2017 Kia Soul Expert Review

4.3 Overall Score
Performance 4.1Comfort 3.7Styling 4.3Value 4.5

Editor's Overview

The 2017 Kia Soul gets something the funky little 5-door hatchback has always needed, but never had: abundant horsepower. The Kia Soul Exclaim -- the top-level model -- now comes with a 201-horsepower turbocharged engine. It headlines a host of changes that includes blind-spot monitoring and more. The Soul is also available, but less recommendable, in all-electric form.

You'll Like The 2017 Kia Soul If...

The 2017 Kia Soul is a compelling choice for anybody searching for a nifty-looking, fun-driving and feature-filled affordable compact car. It looks like nothing else on the road, can't help but put out a fun vibe, and is quite practical thanks to a roomy interior.

You May Not Like The 2017 Kia Soul If...

If you think a boxy-looking vehicle should have all-wheel drive, the Soul's front-drive layout will have you pointed toward the Jeep Renegade or Subaru XV Crosstrek. While the Soul Exclaim packs new muscle, the Honda Civic and Mazda3 and are more fun to drive. The Kia Soul EV, meanwhile, just got upstaged by the new Chevy Bolt.

What's New

The 2017 Kia Soul wagon gets a host of upgrades in addition to the Soul Exclaim's new turbo engine. Other updates include available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an 8-way-power passenger seat, blind-spot monitoring, additional USB ports, HID headlights, and a new full-color information display between the gauges for the Exclaim.

Interior Features

The 2017 Kia Soul offers 5-passenger seating, although four will be more comfortable. Upholstery and trim get notably better as you climb the model ladder, with the Soul Exclaim getting contrast stitching on its cloth and leather seats, plus a sporty D-shaped steering wheel. Available this year are dual USB ports so you can recharge one phone while the other is used for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The Soul's boxy shape provides very good headroom for all passengers, and offers good cargo space, especially when you fold the rear seats. The pulsating speaker lights are pure whimsy. Electric models have unique touches, like the State of Charge meter that shows battery level and can be seen through the windshield from outside.

Exterior Features

You'll still immediately recognize the 2017 Kia Soul for what it is, but there are a couple of minor tweaks to the exterior. Front and rear bumpers have changed a bit, with the Soul Plus getting body-color inserts, and the Soul Exclaim getting black. The Exclaim also distinguishes itself from its non-turbo mates with 18-inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust tips, HID headlights and LED fog lights. The Soul EV has a front charge port hidden behind a solid grille in front. The Kia Soul's upright styling offers good cargo and passenger space, and the vertical taillights are so distinctive they're practically the car's signature.

Driving Impressions

The good news is that the 2017 Kia Soul Exclaim, with its turbo engine, is definitely quicker than ever. With sharper handling from revised suspension settings and 18-inch alloy wheels, the Soul Turbo packs an edgier experience. The quick and predictable steering still lacks the feedback of a Civic, but it's acceptable. Power the Soul through a corner and it responds admirably, with less body roll than you'd expect from a tall vehicle. The Turbo's biggest drawback is the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic paired with the engine. It's slow to shift up or down, and occasional odd surges of power make it feel like it's not always fully engaged, even with the Sport drive mode selected. We think the midtrim Plus model, with its non-turbo 2.0-liter engine, will satisfy most drivers. The battery-powered Kia Soul EV has the quiet operation desirable of electric vehicles (EVs), but not the quickness. It takes over 11 seconds for the Kia Soul EV to reach 60 mph. The Chevy Bolt does it in 6.5 seconds and has a range of 238 miles, vs. the Soul EV's lowly 93.

