Kia Soul

2016 Kia Soul

The Kia Soul is a small and fashionable hatchback thats known, among other things, for its efficient use of space and money, its comfort, and its smooth ride. Sometimes it feels more like a small boxy wagon than a five-door. It doesnt try to be swoopy on the outside, while it displays a touch of sophistication on the inside, as the connectivity and infotainment systems hold their own against those in more expensive cars. In a nutshell, the Soul finds its own niche, which isnt easy to do in that class.

The 2016 Soul is the third year of the second generation. There are no major changes for 2016.

The base engine is a 1.6-liter four cylinder making 130 horsepower and 118-pound-feet of torque, and it doesnt feel like enough power with the optional automatic transmission, while the standard 6-speed manual pulls it better.

The Soul Plus and Exclaim models come with a 2.0-liter, direct-injection four-cylinder that makes 164 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, with only the 6-speed automatic available. Its sprightly enough, although its geared fairly tall to get good gas mileage, so the auto transmission downshifts a lot on the highway, especially long uphill climbs, where it sometimes goes hunting, up, down, up, down.

We recommend the 2.0-liter engine. The base 1.6-liter is EPA rated at 24/30/26 mpg City/Highway/Combined, while the more powerful 2.0-liter engine does better, with 24/31/27 mpg, thanks to its direct fuel injection.

Theres also an all-electric Soul, with three models: Soul EV-e, EV, and EV+, available in California, Oregon, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, and Maryland. The Kia Soul EV has been well-received, and we think its one of the best EVs around, with its room and trim levels.

The Soul EV uses an air-cooled lithium-ion battery pack to run a 109-hp electric motor (81 kilowatts) that powers the front wheels. Its rating of 27 kilowatt-hours beats the bestselling Nissan Leafs 24 kwh, and gives the Soul EV a range of 105 miles versus 84 for the Leaf. Youll shorten the all-electric mileage with quick starts, but if you want them theyre there, along with highway passing capability.

The Soul EV includes a CHAdeMO DC fast charge port with plug lock, a 6.6-kw onboard charger for 240-volt Level 2 charging (versus 3.3-kw chargers fitted to other electric cars). Kia says a full charge from a flat battery takes 24 hours from a 120-volt wall outlet, or less than 5 hours from a 240-volt outlet. Kia offers a few options for home charging. The flat battery can be charged to 80 percent in 33 minutes using that 50 kw CHAdeMO thing, which isnt as awkward as its name. Soul EV comes at a high price, however. We think spending the same amount of money and getting two base Souls, one for yourself and another for your college kid, makes more sense.

Crash-wise, NHTSA gives the Soul five stars in every category except rollover resistance, with four stars; nothing can change the fact that its tall and short. The IIHS makes it a Top Safety Pick. It comes standard with front airbags, seat-mounted side bags, and full-length side curtain bags. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard, while many competitors use drum brakes in rear.

New for 2016 is an inexpensive Convenience Package, including a rearview camera, touchscreen audio, and satellite radio; theres also a new Designer Collection package that brings a two-tone paint job. Alloy wheels become standard on all models, in 2016.


2015 Kia Soul

Fresh from a complete redesign for 2014, Kia Soul continues as one of the best boxy compacts on the market with its unique design, comfortable ride and roomy interior. The 2015 Kia Soul lineup continues to offer a choice of four-cylinder engines.

New for 2015: Kia Soul EV, an all-electric vehicle with a range of up to 93 miles. Its powered by a 109-horsepower electric motor, which makes a hearty 210 pound-feet of torque. The Kia Soul EV has distinct visual differences such as exclusive paint colors, white exterior and interior trim. Unique 16-inch wheels are wrapped with super low rolling resistance tires for added efficiency. The 2015 Kia Soul EV is EPA-rated at 120/92 City/Highway, or 105 Miles Per Gallon Equivalent (MPGe). The 2015 Kia Soul EV will be sold exclusively in California.

Kia Soul features a boxy shape with softened lines compared to pre-2014 models. The front ends tiny upper grille and a giant, mesh-covered lower grille make the Soul look grounded and hunkered down. Round accents, such as its foglights, add contrast to the Souls boxy shape.

Inside, Soul has a unique circular theme, seen in the center stack and echoed in the air vents (with nifty round speakers that sit on top), the driver instrument cluster and the gearshift surround. Soul EVs get a dedicated display that shows battery life and projected range.

Models equipped with navigation use a system powered by Android, while those without nav use the Microsoft-powered UVO voice-recognition and handsfree system. A mobile app for Kias UVO eServices allows owners to access vehicle diagnostics, saved points of interest and trip information from a compatible Android or Apple smartphone. Drivers can request roadside assistance and dealer appointments, and save the location where their vehicle is parked using the UVO eServices app. A separate app for the Kia Soul EV allows drivers to remotely lock or unlock the car, start or stop a charge, and provides directions to the nearest charging stations.

The standard Kia Soul is powered by a 1.6-liter engine that makes a modest 130 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque, available with a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. EPA fuel economy ratings are 24/30 mpg City/Highway with either gearbox.

More fun and more powerful is the 2.0-liter inline-4, good for 164 hp and 151 lb.-ft. of torque, available only with the 6-speed automatic. Fuel economy, perhaps surprisingly, isnt that different, with an EPA rating of 23/31 mpg City/Highway.

Both models run on Regular gasoline, while some competitors like the Fiat 500L and Mini Cooper Countryman require more-expensive Premium gas.

