2017 Kia Soul

2017 Kia Soul Review

The Kia Soul brings fun and personality to an otherwise dull class of cars.
4.5 star edmunds overall rating
4.5 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Mark Takahashi
Edmunds Editor

The Kia Soul is one of those cars that challenges labels. Is it a hatchback or a wagon or an SUV? It's really a mix of all three, and though this combination has the potential for failure or mockery, Kia put together a car that takes the best that each style has to offer.

Historically, the Kia Soul has been compared to other oddballs such as the Scion xB and Nissan Cube, both of which capitalized on their boxy shape to make the most of interior space. The Scion and Nissan rivals have since been discontinued, leaving the Soul in a class of one. Subcompact SUVs are now gaining popularity and could certainly be considered competitors.

The Soul, however, gets a distinct edge over the competition with its funky style, youthful approach and a peppier turbo engine that debuts this year. Add to that a generous warranty and top safety scores, and the Soul's appeal is strong, no matter your age.



what's new

For 2017, the big news for the Kia Soul is a new turbocharged engine that gives it a solid boost in power and performance. It's only available, however, on the top-of-the-line Soul Exclaim (!) trim. Elsewhere in the lineup, a few features have shifted from optional to standard, and there's more available to add onto the Base trim.


we recommend

We don't often recommend the range-topping trim, but in the case of the Kia Soul Exclaim (!), it's justified. It's the only model with the peppier turbo engine, and the price increase over the midrange model isn't outrageous. In addition to the increased performance, you also get a nicer cabin and more tech features to wow your passengers.




trim levels & features

The 2017 Kia Soul is classified as a wagon, but really it's more like a compact crossover SUV. It is available in three trim levels: Base, Plus (+) and Exclaim (!). The base model comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine (130 horsepower, 118 pound-feet of torque) that is paired with a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is optional, and both drive the front wheels only. The Plus receives a 2.0-liter engine (161 hp, 150 lb-ft) and is available only with the automatic transmission. The Exclaim gets a new 1.6-liter turbocharged engine (201 hp, 195 lb-ft) along with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Standard feature highlights for the base Kia Soul include 16-inch alloy wheels, cloth upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40-split folding rear seats, Bluetooth, and a six-speaker audio system with USB input and satellite radio.

Stepping up to the Plus trim adds 17-inch wheels, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, foglights, remote keyless entry, selectable drive modes, cruise control, automatic climate control, center armrests for front and back seats, a 5-inch touchscreen and a rearview camera. At the top of the range, the Exclaim includes 18-inch wheels, keyless entry and ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and upholstery trim, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

Some features are available on supporting trims as options. Other bundled add-ons include the Audio package for the Plus (a navigation system, an 8-inch display, a Harman Kardon audio system, speaker lights that change with the music, keyless entry and ignition, and two USB ports), the Primo package (panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, a 10-way power driver seat, 8-way power front passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, a heated steering wheel, power-folding mirrors, blind-spot monitoring, a lane departure warning system and forward collision warning). The Exclaim is eligible for the Technology package that includes most of the above options along with xenon headlights.



Standard feature highlights for the base Kia Soul include 16-inch alloy wheels, cloth upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40-split folding rear seats, Bluetooth, and a six-speaker audio system with USB input and satellite radio.

Stepping up to the Plus trim adds 17-inch wheels, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, foglights, remote keyless entry, selectable drive modes, cruise control, automatic climate control, center armrests for front and back seats, a 5-inch touchscreen and a rearview camera. At the top of the range, the Exclaim includes 18-inch wheels, keyless entry and ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and upholstery trim, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

Some features are available on supporting trims as options. Other bundled add-ons include the Audio package for the Plus (a navigation system, an 8-inch display, a Harman Kardon audio system, speaker lights that change with the music, keyless entry and ignition, and two USB ports), the Primo package (panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, a 10-way power driver seat, 8-way power front passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, a heated steering wheel, power-folding mirrors, blind-spot monitoring, a lane departure warning system and forward collision warning). The Exclaim is eligible for the Technology package that includes most of the above options along with xenon headlights.

trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions, although trim levels share many aspects. The ratings in this review are based on our first drive of the 2017 Kia Soul ! (1.6L 4-cyl. turbo; 7-speed dual-clutch automatic).

