a better bet for a cheap-ish beater? You be the judge.

ADVERTISEMENT

2011 Kia Soul – $2,988

00808 E36ix7vqw9d 0ke0dn 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 2.0 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD

Location: Minneapolis, MN

Odometer reading: 203,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yep

ADVERTISEMENT

I have to admit: I kinda dig the first-generation Kia Soul. I mean, I liked it more before it was every fifth damn car on the road, but it’s still a neat-looking little box. It amuses me that, despite the ridiculous “youth-oriented” hamster commercials, most of the Souls I see are driven by middle-age-or-older folks. I’m sure Kia doesn’t care; a sale is a sale. But the older demographic probably did mean fewer Souls left the dealerships with manual transmissions than might otherwise have. Luckily, however, this is one of them.

00o0o Cdsqp4huapz 0ke0dn 1200x900

This is the higher-trim “+” model, so that stickshift gearbox is connected to the 2.0 liter engine, rather than the 1.6. It also has power goodies and audio controls on the steering wheel. Power windows and locks are, of course, a given; this is about the time that window cranks disappeared from “premium” economy cars. Nowadays, they’re all premium, for better or worse. No idea how much of the power stuff works – it’s being sold by a dealership, and they won’t tell you anything like that in the ad, if they even know.

00r0r 9gf92hzdapu 0ke0dn 1200x900

They do say it runs well, and has “nice tires.” It is north of 200,000 miles, which would be worrisome if it were a year newer. In 2012, Kia changed the Soul’s engine from the older “Beta” design to the trouble-prone “Nu” engine. Horsepower rose by 24 to 166, but reliability plummeted. Hyundai and Kia are still suffering fallout from the resulting debacle. But this car, with the older engine and a manual, should be pretty reliable. A careful inspection is still a good idea, of course.

ADVERTISEMENT

00m0m Asdsk9nhujn 0ke0dn 1200x900

Otherwise, it looks nice and clean, especially for a twelve-year-old Minnesota car. Rust is still a huge problem in road-salt states, even with all the galvanizing and undercoating of newer cars, but if you keep it washed and garaged in the winters, you can keep most of the corrosion at bay.

2012 Chevrolet Cruze Eco – $5,000

00303 Cqwnacdhmmn 1320mm 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: Turbocharged 1.4 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, six-speed manual, FWD

Location: Sacramento, CA

ADVERTISEMENT

Odometer reading: 111,000 miles

Runs/drives? Sure does

Chevy’s small car game has always been a little sketchy. At best, you get a fun, rowdy little plaything like the Cobalt SS. At worst, well, you get the Vega. In between, there is a vast ocean of dull, poorly-built but rugged cockroaches like Cavaliers and Corsicas. In 2008, the latest chapter of the Chevy small-car saga opened, in the form of the Cruze, a world car designed largely by Daewoo and Opel. And despite the fanfare surrounding its launch, it seemed to be more of the same in a new shape.

00g0g Bh6fujjajaq 1320mm 1200x900

This “Eco” model has a far higher-tech engine than its predecessors, at least: a 1.4 liter turbocharged four with variable valve timing tuned more for fuel economy than fun. This one is, at least, backed by a six-speed manual for a little bit of driving engagement. I do find it funny, however, that despite all the advances, the GM Delta II platform on which the Cruze is based still uses the same suspension design as the 1980 Chevy Citation: McPherson struts in the front, and a twist-beam axle in the back. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I guess.

ADVERTISEMENT

00101 Aqmecexfoj5 1320mm 1200x900

This Cruze has covered only a little more than half the miles of the Kia above: 111,000. You’d expect it to still be in good shape at that mileage, and you’d be right. It does have a couple of minor issues that need repair, namely a minor oil leak and inoperative rear windows. Otherwise, it runs and drives well, and the seller says its maintenance is up-to-date.

01414 Hwg6orkfdwi 1320mm 1200x900

Chevy did offer the Cruze as a hatchback and a wagon elsewhere, but the hatchback didn’t come to the US until 2017, and we never got the wagon. So for a cheap used Cruze, this four-door sedan with its mail-slot trunk opening is the only option.

These cars, and a whole crop of cars that came out around the same time, are still sliding down the steep part of the depreciation curve, so prices can only come down. We’ll be seeing more Cruzes and Souls in the “thrifties” section in years to come. Used car prices in general are still artificially high, of course, but being willing and able to drive a stick is still the key to a good deal. So, today, faced with these two choices, which is your new ride?

ADVERTISEMENT

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
75 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ricardo
Ricardo
11 months ago

I work in a Fleet company here down under (Australia) and we had the Cruze as well through Holden back a decade ago, maybe a little longer.