The Kia Soul is a fun car, great for tooling around in the city, and on mid-range road trips. Theres plenty of room to carry gear, and the back seat will fit two or three in relative comfort for a compact vehicle. But its not a car you get for its driving dynamics. With moderate acceleration, numb steering and relatively harsh ride, the Soul isnt by any means a performance vehicle.

Kia Soul is a unique player at a time when some automakers are discontinuing their boxy cars to focus on compact crossovers (the Nissan Cube, for example, is discontinued for 2015). As such, there are few direct competitors. Other versatile vehicles with a similar footprint include the Fiat 500L, Mini Cooper Countryman, and compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and the forthcoming redesigned Nissan Juke.


2014 Kia Soul

Just when it seemed boxy cars were going away, the new 2014 Kia Soul not only carries on, but is redesigned and better than ever.

Riding on an all-new platform, the 2014 Kia Soul is longer, wider and more rigid than its predecessor, making for a more comfortable and safer ride. New sound insulation and improved acoustic engineering makes the cabin much quieter.

Perhaps most significant, though, is the improvement in the interior quality and design. Flat, hard plastics have been replaced with curved, soft-touch materials. The Soul has a unique circular theme throughout the cabin, which can be seen in the center stack and echoed in the air vents (with nifty round speakers that sit on top), the driver instrument cluster and the gearshift surround.

On the outside, the most noticeable difference is a more softened shape, compared to the upright cracker box of the past. Theres no question the new Soul is still a box; it keeps the same proportions but sports more sophisticated lines, incorporating bends and curves into a still-unmistakable square silhouette.

The front ends tiny upper grille and a giant, mesh-covered lower grille make the Soul look grounded and hunkered down. Round accents, like foglights, contrast with the Souls boxy shape.

Two direct-injected, four-cylinder engines carry over from the previous-generation Kia Soul. The base 1.6-liter makes a modest 130 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque, available with a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 24/30 mpg City/Highway, or 26 mpg Combined, regardless of transmission.

Most will want to opt for the 2.0-liter inline-4, which is good for 164 hp and 151 lb.-ft. of torque and is available only with the 6-speed automatic. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 23/31 mpg City/Highway, or 26 mpg Combined, showing the more powerful 2.0-liter engine neck-and-neck with the standard 1.6-iter. Of note, all versions of the 2014 Kia Soul run on Regular gasoline, while the Fiat 500L and Mini Cooper Countryman require Premium.

In-car technology has also been updated in the 2014 Soul. Cars equipped with navigation use a new system powered by Android, replacing the old Microsoft system. Cars without nav continue to use the Microsoft-powered UVO voice-recognition and handsfree system.

We found the 2014 Kia Soul to be a fun car, great for tooling around in the city, and on mid-range road trips. Theres plenty of room to carry gear, and the back seat will fit two or three in relative comfort for a compact vehicle. Driving dynamics are improved, but with its moderate acceleration, numb steering and relatively harsh ride, the Soul isnt a vehicle you get for its performance.

Although it starts in the reasonable sub-$15,000 category, dont expect much at the entry-level price. Options such as navigation, the premium Infinity audio system and other goodies are expensive and add up fast. So expect a well-equipped 2014 Kia Soul to come closer to the $20,000 mark.

More people are cross-shopping Kia Soul with other compact cars. In fact, in a time when more people are looking for what they can get for their money, instead of shopping in a traditional segment, the Kia is a unique player in a price range that includes not only more direct wagon-type competitors such as the Fiat 500L, Nissan Cube and Mini Cooper Countryman, it also is a potential contender space-wise for those shopping for compact SUVs such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, as well as sub-compact hatchbacks including the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit and Mazda2.


2013 Kia Soul

The Kia Soul is an inexpensive runabout with youthful styling, good fuel economy and utilitarian design and features. The goal with Soul is to stand out in a sea of sameness. In spite of its shape, the Kia Soul is a car. It is not an SUV. The mechanical design of the Soul is similar to that of a small sedan. All models are front-wheel drive; no all-wheel drive is offered.

2013 Kia Soul models are distinguished from last year's models by new color and trim choices and some minor content changes. The Kia Soul debuted as a 2010 model. 2012 models brought new engines and freshened styling.

Two engines are offered. A 1.6-liter four-cylinder comes standard, rated 138 horsepower and available with a choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 25/30 mpg City/Highway for either transmission, so the choice should come down to how much you enjoy stirring gears. However, cruise control and a multi-adjustable driver's seat only come on the automatics.

A 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 164 horsepower comes with Soul+ and Soul! models. It's available with the 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic, but this time the manual enjoys a slight fuel economy advantage, at 24/29 mpg vs. 23/28 mpg for the automatic. That's unless you order the Eco package, which uses low-rolling-resistance tires and an extended-idle shut-off (called Idle Stop and Go, or ISG) to bump the automatic's EPA ratings back up equal to the manual's.

We think the standard 1.6-liter engine is a viable choice, offering plenty of power and the best fuel economy. The upgrade 2.0-liter engine delivers a bit more power, however, particularly important for the automatic, costs just slightly more and nearly matches the smaller engine in fuel economy.

Overall, we found the Soul felt nimble and light, fun to drive. It rides like the other economy cars in its class. And it's cute, with smooth and stylish lines, for a box, that is, and the interior is notably clean and functional.

Standard equipment includes six airbags, ABS, and electronic stability control to help keep you safe. Kia offers accessories to personalize your Soul and establish your own identity. How many car makers can offer that?
 

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