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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Kia Soul has moved beyond a strange vehicle trend and into something of a practical choice for those seeking a hatchback-like wagon with real character and space. Stick a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine under the hood and you now have a ride that can zip past other fun and funky competitors.

I drove a 2017 Kia Soul with the upgraded 210-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Available in three interestingly named trims – the Base, + (Plus) and ! (Exclaim) – my Exclaim test drive featured the following standard features: black leather and cloth interior trim with orange contrast stitching; multi-adjustable driver’s seat; USB and auxiliary input jacks; Bluetooth connectivity; UVO eServices technology with an upgraded seven-inch touchscreen and rear camera display; Android Auto and Apple CarPlay; six-speaker audio system; push-button start; fog lights; cargo cover; and eighteen-inch alloy wheels. Total vehicle price as described without options came to $22,650.

The turbocharged engine is what creates buzz with the 2017 model. The Kia Soul’s unique style competes with a host of quirky rides like the Fiat 500, Nissan Cube and Scion xB; but can also squeeze itself into the emerging subcompact crossover market alongside vehicles like the Mazda CX-3.


Stylish But Comfortable Results:The Soul features a much sharper design than model’s past with swept-back window and roof lines, looking more like a retro wagon quick on the move and less of a Rubic’s cube. Detail wise on the Exclaim trim, you get piano black accents and chrome door handles. I love the gadget-like approach to the interior gauges and controls which injects both excitement and functionality into these everyday commands. The UVO eServices are instinctual enough to get a grip on first time around while driving around sans noisy kids as an added distraction. Cons are the standard sound system and you do have to pay more if you want a ten-or eight-way power driver’s seat, a heated steering wheel, and heated front and heated rear seats – overall, I’d suggest shopping beyond Base trim an even prepare to buy options on the Exclaim trim (the Harman/Kardan audio system being one of them). This is a car that is really fun to accessorize and Kia offers endless options like distinct spoilers, grille covers and lighting kits.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The 2017 Kia Soul gets great ratings with The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for ratings by earning “Good” in all crash-test areas (ease of use with inserting child seats or LATCH gets an “Acceptable”). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not yet rated the 2017 Kia Soul. Safety standards include dual front seat and full side airbags; anti-lock brakes with brake assist; ESC; electronic-brake distribution; traction control; tires pressure monitoring; front and rear crumple zones; side impact beams; LATCH; front three-point seat belts with force imitators; and Hill-start Assist Control.

Cost Issues: Base price for the 2017 Kia Soul is $16,100, which is very reasonable. A fully loaded Exclaim trim climbs awfully close to $30k with options and there are many. The base Mazda CX-3 Sport trim starts at $19,960; a recent loaded Grand Touring trim with the GT I-Activsense Package was $27,260.

Activity & Performance Ability: A noticeable kick in power is why drivers might want to turn to the 210-horsepower turbo engine – its takes what could be a boring compact and injects some serious fun at the corners, not to mention real command on the highway. The dual-clutch system will deliver a pause on reverse, so a monitored and tender push on the gas pedal is required – this can be off-putting if you’re used to that slow backwards creep from typical four-cylinder drivetrains – but it is a smooth replacement from your typical six-speed transmissions. The car feels like you can push it harder than most, but Mazda makes a similar case as well with the CX-3 – it’s the cargo space that can ultimately steer you toward the Soul as you get 61.3 cubic square feet with the second row folded down. There is also a standard 130-horsepower four-cylinder, a 160-horsepower four-cylinder engine, and an all-electric option.

The Green Concern:Fuel economy for the 210-horsepower turbo is 26-city and 31-highway for a combined 28 miles-per-gallon, another pro for going with the Kia Soul. Fuel economy is a highlight too for the Mazda CX-3 at 29 miles-per gallon city and 32 highway for a combined 31 miles-per-gallon

The 2017 Kia Soul pushes its cubic dimensions to become a fast-paced, trend-setting ride that offers more space than most competitors (if you can figure out exactly which class it belongs in). My only complaint is too much of the good stuff – interior conveniences – are pieced out into packages or options, making it feel even at the Exclaim trim you need to shell out a few more thousand than you hoped for to feel satisfied.

©2017 Katrina Ramser

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