The amount of issues people had with them was amazing from transmission failures, ECU failures and many other issues that rendered them immobile. The best one was cooking engines due to a brittle plastic hose at the back of the engine that just used to bust and dump all the coolant on the road and lead to a cooked engine in a matter of minutes. It cost Holden a packet in warranty claims.…..but wow…so much failure when for the same money you could have a Toyota Corolla and just change filters and fluids for 5 years of trouble free appliance like motoring.

They are now such a known sh*tbox that no-one in the used car trade wants to touch them, and are actually fairly rare to see on metro roads

67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
11 months ago

“Wait. Stop the presses! A Saab has lost a Shitbox Showdown!”
That’s on you Mark, for picking the shittiest SAAB possible. Todays shitbox is kind of hard to care about, but I think the Kia for the utility aspect.

Phil Layshio
Phil Layshio
11 months ago

The Kia all day. I’ve got a buddy who picked up a 2011 Soul six years ago, he’s put 150k on the 100 it already had and he loves it. It’s reasonably comfortably and a water heater will slide in with the backseat folded down. The Cruze is a GM product, GM has been perfecting mediocrity for 50 years.

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
11 months ago

Cruze. I just prefer cars.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
11 months ago

I would take a chance on the soul if i was buying it from 1 of 3 owners. But over 200,000 miles from a dealer who knows nothing but will say anything to make a sale? No i will beat up the owner of the Cruze for best deal i can get.

VermonsterDad
VermonsterDad
11 months ago

I had a cruze, I miss that car. For being what it was, that car was a great highway car and economical. It was my work car. Sold it because mice would keep getting in it. About the 4th time cleaning them out, I gave up.

Myk El
Myk El
11 months ago

I voted here at how good the cars here did the job they were designed to do. In that case, Kia gets the nod.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
11 months ago

I’m gonna go for the Soul. It’s cheaper and the 1.4L turbo in the Chevy is not known for being a great engine.

Scott
Scott
11 months ago

How is that Soul only $3K Because Minnesota?

Anything similar here (SoCal) is WAY more than twice the price, albeit with fewer miles.

I could conceivably daily the Soul because it has a manual transmission, despite some Kia issues. I test drove one new years ago and preferred it to the automatic. It was fine as a handy hatchback/CUV/whatever it is. It’s got a highish seating position, a bit of design/style on the dash, and would (hopefully) be fairly cheap to run. All good things.

But $3K is the right price for something that age/mileage, the $7-8K insanity I’m seeing around here on cars.com, autotrader, truecar, etc… is a non-starter.

The Bonnie Situation
The Bonnie Situation
11 months ago
Reply to  Scott

Minneapolis was hit particularly hard by the Kia Boyz. Just the city of Minneapolis itself had 2340 HMG thefts in 2022 compared to 250 in 2021. I assume that HAS to be impacting resale values?

Scott
Scott
11 months ago

That makes sense Patrick. Thanks!

There are so many floods everywhere now, but I couldn’t recall one near Minnesota recently… but I’m sure a LOT of flood damaged cars are being resold here, China, etc… so the suspicious part of me wondered…

That Soul, with the 2 liter/5 speed is NICE (to me, with my modest and somewhat weird sensibilities). Wish the dealership were in Burbank. 🙂

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
11 months ago

Cruze! All Kia’s suck

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
11 months ago

At equal price and miles, I’d go with the Cruze, even with the mechanical issues, but I can’t pay almost twice as much for a car that needs work, even at half the miles.

Although… OK, if this was going to be my only car, and I could swing the extra $2k (or, better yet, get a quote to fix the oil leak & windows and take that off the price), then I’d probably want one that has probably 50k more trouble-free miles ahead of it.

If I just want a beater for 2-3 years, though, it’s the no-problem Soul for less cash.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
11 months ago
Reply to  Jason Roth

I bet the “oil leak” is either a water pump (located underneath the VVT solenoids) or valve cover gasket. Both are cheap and fairly easy DIY fixes.

Also, the windows is likely the owner having accidentally hit the child lock switch. If there’s an orange light on the driver’s door armrest, that means the switch is active.

JDE
JDE
11 months ago

Considered the cruze, because miles and it is better looking, but the 1.4 turbo has a really bad reputation. I think surprisingly enough and LKQ Soul Engine is easier to come by than the 1.4 Turbo motors. so I guess soul it is.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
11 months ago

Voted cruze because of the lower miles, but really I don’t want either.

Taxi maniac
Taxi maniac
11 months ago

I want one of those cruze diesels.

I bet that cruze with the 5 speed is a good time. 5k for a car with windows that don’t work and an oil leak stinks. Its been a long time since i have had either of those issues. That was a common problem for me in teh 90s.

What do you think is the issue both rear windows not working?

JDE
JDE
11 months ago
Reply to  Taxi maniac

Probably a fuse, or maybe just a couple of ignored rear window motors. people tend to ignore the back ones since they don’t live back there.