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall4.5 / 5.0

Driving

4.5 / 5.0

Acceleration4.0 / 5.0
Braking4.0 / 5.0
Steering4.0 / 5.0
Handling4.5 / 5.0
Drivability4.5 / 5.0

Comfort

4.0 / 5.0

Seat comfort4.0 / 5.0
Ride comfort3.5 / 5.0
Noise & vibration3.5 / 5.0
Climate control4.0 / 5.0

Interior

4.5 / 5.0

Ease of use4.0 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out4.5 / 5.0
Driving position4.0 / 5.0
Roominess4.5 / 5.0
Visibility4.5 / 5.0
Quality4.0 / 5.0

Utility

4.0 / 5.0

Small-item storage3.0 / 5.0
Cargo space4.0 / 5.0

driving

edmunds rating
Most drivers won't need the added power from the Kia Soul's new turbo engine, but there's no doubt that any driver will appreciate it. We were surprised how entertaining and capable this boxy little car is on a twisting road, which translates to a more confident ride for less-than-sporty drivers.

acceleration

edmunds rating
Right off the line, there's a little hesitation, but power builds steadily up to highway speeds. The turbo engine will be more than enough for most drivers. Sport mode further sharpens response and holds onto gears longer.

braking

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The brake pedal is appropriately firm and easy to modulate. With more aggressive braking, the car remains poised and controllable. After some hard driving down a long, winding grade, the pedal never softened.

steering

edmunds rating
The steering effort feels right at all speeds. It lightens up at parking lot speeds and get heavier as speeds increase. There's a good on-center feel to keep you tracking straight on a highway for effortless road trips.

handling

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The Kia Soul is surprisingly agile, and dare we say, even fun on a winding road. It takes a little getting used to, but you can drive it much harder than you'd expect.

drivability

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Whether you're stuck in traffic, maneuvering in a tight spot, blasting through some fun roads or cruising down the highway, the Kia Soul is very easy to drive and inspires confidence.

comfort

edmunds rating
The Kia Soul rides a little stiffer than other SUVs, but it's far from being a deal breaker. We spent the better part of a day in it and never felt fatigued or in need of a break.

seat comfort

edmunds rating
Despite having only the basic adjustments, the front seats are comfortable after several hours on the road. The rear seats are a little firm and flat by comparison.

ride comfort

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The Kia Soul's suspension is the same regardless of trim level. The ride quality is stiffer than that of other compact SUVs, but even on really rough roads, it's never objectionable.

noise & vibration

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Wind and road noise is always present, but it's not so loud that it becomes intrusive. Under more aggressive acceleration, the engine can get a little loud, but it sounds pretty good for a four-cylinder.

climate control

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The single-zone automatic climate control is easy to use, and once set, rarely needs to be adjusted.

interior

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There's a lot of plastic throughout the interior, but the panels are well grained and feel substantial. Any spots that you regularly touch or rest your elbows on are padded.

ease of use

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Primary controls, as well as buttons and knobs for secondary systems, are well labeled and easy to operate.

getting in/getting out

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The tall doors and slightly taller ride height make getting in and out of the Kia Soul a breeze, even in tight spots.

driving position

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You sit taller in the Kia Soul than in a sedan, but not quite as high as in a typical compact SUV. It's an excellent compromise that gives you a great view of the road.

roominess

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The Kia Soul's cabin feels big and spacious, even if you ignore its relatively small footprint. The rear seats are especially spacious, with plenty of head- and legroom for taller passengers. The panoramic sunroof further enhances the sense of space.

visibility

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The rear roof pillars are pretty thick, but overall outward visibility is excellent. There's no guesswork when backing into a spot, and you won't have to rely too much on the rearview camera.

quality

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Materials used and construction are slightly better than expected for a car at this price. The top trim with the turbo engine gets even better materials and seat trim.

utility

edmunds rating
The Kia Soul's boxy shape allows it to make the most of all available space. Cargo capacity is about what you'd expect from a car that blends hatchback and SUV elements, but interior storage could be better.

small-item storage

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Bins, pockets and cupholders are adequate but not particularly generous or clever. Other vehicles offer more and larger storage areas, as well as thoughtful solutions for phones and personal items.

cargo space

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Up to 19 cubic feet of cargo room is available behind the rear seats if piled to the top. Capacity increases to 61 cubic feet with the seats folded (but they don't fold flat) — better than most hatchbacks and competitive with some SUVs. A removable bin under the cargo floor accepts smaller items.

technology

edmunds rating
Kia exceeds expectations when it comes to technology. A lot of features are built into the infotainment system, and they're all easy to find and operate. Response time is immediate, and the optional audio system delivers a solid punch.

audio & navigation

The optional Harman Kardon audio system sounds great and is easy to operate. Similarly, the navigation benefits from sharp screen resolution and easy-to-read graphics. The mix of physical and on-screen buttons makes switching between systems quick and simple.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.