More Aggressive Styling. The Kia Soul has always occupied an odd space between being a hatchback and a subcompact SUV. The Soul’s size, interior space, and design, along with a few rugged-looking trims, led to a confusing vehicle. For 2023, the Soul gets a design that firmly puts it into hatchback territory, plus some changes have been made to the lineup.

On the outside, the 2023 model year arrives with updated exterior styling. The front bumper and rear fascia have been redesigned, while the headlights and taillights are new. Last year, the 2022 Soul’s headlights were located in the middle of the front fascia. For 2023, the headlights have a more conventional placement, sitting just underneath the hood. The grille arrives with a new pattern, too. To our eyes, the new Soul isn’t as polarizing as before and is clearly a hatchback.

The last change that Kia has made to the Soul that affects the way it looks is the discontinuation of the rugged X-Line trim. The X-Line was mostly a cosmetic package, bringing prominent body cladding, roof rails, and a black grille for a sturdy look. Without the X-Line trim, the 2023 Soul is now available in LX, S, GT-Line, and EX trims.

Packed With Features. While the Soul’s pricing and size make it a subcompact vehicle, Kia packs the car with features that are impressive for the subcompact segment. Even the base LX trim comes with niceties like an 8-inch touchscreen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, six audio speakers, a digital instrument cluster, and remote keyless entry.

Things get even nicer the higher up you go. Every trim above the LX comes with a 10.25-inch touchscreen, navigation, a wireless charging pad, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a power-adjustable driver’s seat. The available 10.25-inch touchscreen is one of the larger ones for the subcompact segment.

Unlike last year, the 2023 Soul now comes with more standard safety features The LX comes standard with forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, lane departure warning, and a driver attention monitor. The LX is also available with a new LX Technology package that brings blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane change assist for $500. These features give the 2023 Soul a major edge over the 2022 model.

2023 Kia Soul Interior

Cargo Capacity Reigns Supreme. With its boxy design, the Soul offers a spacious cabin for up to five people. There's an abundant amount of headroom and legroom in both rows, at least enough to seat four comfortably. The Soul offers 38.8 inches of rear legroom, which is better than some compact SUVs.

Where the Soul really shines over other options in the class is on the cargo capacity front. With the rear seats in place, the Soul has 24.2 cubic feet of cargo space. Folding the seats down opens cargo capacity up to 62.1 cubic feet. The Soul has one of the largest cargo areas in the subcompact class. Some trims also come with a multi-position cargo shelf to make it easier to store cargo.

Turbo Will Be Missed. One of the largest changes Kia made to the Soul for the 2023 model year is to discontinue the available turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. The engine was rated at 201 horsepower and resulted in potent acceleration. For 2023, the Soul is only available with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 147 hp. The engine comes with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

There’s no beating around the bush, as the Soul’s base engine delivers poor performance. Acceleration is lackadaisical and the CVT drones. For urbanites and consumers that do a lot of city driving, the Soul’s powertrain is fine. Consumers that plan on using the Soul for a highway cruiser will want to explore other options.

The fuel economy isn’t as good as one would expect with the Soul’s powertrain. The hatchback is rated to get up to 31 mpg combined. The Nissan Kicks (33 mpg), Hyundai Kona (32 mpg), and Toyota Corolla Cross (32 mpg) all have better combined fuel economy ratings than the Soul.

Final Thoughts. The 2023 Kia Soul continues to be a roomy and value-packed option in the subcompact class. For the new model year, the Soul looks better than before and has more standard and available safety features. The changes result in a Soul that’s better than before. We’re not sure why Kia dropped the turbo engine because, without it, the Soul struggles to keep up with the competition – literally.

For more performance, check out the Mazda CX-30. It’s available with a 250-horsepower engine, has athletic handling, and comes with a conventional six-speed automatic transmission. The CX-30 looks and feels like an upscale vehicle and comes with a generous list of advanced safety features.

The Hyundai Kona is available in a wide range of trims, including a track-oriented N with 276 hp, has a bold design, features similar standard features to the Soul, and offers balanced handling.

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