Mike B
Mike B
11 months ago

I was just reading an article on the other site about how “it’s nearly impossible to find a good used car under 20k”.

BOOM, here are two. Both are cheap, in good nick, and have plenty of life left. These would both make great winter beaters or commuter cars.

I’ve had both as rental cars, I honestly liked them both. I was ready to vote for the Kia, but the mileage would probably edge me over to the Cruz.

Full honesty, if the Soul was an auto I’d probably vote for that. I prefer hatchbacks to sedans, and the square shape of the Soul mean plenty off room for the dogs in the back. Take my enthusiast car away, but I don’t enjoy manuals in cars like this.

JDE
JDE
11 months ago
Reply to  Mike B

your entire response is invalid based upon your assessment of “nick” and the preference for an automatic. Turn in your card sir

Phil Layshio
Phil Layshio
11 months ago
Reply to  JDE

Nah I get it. I wouldn’t want an automatic in my Midget or my Capri, but my truck and my Jag are perfect for automatics. It’s all about context.

DaChicken
DaChicken
11 months ago

I’ll take the Cruze. I always liked the simple sedan layout and having a manual is a win in my book.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
11 months ago

I was ready to vote for the Kia, but … am I misremembering, or was the Cruze Eco a “Holy Grail” on this very site?

Regardless, it’s the Chevy by a nose. I shall name it “Celia.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celia_Cruz

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
11 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Buchholz

Yes, it was. I nominated it.

Citrus
Citrus
11 months ago

Does this have the most delightful Soul feature from this era? The inside of all of the interior storage bins was bright red. It made me happy when I opened them.

Not so happy I bought one, but happy.

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
11 months ago

The Kia. I bought a 2010 Soul Sport new with the 5-speed. Sold it to my son a few years ago and he’s driving it today. It’s got about 160k miles on it but the only maintenance it’s needed was a starter and a clutch. The only thing that doesn’t work quite right is the stereo – I don’t know what he did to it, but that thumping bass is no more. There’s a bit of rust on the right rear door and the parking brakes rusted out, but that’s Ohio for you.

Gubbin
Gubbin
11 months ago

This is the first and hopefully only time I’ve instantly picked a Kia over something else. But even with 2x the mileage and the salt-belt tax, I could check that funny little box. Meanwhile, the thought of a 13-year-old turbo + VVT in a 13-year old Chevy lozenge with 13 years of indifferent maintenance had me feeling superstitious.

Gubbin
Gubbin
11 months ago
Reply to  Gubbin

Uhhh… OK, maybe I’m living in the future or my math-er is broken, that Chev is only *11* years old. Even still, “boxy but good” for me.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
11 months ago
Reply to  Gubbin

Correct… you are living in the future. It’s 2025 where you and I are. Can’t you see me standing next to you? Oh and Stellantis just released their line of BEVs!

Robert Pridgen
Robert Pridgen
11 months ago

I’d take the KIA for the soul reason that the 1.4 turbo in the Cruze is not that great. Does the listing say how many times the Cruze water pump have been replaced?

DadBod
DadBod
11 months ago

I knew a very tall (6’9″+) guy who traveled a ton for work. The Kia Soul was his go-to rental because it was one of the very few economy cars he comfortably fit in.

DubblewhopperInDubblejeopardy
DubblewhopperInDubblejeopardy
11 months ago

I would buy the Cruze, then trade it in for a Miata, probably at a loss.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
11 months ago

Take the Soul.

I’ve driven a Cruze with a stick, and it is… hands down… the WORST manual transmission ever created in human history. Sloppy, vague, long throw, anemic ratios… just awful. It’s so bad, I thought it was broken, but no, it was brand new. It’s the only car I’ve ever driven that I can honestly say I’d rather have the automatic.

Pneumatic Tool
Pneumatic Tool
11 months ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

I hear you, but have you ever driven a manual Omni?

JDE
JDE
11 months ago
Reply to  Pneumatic Tool

or a Ford Escort Manual anything as well

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
11 months ago
Reply to  JDE

The 1991+ Escort manual transmission was fine as it was a Mazda-sourced transmission.

But I have heard the manual transmission used in the 1981-1990 Escort was crap.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
11 months ago
Reply to  Pneumatic Tool

Why did you have to remind me of that

Citrus
Citrus
11 months ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

Pfft, not even the worst manual transmission created by GM. That belonged to the Chevrolet Optra 5 I test drove once. It was like shifting oatmeal.

Taxi maniac
Taxi maniac
11 months ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

was it worse then a zx2 ford escort

Citrus
Citrus
11 months ago
Reply to  Taxi maniac

As the former owner of a ZX2, I remember that transmission being pretty good.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
11 months ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

Put Amsoil Synchromesh into it. That fluid fixes the vagueness. The ratios in the non-Eco manuals aren’t that great, though.

75
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x