The Kia Soul brings a touch of style to the hatchback category, competing directly with popular models such as the Nissan Kicks, Hyundai Venue, and Toyota C-HR. In the year 2023, Kia made some updates to the Soul, streamlining it to a single drivetrain option. As part of this change, the Turbo and X-Line trims were discontinued. However, they did make a positive addition by including automatic emergency braking as a standard feature.
The Soul is currently available in three trims: LX, S, and GT-Line. Each of these trims showcases a vibrant and edgy body design. Its exterior displays a unique and modern appearance, incorporating futuristic elements. On the inside, the Soul provides ample space for passengers. Although, it could benefit from the addition of some vibrant colors to liven up its somewhat dark trim.
Powered by a 147-horsepower drivetrain and equipped with a CVT transmission, the Soul’s performance is decent, although it doesn’t quite match the power of its previous models. Nevertheless, it offers a comfortable ride and responsive steering, though enthusiasts would appreciate a bit more power.
Where the Soul truly shines is in its spaciousness, comfortably accommodating four to five individuals. It serves as an excellent option for first-time car buyers, providing practicality and the potential to be a reliable family car.
In terms of safety, certain versions of the Soul have earned the prestigious Top Safety Pick designation from the IIHS, mainly due to their LED headlights. However, the NHTSA has awarded the Soul three stars for side-pole impact and four stars overall. To enhance safety, Kia has made a notable improvement by making automatic emergency braking a standard feature.
Throughout its history, the Soul has acquired numerous distinct features, yet it retains its appeal as an affordable vehicle, cleverly concealing its origins beneath an attractive design. Our test car arrived in Surf Blue color, complemented by a black roof and a modest black interior.
Drawing inspiration from electric vehicles, the new Soul displays a sleek front end adorned with a dog-bone pattern, a departure from the conventional grilles and air intakes commonly found on older hatchbacks. The slender headlights positioned above the nose have a slimness reminiscent of electric cars, subtly indicating the shift away from gasoline-powered vehicles.
The unique character of an economical car permeates every aspect of the Soul, including its standout silhouette, setting it apart from the multitude of forgettable hatchbacks. The rear end exudes vitality, with a black trim separating the body from the roof and a luminous strip creating a division between the body color and the remaining part of the tailgate. Although we acknowledge that the original Soul had exceptional stylistic ideas, this iteration still maintains a fresh and inviting appearance.
Upon entering the vehicle, the Soul may not make a bold statement, but it possesses a distinct charm. Base models feature black cloth and plastic materials, but choosing a slightly higher trim level provides a larger touchscreen integrated into a wide-mouthed center stack, metallic door trim accents, and improved LED lighting for the speaker system.
The Soul GT-Line boasts a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine paired with an intelligent variable automatic transmission that includes a drive mode selection. This combination generates a respectable power output of 147 horsepower and 132 Pound-feet of torque. It is important to note that the Soul was not originally designed as a high-performance crossover or a hot hatch.
While the engine operates smoothly, it falls short in terms of power when the accelerator is fully pressed. It adequately handles most situations but lacks the ability to deliver an exciting driving experience on curvy backroads, which account for only a small fraction of driving scenarios.
On the other hand, the continuously variable transmission performs admirably, offering seamless acceleration and avoiding the common issues typically associated with CVTs. The braking system, while not exceptional, provides precise control with a linear response and appropriate pedal travel.
Overall, the Soul GT-Line proves to be a fitting option for leisurely highway journeys or everyday tasks. Nevertheless, it may not fully satisfy the desires of auto enthusiasts in search of a livelier driving encounter.
The vehicle we tested had a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $23,390, and the final cost amounted to $24,820.
The Soul competes in a market segment that emphasizes both affordability and style, alongside other hatchbacks and cars. For instance, Kia’s Seltos provides a similar level of spaciousness and the option for all-wheel drive, while maintaining an attractive price point.
Moving on, the Jeep Renegade stands out for its impressive off-road capabilities, although it can become pricier in higher trims. On the other hand, the Toyota C-HR distinguishes itself with its spacious interior and stylish design, but it may not offer the same level of versatility or performance as the Soul.
When directly comparing to the Soul, the Hyundai Venue emerges as a newer contender, exclusively offering front-wheel drive. However, it attracts shoppers with its raised ride height, which is a desirable feature for many. Similarly, the Nissan Kicks also presents itself as an appealing option, providing good value despite some minor ergonomic concerns.
Overall, the market provides a variety of alternatives to the Soul, each with their own unique features and considerations to cater to different preferences and priorities.