The Kia Soul hit our roads running back in 2009 as a 2010 model year and despite its unusual looks, it quickly caught on. You only have to sit for a few minutes at a busy intersection to realize how well received this quirky car-cum-crossover really is.
The multiple trims, powertrains and special editions have kept the Soul in the running and one of the latest versions, the SX Turbo, really has us excited. With the SX and the delightful EV, and everything in between, the Soul offers one of the broadest portfolios of options. And don’t be turned off by the fact that it’s a Soul; drive it.
The Soul messes with your eyes somewhat as the long flat hood would indicate a larger vehicle but the mere inches of body panels behind the rear doors say otherwise. The signature two-box design makes it more of a hatchback but its upright and tall stature say SUV. One way or another, the Soul currently holds one of the most distinctive car designs in North America. And I love it.
The cabin has evolved nicely since 2010 all the while retaining its unique vent-speaker pods but gaining soft-touch materials, lovely contrast stitching in the tested SX and top-notch fit and finish. The ergonomics are very good with most important controls within easy reach, except perhaps for the heated steering wheel button. The touchscreen and surrounding switchgear are beautifully integrated and easy to consult.
The base LX uses a 130-horsepower 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine that should only be considered for two reasons: manual transmission and lower base price. From the automatic LX, only $1,500 is necessary to move onto the EX with the 161-horsepower 2.0-litre version.
The SX Turbo is the winner, any which way you look at it. The $25,995 asking price gets you, dare I say it, near VW GTI performance thanks to its torque-rich turbocharged 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine. Not only do you get 201-horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque but also they are mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. Full torque comes on mid-rage, where the engine is happiest and punchy.
The autobox is brilliant once underway, gliding seamlessly from cog to cog. However, on at least two occasions, it forgot to shift, the engine hit the rev-limiter then proceeded to pound itself into the next gear. Also, going from “R” to “D”, or the other way around, takes a while so make sure your foot is hovering over the brake pedal especially if you’re not on a flat surface. Only other comment here is that the steering wheel should sport shifter paddles, like those in the Forte SX Turbo.
On the road, The Soul is entertaining to say the least. It shares its suspension components with the others, including the rear torsion beam. Despite that, the ride is supple and sporty enough for loads of good times. Steering is unchanged as well with decent precision and little feedback. Kia was wise to upgrade the front discs to offset the extra oomph.
The Soul SX Turbo is genuinely good to drive.
The Soul is essentially all cabin, and therefore plenty roomy for four full-size adults. The front seats are comfortable but limited in lateral support. If you buy a Soul Turbo and intend on tracking it, you may find yourself hanging onto the steering wheel on your way to the apex. The rear bench is plenty wide for two, or one baby seat and an adult.
The issue with the Soul is the trunk’s lack of overall volume, which is similar to most small CUVs. If you purchase a Soul as the family vehicle, make sure you calculate what you need on a regular basis and see if its fits. My stroller required that the “60” portion of the rear bench be folded to fit while the remainder of the boot filled up quickly with a few bags. With two kids, the Soul becomes snug indeed.
This Kia is not a luxury car, despite all of its equipment, which means that it’s not the quietest of cars. Wind noise is the culprit but the level is not unusual for this category of vehicle.
As always, Kia knocks one out of the park when it comes to supplying consumers with all the goodies the want and need.
The base LX is enticing as a starting point but the entry-level SX Turbo is insanely attractive with leather/cloth-heated seats, 18” wheels, D-shaped steering wheel and more. The $29,995 SX Tech is roughly $7k less than an equivalent 5-door GTI equipment-wise but down 19-horsepower and lots of torque. Going really fast is overrated (I don’t really believe that….) but the fun part is that you’ll surprise many a would-be hot-hatch or sports car owner off the line is your piddly Soul…
Time will tell if the Soul SX Turbo holds its value better and longer than the typical Korean car. My bet is that if sale numbers remain relatively low, it’ll do much better than average.