A new engine for 2017 gives the Kia Soul's top trim, the Exclaim, a premium experience — but it comes at a fairly steep price.
Versus the competiton:
The Soul is a boxy front-wheel-drive hatchback that splits the difference between conventional hatchbacks and taller vehicles typically considered SUVs, most of which offer all-wheel drive. It offers a lot of features for the price but struggles when it comes to driving refinement.
Exterior & Styling
The Kia Soul is boxy; given its fairly high ride height, it could be mistaken for an SUV. Its proportions are good and the upright styling helps the Soul stand out in a crowd.
The Soul Exclaim has a few styling tweaks to separate it from a regular Soul, including red-accented body trim, a chrome grille surround, a unique tailgate badge and dual chrome twin-tip exhaust.
How It Drives
Ergonomics & Electronics
Cargo & Storage
The Soul has a smaller cargo area than one might expect from its boxy body; the fairly shallow cargo area behind the backseat is closer in size to a sedan’s trunk than a hatchback’s cargo area. If cargo-carrying is important to you, be sure to eye the Soul’s hatch before buying.
Kia executed the hatch pretty well by mounting the latch low, so it’s easier for shorter-statured people to reach and open the liftgate. And I don’t think it opens too high for those same folks to close the hatch.
The Soul’s load floor was also at just the right height: I didn’t have to stoop to get things, but nor will shorter folks likely be challenged by the height.
The 2017 Kia Soul received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s highest rating — good — in its small overlap front test as well as the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, head restraint and seat tests (see details). For a better look at how the Soul ranks among other small cars in the Institute’s test, click here.
The Soul doesn’t have as many advanced safety features as some competitors. Our test car was equipped with blind spot warning but lacked the Primo option package that adds forward collision warning and lane departure warning to the Plus trims. Despite its available forward collision feature, however, the Soul doesn’t include autonomous emergency braking. This is a shortcoming, as competitors like the Subaru Impreza (through its EyeSight system) and the Mini Countryman offer some form of emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.
Value in Its Class
The Soul’s sticker price is a bit surprising, if for no other reason than Kia made its name offering cars that were — and in many cases still are — less expensive than its mid-range competitors. But times change, and the Soul — and compact hatchbacks as a whole — haven’t been “econoboxes” for some time.
Both the Countryman and Impreza are being redesigned for 2017, and while we can’t yet compare the driving experience, a look at their features is helpful.
The Kia Soul we drove had $5,000 worth of options, including a heated steering wheel, heated seats front and rear, a panoramic moonroof (itself a $1,000 stand-alone option) and a navigation system, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Its price tag totaled $27,620.
Mini says the Countryman will start at $27,450 (all prices include destination charges) and come standard with a panoramic moonroof, rear parking sensors (which our Soul didn’t have) and a sliding and reclining backseat (our Soul didn’t have this, either), but no heated front or rear seats and no heated steering wheel.
The Impreza’s base model 2.0i hatchback starts at $19,215. It features standard, full-time all-wheel drive (not offered on the Soul), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Picking higher trims gets you closer to the same content as the Soul, though as of this writing no version had heated rear seats or a heated steering wheel.
So, based on features and price, the Soul — while expensive — offers features that are competitive or better than what others in the class offer for the same price.
Ultimately, the Kia Soul isn’t a slam-dunk winner in its segment. It’s got a lot of content and is a nice size for maneuvering around the city, plus its visibility is good, but the jittery ride alone would make me test-drive some competitors, as well.