$11,706 - $25,711

2016 Kia Soul Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 Kia Soul was new.


Performance: 6.3

The 2016 Kia Soul has decent handling and a composed ride, but it feels underpowered with its base engine, test drivers say. Higher trims have a more-powerful engine that improves acceleration somewhat, according to critics, and returns slightly better fuel economy.

  • "Thanks to its stiff chassis and firm suspension, Kia's 2016 Soul 5-passenger hatchback feels solid and predictable." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Although the Soul doesn't feel especially sporty, it handles better than you might expect." -- Edmunds (2015)
  • "Though the road manners have improved, power has not, which can make passing on two-lane highways adventurous." -- Popular Mechanics (2014)

Acceleration and Power

The Kia Soul comes standard with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 130 horsepower. The base engine comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission and is available with a six-speed automatic. With the base engine and the automatic transmission, the 2016 Soul gets an EPA-estimated 24/30 mpg city/highway, which is low compared with the ratings of other compact hatchbacks. A 164-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is available in higher trims. It comes standard with a six-speed automatic transmission and gets an EPA rating of 24/31 mpg city/highway, which is marginally better than the EPA rating of the base engine.

Reviewers note that the Soul feels underpowered with the base engine, especially when climbing hills. They say the larger engine improves acceleration, though it's still not very impressive and is too noisy at full throttle. Test drivers write that the transmission shifts seamlessly, which helps performance.

  • "As for acceleration, the Soul doesn't have the muscle to placate enthusiast drivers, but with the larger 2.0-liter engine under the hood, we found passing and straight-line acceleration to be adequate." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The base 1.6-liter engine is weaker than the Kia Rio subcompact's unit, and it delivers meager acceleration in the larger Soul. As for the 2.0-liter engine, Kia trumpets its direct-injection technology and improved low-end torque, but it still feels soft, and it sends a fair amount of racket into the otherwise hushed cabin at full throttle." -- AutoTrader (2015)
  • "With respectable power on tap from the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the 2015 Kia Soul is enjoyable around town and feels satisfyingly quick when merging onto a highway. The engine gets a bit raspy sounding during hard acceleration, but the automatic transmission shifts smartly and does a good job of holding gears on uphill grades to help the car maintain a consistent speed." -- Edmunds (2015)
  • "If your drive plans include elevation changes or a heavy right foot, the smaller engine might not be up to the job." -- Autoblog (2014)

Alternative Fuels/Charging

The 2016 Kia Soul EV is only available in a few states. It comes with a 109-horsepower electric motor. According to the EPA, it can travel 93 miles on a fully charged battery, which is better than the range of most electric cars. The Soul EV gets 120/92 mpg-equivalent city/highway, which is slightly lower than the mpg-e ratings of most competitors. Kia says it takes 24 hours to charge the 2016 Soul EV from a standard 120-volt household outlet. They say it takes less than five hours to charge it from a 240-volt outlet, which requires a special charger to be installed in your home. With DC fast charging, which is available at some public charging stations, you can charge to 80 percent battery capacity in as little as 33 minutes.

Some reviewers tested the Soul EV and report that it has unimpressive acceleration. However, they add that it rides quietly and has composed handling.

  • "Like its gasoline counterpart, acceleration isn't a strong suit of the new Soul EV, but the all-electric Kia did prove quiet and showed respectable handling and responsiveness in our initial test drive." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)

Handling and Braking

The 2016 Soul handles better than many reviewers expected it to, though they note that the Fiat 500L has sharper steering. The Soul comes with a system that lets you adjust steering effort, but test drivers don’t find it to be very useful. Auto writers say the Soul's brakes have a solid-feeling pedal that inspires confidence. The Soul has a firm yet comfortable ride, critics say, and it is quiet and poised at highway speeds.

  • "Over bumps and dips, the Soul feels a bit stiff, but the suspension isn't as jarring as in a Mini Cooper. We found the driver-selectable steering option more of a gimmick than a useful tool. The normal setting felt best, although none of the three settings returned the type of responsive steering feel found on a Mazda3 or Fiat 500L." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "When the first generation arrived, we thought of the Soul as just an economy car with a funky wrapper, but this redesigned model is actually a respectable high-speed cruiser, remaining quiet and composed in the fast lane." -- AutoTrader (2015)
  • "The expressive, funky-box styling might turn off some shoppers, but the Soul's handling is a bit more nimble that its looks might suggest." -- Consumer Guide (2015)
  • "The brake pedal has a reassuringly firm feel, too." -- Edmunds (2015)
  • "… the body shell is stiffer by 28.7 percent and the suspension has been tuned for more compliance. That adds up to a smoother ride plus improved stability, particularly on nasty surfaces, as well as a significant uptick in comfort. Substantially reduced interior noise also contributes to a more pleasant cabin. Comfort counts in driving enjoyment, after all. So does basic dynamic competence. The new Soul has both." -- Popular Mechanics (2014)

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