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2023 Kia Soul First Look: Did Kia Make the Soul Worse?

Kia's funky pseudo-SUV loses some of its, well, soul

  • New, more conventional exterior looks front to rear
  • The turbocharged engine has been dropped from the lineup
  • Simplified trim structure
  • Part of the third Soul generation introduced for 2020

The Kia Soul is a stylish, spacious and fun-to-drive hatchback that's masquerading as an SUV. Or maybe it's a sporty SUV that's masquerading as a hatchback. Regardless of what it is or isn't, we've always liked the current generation of Soul, but for 2023 it looks like Kia might have gone and made it a little bit worse.

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2023 Kia Soul.

2023 Kia Soul.

For starters, there are the new looks. The front has been redesigned and looks far more conventional than before, with larger headlights replacing the slim daytime running lights that used to stretch across the upper part of the front bumper. The headlight clusters on either side of the lower air intake are also now gone. The Soul looks more toy-like than ever and loses some of the personality that made its former incarnation so interesting in the first place. The rear end gets a slight reworking, too, but the changes aren't as notable as what's going on up front.

If the new looks weren't to your liking, the news about what's going on under the hood likely won't help matters. For 2023, Kia has dropped the semi-rugged X-Line and the sportier Turbo trims from the lineup. That means all models will be powered by the standard powertrain from last year's car, a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder making 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. All Souls will now come with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), as the dual-clutch automatic from the Turbo model is gone too. Like the last model, power is sent to the front wheels only, and all-wheel drive is not an option.

2023 Kia Soul.

2023 Kia Soul.

That's a bummer, but it's not all bad news. Kia has made a number of new safety features standard across the range. Automatic high beams, lane departure warning, forward collision assist, and a few other safety features are now standard equipment. Speaking of the range of trims, it's been whittled down to the base LX model, followed by the S, the EX, the GT-Line and the GT-Line Tech. The GT-Line Technology package includes a number of extra features on top of the new standard kit for 2023 and adds Highway Drive Assist, Kia's version of adaptive cruise control; a power-adjustable driver's seat; LED headlights and forward collision avoidance.

Kia says the new Soul will hit dealerships in late summer, and we expect the starting price to be similar to what Kia currently asks for a standard Soul. Expect something just a tickle above the $19,500 mark.

2023 Kia Soul.

2023 Kia Soul.

Edmunds says

We're not sure all of these changes will amount to improvements, but we'll know for sure once we get behind the wheel of the 2023 Kia Soul.