IT’S A BEST BUY BECAUSE:
Soul delivers impressive passenger room, flexible cargo space, and lots of upscale available features in a tidy, affordable package.
Fuel economy trails subcompact-class leaders, and most optional features can only be had by purchasing pricey option packages.
With its slightly elevated ride height and tall “box-on-wheels” body shape, the Kia Soul straddles the line between a subcompact car and a subcompact SUV. Kia also offers an all-electric Soul EV version in California and nine other Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) states.
WHAT IS IT?
The original Soul joined Kia’s lineup for 2010 as a quirky, unconventionally styled subcompact with boxy proportions that gave it surprisingly good passenger and cargo space within its small overall footprint. Soul’s practical packaging, memorable marketing, and high feature-per-dollar ratio, along with Kia’s strong warranty, helped make the Soul a marketplace success.
A redesigned Soul debuted for 2014 on a slightly larger chassis that was 30 percent stiffer than the original model. The styling was all new too, though the new Soul retained the same boxy profile and exuberant design spirit of the original. Over the last few model years, Kia has kept the Soul fresh by steadily adding available safety and technology features such as forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, keyless entry and starting, and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay functionality.
The base-model Soul is powered by a 130-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, the midline Plus gets a 164-hp 2.0-liter four, and the line-topping Exclaim model has a 201-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter four. A broad range of optional equipment is available, including rare-for-the-class features such as a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, and a cooled glovebox.
After getting a minor styling refresh and a peppy turbocharged engine for its top-line Exclaim model last year, the Kia Soul sees a few minor updates in standard and optional equipment for 2018. The Soul Plus Primo Package adds adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking, and the Primo “Lit” Package includes HID headlights and LED positioning lights.
The base 1.6-liter engine and the 2.0-liter are both rated at 25 mpg city/30 mpg highway. The more-powerful turbo 1.6 engine actually does a bit better, checking in at 26/31. During Consumer Guide® evaluation, a Soul Plus returned 23.4 mpg, and a Soul Exclaim averaged 26.9. Both tests consisted of mostly city driving. All Souls use regular-grade gas.
VALUE IN CLASS
It’s easy to see that the Kia Soul has a lot of personality, but it’s also one of the most comfortable and refined subcompacts around—particularly in optioned-up form. The ride is decently absorbent, the handling is reasonably nimble, and the cabin is surprisingly spacious. The Exclaim model’s turbocharged engine delivers satisfyingly zippy performance with no penalty in fuel economy. Regardless of model, the engine note can grow a bit noisy at times, and the sticker prices escalate quickly as options are added, but the Kia Soul is still one of the most compelling vehicles in its class.
|BASE PRICE RANGE||$16,100 – $22,800|
|BODY STYLES||4-Door Wagon|
|AVAILABLE ENGINES||130-HP, 1.6-Liter 4-Cyl.; 164-HP, 2.0-Liter 4-Cyl.; 201-HP, Turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-Cyl.|
|DRIVE WHEELS||Front-Wheel Drive|
|BUILT IN||South Korea|
|EPA FUEL-ECONOMY RANGE||24-31 MPG|