Many small affordable cars come with a certain measure of compromise, but this isn’t the case with the 2017 Kia Soul. Offering solid cargo capacity, pleasant handling and a roomy and attractive cabin, the Soul is an appealing alternative in a highly competitive segment.
The 2017 Kia Soul is a small wagon that seats five passengers. Front-wheel drive is standard, and this Kia is available with manual and automatic transmissions. The Soul is offered in base, Plus (+) and Exclaim (!) trims.
For 2017, the Soul adds a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 40 more horsepower than the 2.0-liter power plant that was the top dog in last year’s engine lineup. The new engine is available only on the Exclaim trim. Also, Plus and Exclaim models add available blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert.
Though the 2017 Kia Soul is classified as a wagon, it could easily pass for a small crossover, and we imagine it being cross-shopped with models like the 2017 Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V and Jeep Renegade.
Upright and linear, the Soul distinguishes itself with its boxy design. In front, a narrow upper matte-black grille with chrome accents rests beneath Kia badging. Standard body-colored power-adjustable exterior mirrors are visible from the side, and the Soul travels on standard 16-inch alloy wheels.
Base models come with rear privacy glass, multi-reflector headlights, matte-black front and rear bumper inserts and a rear washer and wiper. The list of exterior upgrades includes body-colored front and rear bumper inserts, chrome twin exhaust tips, heated side mirrors, mirror-mounted LED turn signals, a panoramic sunroof, LED fog lights, LED tail lamps and HID headlights. Seventeen- and 18-inch wheels are available.
The Soul’s cabin works hard to impress. The design is stylish and modern, and most of the materials used are attractive and pleasing to the touch. It’s a solid achievement when you consider the Soul’s very affordable price point.
Base models come with cloth upholstery, but the Soul Exclaim that we reviewed came standard with cloth and leather upholstery dressed with orange contrast stitching. The handsome seats gave the cabin a sporty look.
The Soul’s front row is roomy, and all models come with a six-way adjustable driver’s seat and a tilt-and-telescoping steering column that make it easy to optimize your driving position. Notably, our Soul Exclaim offered comfortable seating for adults in the second row, with a reasonable amount of legroom. In a Mazda CX-3 that we tested recently, legroom in the second row was a lot more cramped.
The 2017 Kia Soul shines when it comes to cargo capacity. With the rear seats in place, the Soul provides up to 24.2 cubic feet for your belongings. Fold the rear seats, and the Soul delivers up to 61.3 cubic feet of capacity. The Mazda CX-3 offers 12.4 cubic feet of capacity behind the rear seats, and 44.5 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
Standard features include soft-touch dash and upper door panels and a 60/40-split folding rear seat. The list of available interior upgrades includes power-adjustable front seats, heated rear seats, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and leather upholstery.
The 2017 Kia Soul is offered with three engines and three transmissions. All models are front-wheel drive.
Base models come with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder power plant that provides 130 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque. This engine is mated with a six-speed manual transmission, and a six-speed automatic is available. With this power plant, the Soul achieves fuel economy of up to 25/30 mpg city/highway.
Plus models get their juice from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 161 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. This power plant is governed by a six-speed automatic transmission, and it achieves mileage of 25/30 mpg.
Exclaim models are motivated by a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that generates 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission shifts the gears, and mileage comes in at 26/31 mpg.
Ride quality in our Soul Exclaim was firm but comfortable. The car’s turbocharged engine provided ample power, and the dual-clutch automatic transmission delivered timely gear shifts. Thanks to its quick acceleration and pleasant handling, we enjoyed every minute spent with our test car.
The base Soul is available with useful technology features. A six-speaker sound system with an MP3 player and standard satellite radio is standard, and in our test car, it delivered crisp sound quality. All models come with Bluetooth connectivity and a USB/auxiliary input jack.
Our test car came with an available 7-inch touch screen that delivered relatively quick responses and appealing graphics. The infotainment system was user-friendly and easy to navigate.
The Soul’s list of available technology upgrades also includes Android Auto/Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, a 5- or 8-inch touch screen, navigation, HD radio and a premium Harman Kardon sound system.
In crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2017 Kia Soul scored a perfect five stars for overall crash protection. In tests carried out by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Soul nabbed a top score of Good in all evaluations concerning crashworthiness, and the wagon was rated Basic for its crash avoidance and mitigation technology.
Base Soul models are available with a rearview camera, and this feature is standard on other trims. Higher trims offer forward collision warning, blind spot warning, lane departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert.
The 2017 Kia Soul has a starting price of $16,100, not including a destination charge of $895. Plus models start at $19,800, and the Exclaim kicks off at $22,800. Relative to subcompact crossovers like the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V, the Soul has a lower base price.
Unfortunately, most of the key safety equipment drivers want is bundled in expensive packages. To get features such as blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning and lane departure warning, you have to get a Soul Plus with the $4,000 Primo package. The Primo package also adds leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats and a panoramic sunroof. This package requires the $2,000 Audio package, which brings in navigation, push-button start, a Harman Kardon sound system, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, an 8-inch touch screen and HD radio. A Soul Plus with both these packages has a total cost of $26,695.
The Exclaim is offered with a $3,000 Technology package that adds blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, navigation, an 8-inch touch screen, heated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, a heated steering wheel, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, HID headlights, LED fog lights and LED rear combination lamps. An Exclaim with the Technology package has a total cost of $26,695.
Given that it costs the same as a similarly equipped Plus and has a stronger engine, the Exclaim with the Technology package will be the best choice for most drivers. However, in an odd twist, forward collision warning and lane departure warning are offered solely on the midlevel Plus trim and not on the top-tier Exclaim. If these two active safety features are important to you, you’ll need to get an appropriately equipped Plus model.
Small cars like the Kia Soul are a godsend for price-sensitive shoppers. The best of these models offer style and comfort at a budget-friendly cost.
We wish the Soul’s active safety features were available on the base model, and it would be nice if these features were offered at a lower price point. Still, this is small quibble for a car that gets most things right. The 2017 Kia Soul is a pleasure to pilot, and you’ll look good driving it.