Ever since its launch way back in 2009, the Kia Soul has staked out a unique place for itself in the market. This youth-oriented model maintains its pizzazz, while delivering outstanding value and a roomy interior. For 2019, automatic emergency braking is available, but only on the mid-trim model.

Best Value

The 2019 Kia Soul is a compact car with front-wheel drive that seats five. Kia offers the Soul in Base, Plus and Exclaim trim levels.

Kia supplies three engine choices, including two naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engines and one turbocharged engine. Each engine corresponds to a specific trim. The base model has a manual transmission or offers a six-speed automatic that's found in the Plus trim for a $1,700 upcharge. The turbo engine works with a dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission.

Our choice is the Soul Exclaim as it offers the most power of the three engines and has a leather interior. All models come with alloy wheels, power side mirrors, a rearview camera, six or more speakers, Bluetooth, and Siri Eyes Free. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility is standard on Plus and Exclaim Soul models.

The mid-grade Plus trim actually costs more than the Exclaim when you choose the Primo Package, which also requires upgrading to the Audio Package. This bundle adds $6,000 to your price, although this is the only way to get the automatic emergency braking system. Go figure.

  • Model: 2019 Kia Soul Exclaim
  • Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-four
  • Output: 201 hp / 195 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 26 City / 31 Hwy
  • Options: Technology Package ($3,000, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, HID headlights with automatic leveling, LED lights, power-folding side mirrors, an eight-inch color display with Kia’s UVO infotainment system, a Harman/Kardon audio system, a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, power-adjustable front seats, two USB charging ports)
  • Base Price: $23,930 (including a $940 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $26,930

Performance

Kia Soul

The Soul Exclaim comes with a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine doling out 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. This engine works with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It may be the best engine of the three, especially if you regularly carry a full load.

The Soul with turbo delivers real right-foot urgency, but it also releases a generous amount of torque steer. You can overcome that feeling by operating the Soul in sport mode. Specifically, you can move the shift lever to control gears, although we’re disappointed that Kia doesn’t supply paddle shifters.

As for steering, once again the sport mode is where it's at as it adds weight to the steering. Ride quality is admirable, thanks to a suspension system that supplies more travel and superior shocks. On broken pavement, it does its best to mitigate what could otherwise be a harsh ride.

Style

The Kia Soul’s anthropomorphic hamster advertising campaign continues to define the youthfulness of this model. Even if the campaign went away, the Soul would stand on its own merits. Now in its 11th year, the Soul maintains the pizzazz that made this model popular.

The rectangular, wagon-like layout continues with lines that have matured since it was first introduced. A bolt-upright windshield, a tilted rear pillar, and a pair of still very cool boomerang taillights are among this model’s top features.

Inside, the cabin is very spacious, supplying ample room for four. The seats aren’t the most comfortable, but they’re fine as long as you’re not looking for long-distance comfort. The youthful exterior theme moves seamlessly inside with its many circular touch-points and verve.

The Best and Worst Things

The Kia Soul’s hatchback body may be the best thing about it. Fold the rear seat and cargo volume approaches a whopping 50 cubic feet. But with every rose comes a thorn – or two. In this case, the Soul is noisy on the road and its fuel economy is average at best.

Right For? Wrong For?

Kia Soul

Choose the 2019 Kia Soul if you want something that isn’t a small hatchback or a crossover. Its closest competitor may be the Fiat 500L. If you want all-wheel drive, the Soul doesn’t offer it. The Sportage is the nearest Kia model to the Soul with that feature, but it starts out at $7,000 more.

The Bottom Line

The 2019 Kia Soul offers something different and it's that contrast that gives it its appeal. To get top safety, infotainment, and creature feature amenities, you have to opt for package upgrades that aren't available on the base model, so start your shopping with the Plus or Exclaim.