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.

BUT…

Fuel economy trails subcompact-class leaders, and most optional features can only be had by purchasing pricey option packages.

WORTH NOTING:

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. Since it doesn’t offer all-wheel drive, we’ve placed it in our subcompact-car class.

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.

The base-model Soul is powered by a 130-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, while the midline Plus model gets a 164-hp 2.0-liter four. The topline Exclaim model gets a new 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.

WHAT’S NEW?

The Soul gets a refresh for 2017 that includes updated front and rear styling, along with the availability of blind-spot alert and rear cr0ss-traffic alert. In addition to the new turbo engine mentioned above, the topline Soul Exclaim gains standard keyless access and starting, along with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality.

FUEL ECONOMY

With the base 1.6-liter engine, the Soul is EPA-rated at 24 mpg city/30 mpg highway with the 6-speed manual transmission and 25/30 with the 6-speed automatic. The 2.0-liter comes only with a 6-speed automatic, and is rated at 25/30. The turbocharged 1.6 is paired exclusively with a 7-speed automated-manual transmission, and is rated at 26/31. During Consumer Guide® evaluation, a Soul Plus returned 23.4 mpg in a test that 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 engines 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 $15,900 – $21,300
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

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