2021 Kia Soul Best Buy Review
IT’S A BEST BUY BECAUSE:
Soul delivers impressive passenger room, flexible cargo space, and lots of upscale available features in a tidy, pleasant-to-drive package.
All-wheel drive isn’t available, some desirable tech and safety features are restricted to the pricier top-line models, and the turbo-engine transmission’s shifts can feel clunky.
Kia had planned to offer an all-electric Soul EV version, like it did with the previous-generation Soul, in California and other select U.S. states, but the company has dropped those plans and is focusing on its Niro EV crossover instead.
WHAT IS IT?
The Soul is Kia’s boxy, whimsically styled subcompact 4-door wagon, and it kicked off its third generation with a redesigned model last year. The model lineup consists of LX, S, X-Line, GT-Line, EX, and Turbo trim levels—the X-Line has rugged-looking, SUV-like trim, and the Turbo has sportier-looking styling elements. A 147-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder is standard on all but the Turbo; it can be paired with a 6-speed manual (standard on LX) or a continuously variable transmission (optional on LX, standard on the others). The Turbo comes standard with a 201-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter four that is paired exclusively with a 7-speed dual-clutch automated-manual transmission. Available safety features include forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, lane change assist, driver-attention warning, blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and high-beam assist. Other available features include wireless device charging, dual automatic climate control, 10.25-inch HD touchscreen with split-screen function, 8-inch head-up display, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, 640-watt Harman Kardon audio system, and the ability to pair two Bluetooth devices at the same time.
After its redesign last year, the Soul sees minor revisions for 2021, such as a model name change (the Turbo trim level was previously called GT-Line Turbo) and standard Rear Occupant Alert on all models.
The base 2.0-liter engine is rated at 25 mpg city/31 mpg highway with the 6-speed manual transmission and 28/33 or 29/35 with the CVT automatic. The turbo 1.6 engine is rated at 27/32. During Consumer Guide® evaluation, an X-Line returned 31.7 mpg and a Turbo averaged 30.4 mpg, both in tests that consisted of about 75 percent highway driving. All Souls use regular-grade gas.
VALUE IN CLASS
The Kia Soul has always offered a compelling blend of personality and practicality; with the Soul’s redesign for 2020, its personality got a bit edgier and the practicality got a bit better, thanks to the slightly larger dimensions. All Souls are nicely refined overall for their class and price, but some desirable features aren’t available on lower-line models. Shoppers looking for extra zip should consider the Turbo… it’s the priciest model in the lineup, but its turbocharged engine is one of the gutsiest in the class, with no significant penalty in fuel economy compared to the base engine.