If lively hamsters could drive cars, they’d surely be happy in a Soul -- as they were in Kia’s TV commercials when this likable little crossover first appeared. Soul is one of the few contemporary vehicles that’s readily recognizable from afar, and its unconventional design yields a spacious interior. A friendly, youthful persona also helps in its entry-level category.
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2016 Kia Soul Overview
What's New for 2016
Alloy wheels now are standard on all Soul models. Base models with a Convenience Package gain a 4.3-inch color touchscreen, satellite ratio, and integrated rearview camera. The Plus model adds gloss black bumper "tusks" and foglights. A new Premium package includes forward collision and lane departure warnings. The Designer Collection, inspired by the battery-powered Soul, features two-tone paint and 18-inch alloy wheels. Leather-trimmed seats now are standard on Exclaim.
Choosing Your Kia Soul
All Souls have front-wheel drive, with ample room for five, plus 19 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seat. Subcompact on the outside, its interior space turns the Soul into a compact model.
In the base Soul, a direct-injected 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine develops 130 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque. Upper trim levels hold a 2-liter engine rated 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet. The 1.6-liter engine mates with either a six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic transmission, while the 2-liter is automatic-only. Fuel economy is estimated at 24 mpg city/30 mpg highway with the smaller engine, while the 2-liter manages 31 mpg in highway driving. All Soul models have FlexSteer driver-selectable steering assist.
Soul comes in three trim levels: Base, Plus and Exclaim.
- An Audio package includes navigation, an Infinity audio system, and automatic climate control.
- An Eco package adds engine stop/start and low-rolling-resistance tires.
- The Primo package includes leather seat trim, ventilated/heated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, power driver’s seat, heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, foglamps, and pushbutton start.
Red Zone and Signature 2.0 Special Edition packages are also available.
- A Premium Package includes such extras as a panoramic sunroof, navigation with 8-inch display, Infinity audio, front/rear heated seats, 10-way power driver's seat, ventilated front seats, pushbutton start, and leather-wrapped heated steering wheel.
- The Umber Package features Nappa leather seat trim.
In basic form, each Soul ranks as an affordable, distinctive little crossover. However, buyers get quite a selection of option packages to choose from, priced from $1500 to $4,400. Unless you’re really enthused about some of those additional features, midrange Plus trim, sans options, will probably provide all you need. For thrift-minded buyers, the base Soul, perhaps with automatic, should be wholly satisfactory.
2016 Kia Soul Review
Looking for some character and personality in a subcompact hatchback wagon? You’ve found it with Soul, Kia’s sprightly little five-seater that’s both affordable and practical.
Pricing and Equipment
Starting at $15,690 (plus $825 destination charge) in base form with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and manual shift (automatic optional), the Soul also comes in Plus and Exclaim trim with a 2-liter engine and six-speed automatic transmission. We’ve driven both 2-liter versions and, most recently, the new battery-powered Soul EV. Even more than gas-engine Souls, the EV was an all-around delight.
Standard equipment for the Plus model tested (starting at $19,190) includes:
- Six-speed automatic transmission
- Rearview camera
- Remote keyless entry
- Automatic headlights
- 4.3-inch touchscreen
- Cruise control
- Cargo cover
- 17-inch alloy wheels
Options include pushbutton start, Infinity radio, a panoramic sunroof, navigation system, heated steering wheel, and stop/start operation to help save fuel.
- Acceleration. Nobody will mistake any Soul for a sport hatch, but the 2-liter engine makes it brisk enough to complement the Soul’s exuberant appearance, at least around town. Performance varies with road speed, however: sometimes spirited on the highway, sometimes not so much.
- Ride comfort. Helped by its solid structure, the Soul delivers a smooth ride under most conditions. On lumpier pavement, you’ll probably feel more than few rough spots, but quick and cushioned shock-absorber action tames most of the harshness.
- Driving ease. Not many cars are easier to operate, and more friendly overall, than a Soul.
- Base 1.6-liter engine. Sufficiently spunky with manual shift, the base model’s engine falls short on energy when teamed with the optional automatic transmission. A car this cool and cheery, not to mention youthful, shouldn’t be saddled with a feeble powertrain.
- Automatic-transmission operation. Well-behaved most of the time, the transmission can start to become a little confused when accelerating at certain speeds, or going up long grades. Even at steady highway speed, it may keep shifting between the upper gears.
- Flex-Steer system provides three settings for steering feel, but there’s not much difference between them.
- Space-efficiency. Considering the Soul’s modest exterior dimensions, its interior offers an amazing amount of space for both passengers and luggage.
- Ease of entry. Whether you’re slipping into the front or the rear, getting in (and out again) isn’t likely to be issue at all, much less a struggle.
- Back-seat space (for two). Riders on either side of the back seat can expect abundant headroom and legroom. Best not to try to squeeze a third occupant into that center position.
- Rear-seat space (for three). Like so many contemporary vehicles of various sizes, the Soul just won’t quite suffice for five-passenger seating, except for short trips. Even then, complaints just might be heard.
- Tall drivers and riders might be short on head space, especially if a panoramic sunroof is installed.
- The trip-odometer switch isn’t easy to find. When you have to resort to picking out flaws that are this trivial in magnitude, though the manufacturer must be doing something right.
The Most Pleasant Surprise
Although there’s nothing sporty about a Soul, this mini-size hatchback handles better than anyone is likely to expect. Even when breezing through a series of two-lane curves, our Soul stayed smartly on course, without fuss and with a welcome sense of security -- a factor that’s often absent from smaller vehicles
The Least Pleasant Surprise
Sadly, even the 2-liter engine, while quiet most of the time, gets noisy when pushing on the pedal to pass or merge. Sure, a vehicle that’s as conspicuous as a Soul deserves to sound more enthusiastic than its milder-mannered rivals. But Kia’s hatchback could stand a bit more aural insulation.
The Bottom Line
Kia called the reworked Soul still “funky, but more refined” when it debuted for 2014. We were delighted with the original, but the current edition has indeed acquired a greater level of sophistication, without losing its indelibly frisky nature. Strong safety scores add to its appeal. Just steer clear of that smaller engine.
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