Getting Around Austin and SXSWi With a Kia Soul!

When I knew that I had the opportunity to attend South by Southwest in Austin, TX for the second time, I was sure to get a rental car again. My cousins that I stay with live out in Liberty Hill, which is about a 40 minute drive from the hustle and bustle of downtown Austin, where SXSWi takes place.


I was fortunate enough to be connected to STI, which helps create driving experiences for users, so they can figure out what type of car would best fit their lifestyle. After asking me a few questions about my personality (creative, busy, project doer) and what I needed to accomplish while I was in Austin for a week (a lot of highway driving, easy to park and maneuver in packed streets), I was set up with a new Kia Soul!. This model of Soul is their top of the line trim and starts at around $20,000 MSRP (by comparison, the base model starts at about $14,900).

I’ve driven a Soul before, when I was traveling to the Berkshires for a client meeting, so I was expecting the same type of experience with this Soul. However, even though the car drove the same, I will admit that the additional features that came with the model definitely spoiled me.

Here’s the aspects of the Kia Soul! I enjoyed the most during my travels in and around Austin:

  • Leather seats that were heated and cooled
  • Fancy in-dash touchscreens system that had navigation, weather, and nearby attraction look-up
  • Amazing moonroof that went almost the entire length of the roof
  • Bluetooth connectivity and USB charging for my phone (which was often low on battery since I used it so much during the day)
  • Decent-sounding audio system, which no tinny sounds or overdone bass
  • Rearview camera- I never realized how awesome this was! This was the number one thing I missed when I went back to my 2012 Equinox.

I had always thought that a base model vehicle of any sort was enough for me. But after having a higher trim as my daily driver for almost a full week, I will say that this has definitely drawn me over to the “dark side,” and I will be looking for those types of features from now on, especially since I know I will use them on a daily basis.

While the Soul! definitely fit all my needs during the Austin trip, it definitely wasn’t the perfect car (no car is, except maybe a genuine Eleanor). For one, the Soul! definitely sticks out. Sometimes I like that, but sometimes I like to fly under the radar. If I bought a Soul!, I definitely wouldn’t choose a bright color. I also thought it would get higher gas mileage than my Chevy Equinox does (even though Kia was accurate with its estimated 26 combined mpg); perhaps out of ignorance or the fact that I thought since it was lower to the ground, somehow that would help. And while the Soul! did have some get up and go, I found myself wondering just how zippy it could be on the freeways with a 6-cylinder engine instead of a 4-cylinder.

While my Austin Soul! was definitely the perfect vehicle for my time at South by Southwest Interactive, I thought it would be fun to create my own “dream” Soul!:

STI Kia 2.jpg

Black on black please! I like this laidback style that is stealthy while still cool. And, I’d get my rear view camera and leather heated/cooled seats back! I also threw in a cargo mat for all the trips to the dog park when the weather is nice.

Overall, I’m so grateful to STI for allowing me to experience life on the “dark side” of Fancy Car Living for a week in Austin during SXSWi. I was pleasantly surprised by the Soul! and I’m sure others will be too.

Frankie Calcana

Frankie Calcana

Frankie writes about art, fashion, culture, science, food, travel, and combinations thereof. He has no special talents and watches TV like a cat.
Frankie Calcana
Frankie Calcana

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