When I flew to Minneapolis for the press launch of the redesigned Kia Soul, it was the first time I'd been in Minnesota in 10 or 15 years. On that occasion I was on a “Discover America” shoot for an episode on Leech Lake. Sounds exactly like a place you'd want to go, right?
As far as a destination, it was fine, but the people I had to liaison with there were among the worst I worked with during my 10-year tenure with that show. I had so much trouble with them during the research, scripting and scheduling phases, I was nearly beyond control when my feet finally hit the ground there for the actual shoot. I could devote an entire post to that abysmal experience, but will spare you the rant.
Over the years working on that series, I developed a thick skin and taught myself to tune most of these idiots out. I'd just ignore them. But the Leech Lake folks really got under my skin. It was a contentious three days. I also remember you couldn't step outside without being swarmed by mosquitoes the size of humming birds. The only place I've ever been where the mosquitoes are as bad is the Outer Banks in North Carolina.
I've always liked Minneapolis, and if anything, it's better than I remembered. Kia put us up at the Graves 601 Hotel. It's a terrific property located downtown. I can't remember the last time I was impressed by the shower in my room, but the one here was outrageous. Me want.
|Is this a great shower or what! You can direct the spray wherever you want.|
Dinner that night was at The Butcher and the Boar. I like meat and that's what this joint specializes in – well, that and booze. There were at least 30 beers on tap and many of them micro brews of one stripe or another.
|The entrance to The Butcher and the Boar.|
The following day we media types paired up and set off on a several-hour ride and drive.
You need not be a hamster to appreciate the Soul. It's a funky looking gadabout loaded with neat features and available technology. Kia goosed both engines by providing more grunt at lower rpms. We drove Souls armed with the 164-horsepower 2-liter four-cylinder. Plenty quick enough, it did well in traffic and touring on the open road. Kia stiffened the chassis, improving handling; while the shocks have been repositioned for better ride quality.
Longer, wider and lower than the last generation Soul, the redesigned car looks more stable and even a little aggressive. Well, it would look more aggressive if not for those damn hamsters.
Inside the surprisingly roomy cabin, a restyled instrument panel accommodates an available 8-inch touchscreen. Technonerds can opt for Kia's UVO eServices infotainment system. Even the $14,700 base model comes with full power accessories, heated outboard mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity and a six-speaker audio system with satellite radio and iPod interface.
As you move up through the three trim levels, a navigation system, backup camera, a kickin' Infinity audio system, front speaker surround mood lighting and a panoramic sunroof are all standard or available as options.
Kia credits the original Soul as the product that transformed the brand into what it is today. The redesigned Soul won't have a similar impact, but it will do much to help Kia stay the course. And that's just fine with me.
Dinner that night was catered in at a rather cool venue where Kia cranked up the celebration. Live music, great food and, of course, wonderful drinks made the evening.
Kia always provides some after-dinner entertainment. At the Soul event, it was Sumo wrestling. Yep, we struggled into inflatable fat suits, donned head gear and did some grappling. I had always wanted to try my hand at this, and jumped at the opportunity to suit up. With the help of my corner men, I finally got velcroed into my suit and was ready to rock and roll.
My opponent proved no match for me, giving up after three or four minutes of my relentless attacks. I apologized to her afterward, telling her that next time I would pick on someone my own gender and size. It was fun, though.
A canceled flight and other misadventures somewhat marred my trip home, but it was well worth it; hell, the shower was worth the trip.