CARS.COM — Kia's hamsters didn't lie when their ad promised a turbo Soul this winter. The brand has unveiled a real exclamation mark for the 2017 Soul — a 201-horsepower, turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine.
The engine is familiar from Kia's Forte, and from sister-brand Hyundai's Veloster and Elantra Sport. For the Soul it will be mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission; there will be no manual option.
The new engine will inject a bit more fun into the boxy car's funky personality. It also will offer shoppers a fresh reason to look at the Soul; the current-generation Soul was redone as a 2014 model.
"We wanted to provide loyal Soul lovers and new buyers a sportier option," said Orth Hedrick, vice president of product planning for Kia Motors America, in a statement.
While the new Exclaim offers one thing Soul fans have been asking for, it lacks another: Back in 2015 at the Chicago Auto Show, Kia showed a Soul-based Trail'ster concept with all-wheel drive as well as the turbo 1.6-liter. That additional upgrade would instantly give Kia a more direct rival to the growing list of subcompact SUVs that gains another with Ford's unveiling of an EcoSport small SUV at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show next week.
With the new Soul turbo engine you can have your cake and eat it, too: While it has 40 more horsepower and 45 more pounds-feet of torque than the current top engine — a 161-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder — it also has the best fuel mileage rating for a Soul. The new engine is EPA-rated at 26/31/28 mpg city/highway/combined versus 27 mpg combined for both the 2.0-liter in the Plus trim and the base model's 130-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder.
In addition to the turbo, the 2017 Exclaim is separated from lesser Souls by exclusive 18-inch wheels and its own red exterior accents, grille and badging. It also has a leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel, proximity key, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.
The 2017 Exclaim will start at $23,500 (all prices include an $850 destination charge), while the midlevel 2017 Plus (six-speed automatic only) starts at $20,500, and the base model starts at $16,840 with a manual and $18,400 with an automatic. Kia did not specify the on-sale date.
The Exclaim's starting price is up $1,350 from last year's Exclaim, but standard and optional features also have been reconfigured. The only option packages for 2017 are a panoramic sunroof with electric shade for $1,000 and a $3,000 Technology Package that will load the turbo with an 8-inch display with navigation, Harman Kardon premium audio, power front seats, LED taillights and foglights, blind spot and rear cross-traffic warnings, and heated front seats, rear seats and steering wheel.