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2017 Kia Soul

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Overview (Final Score: B)

The automotive industry isn't immune to fads. Remember how we had retro-styled vehicles like the Chrysler PT Cruiser and Ford Thunderbird? Another fad that has recently passed is box vehicles, which was started by the Scion xB in 2004. Aside from standing out, the box shape also provided a very spacious interior for passengers and cargo. In due course, Nissan and Kia joined in the fun with the Cube and Soul, respectively.

In the last few years, Nissan and Scion pulled their box vehicles due to declining sales. However, Kia kept building theirs as it became one of their most popular models. The Soul underwent some changes for 2017, with the big news being the option of a turbo engine. This gives the Soul some much-needed punch in the power department

What We Love About the 2017 Kia Soul:

  • Turbo engine gives some pep

  • Immense space

  • Comfortable interior


What We Don't Love About the 2017 Kia Soul:

  • Turbo models needs a sporty suspension

  • Lack of AWD may turn some people off

  • A fair amount of wind noise at higher speeds



Exterior View (9/10)

The Soul has always been a funky looking vehicle. The front end comes with massive lower air intake, narrow grill slot above and large headlights. Certain trims will get LED daytime running lights. The side profile shows off some sculpturing on the doors and flared out fenders. Around back is a smooth tailgate shape with contrasting colors and tall taillights that almost extend to the roof. The ! (Exclaim) adds some sporting touches such as orange trim on the lower part of the vehicle, 18-inch alloy wheels and a selection of unique colors.


Interior Comfort, Quality and Ease of Use (9/10)

The first thing you notice about the Soul's interior is how spacious it is. The box shape allows for tall passengers to feel quite comfortable with loads of headspace, even with the optional panoramic sunroof. Legroom is quite good for most passengers. The seats themselves provide excellent comfort and support for the daily drive. The raised driving position is a nice touch as it gives a clear view of the road. Cargo space is quite good with 19 cubic feet with the seats up and luggage tray installed, and 61.3 with the seats folded and tray removed.

Material quality is above average for the class, with a fair amount of soft-touch plastics featuring a leather-grain detail, faux leather top for the instrument cluster, and piano-black trim. Exclaim models get cloth and leather upholstery with orange stitching that adds a nice touch of class, along with a flat-bottom steering wheel that give you the impression of the model being sporty.

Technology (8/10)

All Souls come with a touchscreen system. The base gets a 5-inch touchscreen radio, while the Plus and Exclaim make do with either a 7- or 8-inch screen featuring Kia's UVO infotainment system. Our Exclaim tester came with the larger 8-inch system as part of an optional Technology package that also includes navigation and a Harman/Kardon audio system. UVO is starting to show its age in terms of the graphics, as it doesn't quite pop like some competitors. But UVO still has some strong points with an intuitive interface and quick performance. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration is standard on both the 7- and 8-inch systems

Fuel Economy (8/10)

The Exclaim with its turbo engine gets the highest fuel economy figures of the Soul's gas engine lineup, with EPA fuel economy estimates of 26 City/31 Highway/28 Combined. We saw an average of 25.8 mpg in mostly city driving.


Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (9/10)

Kia has been at the top of J.D. Power's Initial Quality Study for the past two years and some of that credit has to go to the Soul. The model has some of the highest ratings for quality and currently holds the top spot in the Compact MPV segment in J.D. Power's rankings. Reliability is somewhat mixed. Consumer Reports says the Soul is average, while J.D. Power reports the model is almost one of the best.

Safety (8/10)

Standard safety equipment on all Souls includes a full suite of airbags, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, traction control, stability control and tire-pressure monitoring. A backup camera is standard for the Plus and Exclaim, and optional for the base model. Blind-spot monitoring with rear-cross traffic alert, lane departure warning and forward collision warning are optional for the Plus and Exclaim.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the Soul a 5-Star overall rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety the Soul its highest rating of "Good" in all of their tests.


Performance (7/10)

There are three different engines on offer for the Soul. The base Soul comes with a 1.6L 4-cylinder offering 130 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed manual comes standard, while a 6-speed automatic is optional. The Plus receives a 2.0L 4-cylinder with 161 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. The sole transmission choice for the 2.0L is a 6-speed automatic.

Exclaim models come with a turbocharged 1.6L 4-cylinder with 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. The turbo engine is paired with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. One item to be aware of, Kia doesn't offer AWD on any Soul model. This will turn off some buyers as they see the model as a crossover.

There is some turbo lag when you're leaving a stop, but the engine soon comes to life and gives the Soul some much-needed zip. Compared to the 2.0L, the 1.6T has a sharper throttle response and feels quicker in city driving. When it comes to freeway driving, the Soul Turbo doesn't feel as punchy. Some of this can be laid at the feet of the dual-clutch transmission which is focused more on efficiency and not performance. It doesn't help that the dual-clutch is somewhat slow when it comes to downshifts. Some of this could be solved if Kia offered a 6-speed manual transmission for the turbo engine or gave a manual shift option for the DCT, either on the console or through a set of paddle shifters.

The Soul Exclaim has the looks and power to make it a possible hot hatch, but what about the suspension? That's where the model falters slightly. Despite the turbo engine, Kia hasn't made any changes to Exclaim's suspension. The Soul feels stable and shows little body roll, but it would have nice if it had some faster reflexes and cornered slightly flatter. Steering is decently weighted, but a little bit more feel would be nice. On the upside, the Soul provides a very comfortable ride with most bumps ironed out. There is a fair amount of wind noise, mostly due to the Soul's shape.

Pricing and Value (8/10)

The 2017 Kia Soul begins at $16,100 for the base model and climbs to $22,800 for the Exclaim. Our test Soul Exclaim came to an as-tested price of $27,620 with the Technology Package, Panoramic Sunroof and Carpeted Floor Mats. For most, we recommend getting the Exclaim with the Technology Package, as you'll get everything you need and want in a vehicle.


Total Score and Competitive Comparison (66/80, 83%)

The Honda HR-V provides more cargo space and the option of AWD. Where it falters is that its infotainment system is frustrating to use when compared to the Soul's UVO system and only one engine option.

Mazda's CX-3 is the sexiest crossover of the bunch and embarrasses everyone when it comes driving fun. It doesn't hurt that the CX-3 also returns some impressive fuel economy figures. But the CX-3 has a cramped interior for both passengers and cargo when pitted against the Soul. The CX-3 could also use a bit more power.

It's quite amazing to see the Soul living on after the likes of the Nissan Cube and Scion xB went the way of the dodo bird. But Kia has been keeping the Soul up to date with new improvements and features. The introduction of the turbo engine means the Soul opens itself up to more people.

We can't help but wonder if the Soul would be more appealing if the Exclaim was a bit more sporty with changes to the suspension and possibly add the option of AWD. The Soul is a compelling choice in the class, but it could be so much more.

Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
Wagon - FWD
Base Base Manual 4 Cylinder FWD 16100
Base Base Auto 4 Cylinder FWD 17700
+ + Auto 4 Cylinder FWD 19800
! ! Auto 4 Cylinder FWD 22800

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