A Closer Look at the Kia Soul

We’re all familiar with the phrase, “good things come in small packages” but to actually jump behind the wheel of a vehicle that proves this saying is a whole different experience in itself.  While not a large vehicle, the Kia Soul sure manages finds plenty of room for passengers, cool design elements and an ever-present sense of spunk. If you missed experiencing Kia’s compact at the Texas Auto Show this year, check out a few of the reasons why we like the 2018 Kia Soul (and the 2017 Kia Soul! Turbo).

A red 2018 Kia Soul + featured at the 2017 Texas Auto Show.

Design: If It Aint’ Broke Don’t Fix It

The Kia Soul has always stood out from the crowded field of compact vehicles and while it could basically be called a hatchback, it isn’t defined by a tradition of either category.  The boxy tail end and stub nose of the Kia give the impression of a miniature sport utility vehicle but the Soul is still surprisingly taller than you’d expect if you first glance at it from afar.  While much hasn’t changed in its outward appearance since it was first introduced in 2009,  the Soul is certainly a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  It still looks fresh in 2018, and perhaps it’s because of brilliant design elements both inside and out.  A wide stance that flairs out into prominent wheel wells give the exterior of the soul the appearance of speed while not compromising it’s one-of-a-kind structure.  Inside, design cues that play on the shape of circles are creatively placed throughout the cabin.  While we’re on the cabin…

 
2018 Kia Soul
  Interior Space: Room to Grow In  

A “compact” cabin rarely feels as spacious as it does in the Kia Soul.  Without a sunroof, passengers get a respectable 101 cubic feet of room, including almost 40 inches of headroom in both the front and the back (thanks to the linear roof line).  Climbing into the Soul for the first time will almost always elicit a “whoah, I didn’t think the Soul was this roomy.”  Even for a tall guy like me, the Soul offers plenty of leg and headroom.  Cargo space is also generous, as it should be for a vehicle shaped like the Soul.  With the rear seat up, the Soul offers 24.2 cubic feet of space.  Not bad but where this vehicle really shines is in the extra space that opens up with the rear seats down – 61.3 cubic feet of space to be exact.  Plenty of room for some creative urban adventuring or lots of luggage for a road trip.

The Uvo System: No Stress Tech

Now that almost every automobile manufacturer offers a touchscreen infotainment system option in their vehicles, it’s easier to compare systems and gauge which technology works best for your needs.  Kia’s Uvo infotainment system definitely sets a benchmark on quality, earning high marks on ease of use and responsiveness. Anyone familiar with how apps are laid out on a smartphone should have no problem navigating the menus of the Uvo system.  Most features of the system are represented by large app-like buttons that take the pain away from searching through endless menus. For more advanced users the Uvo infortainment system allows for integration with Apple Car and Android Auto.  For drivers like me who appreciate more of a tactile experience when it comes to infotainment systems, I really appreciate that the Soul has physical buttons surrounding the touch screen that allow me to jump around within the software easily without getting the screen all smudgy.

Fun Fact: Kia offers the Soul in three versions: base, + and !.  No, that’s not a typo the second and third models of the Soul are officially named by a plus sign and an exclamation point.

Test Driving the 2017 Kia Soul ! Turbo

Yep, Kia’s premium model in its Soul lineup is indeed named with an exclamation point – the Kia Soul – but in reality, any of the model names could use this same punctuation in its name (although a +! model might be pushing it).  The exclamation mark is a perfect symbol, in my opinion, for a vehicle that doubles down on its quirky playfulness, particularly in its design and curb appeal.  Now the Turbo designation that’s added to the Soul ! comes into play exactly how you’d expect it to: as an uptick in the Soul’s performance. I recently test drove a 2017 Kia Soul ! Turbo for a week and while the aesthetic designs are still my favorite thing about the Soul, the added horsepower made the entire experience even more enjoyable.

Note: While the 2018 version is now available, only minor improvements were applied this year so the experience should be very similar.

The Turbo edition brings to the table a 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo that creates 201 horsepower – 40 more than the base model that already produces a satisfactory 130 horsepower.  It’s the same engine Hyundai equips in the Elantra Sport and I quite it enjoyed it in that configuration already. Coupled with this new engine is a 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission that takes advantage of the extra power for smoother, faster transitions between gears.  More refined brakes and a retuned suspension also come along for the ride – and a quite a ride it is. Controls are tight and the Soul ! Turbo handles nimbly, to say the least.

Soul ! Turbo doesn’t just enhance the drive but also brings some flair to a car that already has lots of style. 18-inch 10-spoke wheels, chrome exhaust tips, and red and black trim throughout the body certainly give the Soul some swagger. I particularly like the way the Soul nameplate on the rear of the vehicle is created by raised letter jutting outward in the same color as the paint job; very cool and subtle.  Inside, the Turbo edition adds colored stitching on the seats, the steering wheel and the shifter cap – otherwise known as the shifter boot.  A gorgeous panoramic sunroof is optional and is still offered in the 2018 Turbo edition, along with a slew of driving assistance technologies like a standard back-up camera and optional blind-spot monitoring.

The Soul ! Turbo model of the Kia Soul is the icing on the cake for an automobile that already pushes the envelope in terms of what shape an automobile can take.  If you’re already considering the Kia Soul as your next vehicle, it’s certainly worth the effort to consider adding an ! at the end of the model name. After all, it adds punch to a name that is already very appropriate for a vehicle that embodies it: Soul.

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