Pricing Notes

The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price on the 2017 Kia Soul Base with a manual transmission is just under $17,000 including the $850 destination charge; add about $1,600 if you want an automatic. We suggest at least the Soul Plus, starting around $20,500 and which offers more power and options as well. If you want turbo power, you'll need $23,500 for the Soul Exclaim. Before tax credits, the Kia Soul EV starts over $33,000 for the California-only EV-e model, while the mid-trim EV available in nine other states is nearly $35,000. The Kia Soul compares nicely with compact SUVs like the Honda HR-V and Fiat 500X, and against compact hatchbacks like the Honda Civic and new Chevy Cruze hatchback. As for the Kia Soul EV, we think the Chevy Bolt, with its far longer range and wider availability, is a better value, even if it costs a few thousand more. Check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid for their 2017 Kia Soul, and note that resale value is generally very good.

Notable Equipment

The 2017 Kia Soul comes in three models: Base, Plus (+) and Exclaim (!). Base models include 16-inch alloy wheels, a new drive-mode function, and an updated audio system. Also standard are air conditioning, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, 6-way-manual-adjust driver's seat, power windows and door locks and Bluetooth wireless technology. The 2017 Kia Soul EV also comes in three trims: The California-only EV-e3, EV and EV Plus. All come with heated front seats, environmentally-friendly interior materials, DC Fast Charge port, and the ability to start the climate system while the vehicle is still charging.

Notable Options

Options vary by model level, with base models with an automatic transmission offering a Convenience Package that adds an updated audio system with a rearview camera, and automatic headlights. Soul Plus models offer an upgraded audio package, and a Primo package that combines a panoramic sunroof, leather seats with power adjustments and heating and cooling in front, blind-spot detection, forward-collision and lane-departure warning, and more. Along with the turbo engine, the Exclaim offers a panoramic sunroof and a Technology package that adds most of what's in the Primo package, along with a harman/kardon audio system. The top-line Soul EV Plus comes with leather seating and offers a panoramic sunroof.

Favorite Features

We'll freely admit that we're suckers for horsepower, and the new turbocharged engine under the hood of the Kia Soul Exclaim definitely gives the Soul more of its namesake. As a side benefit, fuel economy is actually better than the other engines, meaning you sacrifice almost nothing, aside from extra money.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are maybe the best thing to come along in in-car infotainment since speakers. With CarPlay you have access to everything your phone offers, including Apple Music, and with Android Auto you can use Google Maps, all on your car's infotainment system.

Under the Hood

The Soul Base model gets a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder with a meager 130 horsepower, connected to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic. The Soul Plus comes with a more satisfactory 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 161 horsepower connected only to a 6-speed automatic. And of course this year there's the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, with its 201 horsepower and 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. All Soul models are front-wheel drive and while all are fairly fuel-efficient. The electric Kia Soul EV makes 109 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque, significantly less than the Chevy Bolt. The Soul EV also lags by far that upstart's range: 93 miles vs. 238 for the Bolt. Charge times take from 24 hours on a 120-volt outlet to a more reasonable 4-plus on a 240-volt outlet. DC Fast Charging can be done in about 30 minutes.

1.6-liter inline-4 (Soul Base)
130 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
118 lb-ft of torque @ 4,850 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/30 mpg (manual), 25/30 mpg (automatic)

2.0-liter inline-4 (Soul Plus)
161 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
151 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/30 mpg

1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4 (Soul Exclaim)
201 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
195 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/31 mpg

A/C Synchronous Permanent Magnet motor (Soul EV)
109 horsepower
210 lb-ft of torque
EPA range on a full charge: 93 miles

Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.

Editors' Notes

The 2017 Kia Soul finally receives the one thing it's lacked since the first hamster-driven 5-door hatchback appeared on our streets: horsepower. The top-level 2017 Soul Exclaim now boasts a 201-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder that delivers the verve the Kia Soul's funky styling and marketing long promised. Beyond the Turbo model's extra power, the entire lineup now offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, blind-spot detection, additional USB inputs and more. The all-electric Soul EV touts gas-free driving, but its range is only 93 miles, and availability is limited. The 2017 Soul is a compelling alternative not just to subcompact SUVs like the Fiat 500X or Mini Cooper Countryman, but also the Mazda3, Chevrolet Cruze and Honda Civic hatchbacks, especially when you consider its long warranty and low starting price.

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