2017 Kia Soul Review

2017 Kia Soul - Fun and functional Kia retains soul of subcompact Soul


Kia's Soul active lifestyle vehicle is fun, funky and functional.

Kia made the right decision. Officials wanted to redesign the Soul for 2017 but not damage its "soul."

Much was redesigned but the funky exterior of former years remains the same. The redesign did include LED front fog lights, but that hardly intrudes on the continued quirky looks of this subcompact vehicle which can be called a wagon, sport utility vehicle or hatchback since it shares attributes of all three.

When you see a Soul, you will know it. The Soul shares the quirky spotlight with nobody else at the moment as Nissan's Cube and Scion's xB have been discontinued.

The most important change from years past is the addition of a new turbo engine to the four-cylinder Soul offerings. The drawback is that this new 201-horsepower, 1.6-liter, dual overhead cam, inline turbo four cylinder is offered only on the Exclaim (!) model and not the Base and Plus (+) models. The ! model was tested recently.

Not only the engine, but the transmission is new. It is a dual clutch (manual performing like an automatic). The other two models are served by either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. If in the market for a Soul, the advice is to buy the ! model as the price difference is somewhat minimal. Manufacturer pricing is $16,100 for the Base, $19,800 for the + and $22,800 for the ! model. The ! model has more power, equal fuel efficiency, leather trim, larger tires and wheels (18-inch), plus more technology offerings in the areas of the infotainment system and safety equipment. Alloy wheels now come standard across all models.

In exterior and interior measurements not much has changed from prior years. Measurements are the same including for disc brakes, curb-to-curb turning radius, wheelbase, width, height, length and ground clearance. It is the same story for interior measurements. Leg room front and rear differs not at all from past models and neither does cargo capacity.

All models have power windows with driver and front passenger one-touch, up-and-down and anti-pinch, power door locks, heated, foldable and power exterior mirrors and keyless entry. The three models also have, as standard, air conditioning, lighted glove box, dual cupholders front (console) and rear (center armrest), Bluetooth connectivity, tachometer, front reading lights, unlit vanity mirrors on visors, four grab handles and two coat hooks.

Also standard are a sound system with tweeters mounted close to the A pillars, AM-FM-SiriusXM satellite radio, MP3 player, USB, auxiliary input jack and steering wheel mounted audio controls, plus cruise control and intermittent wipers.

Standard on the ! are a power driver's seat, a rear camera display, cooling glove box and UVO, which is Kia's emergency and information system, a seven-inch touchscreen, tilt and telescoping steering column

and smart start. Most prominent in the new instrument panel is the available eight-inch touch screen - the largest ever offered on Soul.

Decent fuel economy and a tighter steering radius are two hallmarks of the Soul. This 163-inch-long vehicle can go curb-to-curb in 34.8 feet.

Since the tested Soul was an ! model, it ran on P235 all-season tires mounted on 18-inch (instead of 17- or 16-inch) 10-spoke alloy wheels. That is a lot of tire and wheel for a vehicle of this size (compact, 101.2-inch wheelbase) and weight (2,778 pounds). The wheels are placed at the extreme four corners of the vehicle. The stance gives the light vehicle more stability while cornering at fast speeds.

During the weeks of driving in cities, highways and back roads with one male adult aboard, the Soul averaged 24.3 miles per gallon of unleaded gasoline, which is nothing spectacular for a vehicle of this size. There is a 14.2- gallon fuel tank for regular gasoline.

The Soul manages 61.3 cubic feet after the split rear seat has been folded flat, which was not as much as the 70 cubic feet of its former xB competitor, but it did beat the 58 cubic feet of a Cube. Storage behind the upright rear split seats measures 18.8 cubic feet. The carpeted area includes lighting and tiedowns. Underneath the floor is a storage area with three compartments.

In the cabin and sitting on firm but wide seats, the ride was comfortable and relatively quiet. Insulating factors could be better. Legroom (39.1 inches) in the rear seating area is comparable to that in a full-size sedan.

Besides a four-wheel antilock braking system, safety standards include stability and traction controls, airbags in front and on the sides in front, and overhead curtains for the two seating rows, seatbelts for five with pretensioners, force limiters and active headrests in front, tethers and anchors for child seats, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Kia's powertrain warranty is 10 years or 100,000 miles. The basic five-year or 60,000-mile warranty includes 24-hour roadside assistance.

Introduced as a 2010 model, six-speed transmissions, manual or automatic, replaced the original five-speed gearshifts. And today there is the turbo.


Vehicle: 2017 Soul !

Type: front-wheel-drive subcompact, five-passenger hatchback

Price: $22.650

Engine: 1.6-liter, 201-horsepower, dual overhead cam, turbocharged inline four-cylinder

Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic

Turning circle, curb to curb: 34.8 feet

Wheelbase, length, width, height, ground clearance in inches: 101.2, 163, 70.9, 63.5, 5.9

Weight: 3,232 pounds

Cargo: 61.3 cubic feet maximum, 18.8 cubic feet if rear seat upright

Legroom: 40.9 inches front, 39.1 inches rear

Fuel tank: 14.2 gallons

Fuel: unleaded regular

Wheels (alloy, 10-spoke), tires (235): 18-inch

Brakes: discs, 11-inch front, 10.3-inch rear

Suspension: struts, gas shocks, stabilizer bar in front, torsion beam, gas shocks, stabilizer bar in rear

Assembly: South Korea

Warranty: five years or 60,000 miles with 24-hour roadside assistance, 10 years or 100,000 miles

M.J. Frumkin and J.E. Kuyper

M. J. Frumkin and J. E. Kuyper covered the auto industry for decades. Frumkin was with Consumer Guide for 14 years, has authored four books and co-authored three more. He is also the historian/archivist for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association/Chicago Auto Show. Kuyper has been an automotive writer, editor and columnist for newspapers in the Chicago area the past 25 years. His reviews currently appear in the daily Northwest Herald newspaper. Frumkin and Kuyper are founding members of the Midwest Automotive Media Association.