$13,139 - $21,207

2017 Kia Soul Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 Kia Soul was new.

Scorecard

Performance: 8.0

The 2017 Kia Soul has overall balanced performance, with a mix of comfort and sport. Though the base engine is weak, two larger and more powerful options provide much needed improvement under the hood. Fuel economy is below average for the class. The Soul’s ride quality is good, and handling is stable.

  • If you're expecting the aggressively named 2016 (sic) Soul Turbo to scrape fenders with the GTI or Focus ST, you'll be disappointed … Kia situates this new powertrain as the 'premium' option, aimed at those that wish for additional passing power and extra gumption for highway merging but remain highly unlikely to willingly venture toward anything remotely resembling a track-day." -- Automobile Magazine
  • Even though its looks didn't change much, all of the tweaks under the hood have given the Soul a bit more of a fun factor. The 1.6-liter turbo-four gives it plenty of torque on tap, and the dual-clutch transmission shifts quickly and efficiently. Sadly, the lack of paddle shifters hints that this is still not a full-fledged hot hatch. Sure, it handles respectably, but it's not going to match cars such as the Golf GTI. Think of the Soul Turbo as a tall lukewarm hatch that's straddling the line between a commuter-friendly economy car and a full-blown sport compact. It's not quite as fun as a true hot hatch, but it's still entertaining enough to drive when the road gets twisty." -- Motor Trend
  • "There is very little to complain about with the Soul. While it looks like a box, it doesn't fit into one. Treat it like a car, a compact SUV, a truck with a tonneau cover. Just remember that it's front-wheel drive, okay? Because other than maybe ice skating and mountain climbing, the Soul can basically handle whatever it is you expect of it." -- New York Daily News

Acceleration and Power

The 2017 Soul comes standard with a 130-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and a manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is optional. Other trim levels feature a 161-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a six-speed automatic transmission, or a 201-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The turbocharged engine is new for 2017.

According to EPA estimates, the standard Soul gets 24 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, which is on the lower end of the class. The 2.0-liter engine gets 25 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway, and the turbocharged engine returns 26/31 mpg city/highway.

The Soul’s base engine is underpowered and struggles to accelerate. The mid-range engine provides good power for daily driving, and the new turbocharged engine delivers strong acceleration from a stop and at low speeds. Critics disagree about how much of an overall improvement the turbo engine is over the 2.0-liter engine.

  • While the engine is very likable, a big part of what makes it all work is the seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission, which replaces the 2.0-liter's six-speed, torque-converter automatic. The six-speed is fine, but the seven-speed is better in all the ways that dual-clutch transmissions are better than traditional automatics - the Soul Turbo's transmission engages faster off the line and upshifts quicker and more aggressively. The dual-clutch is also mostly devoid of bad, in-traffic manners. Still, the seven-speed DCT isn't as polite as Volkswagen's DSG, and its shifts aren't as crisp. Our biggest criticism of the transmission surrounds the interface, though, not the hardware." -- Autoblog
  • On the road, the Soul Turbo is not a dramatically different driving experience from the … 2.0-liter. Yes, you get significantly sharper throttle response at low speeds and better torque feel around town, but at highway speeds the performance advantage seems to disappear into the transmission's efficiency-minded shift program." -- CNET
  • "The 2.0-liter engine had always been capable enough but there's a noticeable refinement to the new turbo. Where the Exclaim's previous engine would whirr and whine just a little bit when pushed hard, the new engine shrugs it off as if saying, 'Oh, this road? Let's have some fun, shall we?' Even though the Exclaim gains an eyebrow-raising 395 pounds in a single model year, the turbo engine manages it well, carrying the still svelte-looking Soul into corners and up hills with enough composure to satisfy commuters with heavy right feet." -- New York Daily News
  • "Given these great strides in driving dynamics, we're disappointed in what's under the hood. 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 (2016)

Alternative Fuels/Charging

The 2017 Kia Soul EV is only available in a few states. It comes with a 109-horsepower electric motor, which – when fully charged – has a range of 93 miles. The Soul EV gets 120/92 mpg-e city/highway, which is less than most competitors. You can charge the Soul EV in less than 24 hours with a standard 120-volt household outlet. With a special 240-volt outlet adapter, the Soul can charge in less than five hours. Some public charging stations offer DC fast charging, allowing you to charge to 80 percent battery capacity in about half an hour. The Soul EV handles well and delivers a quiet ride, though it lacks power and acceleration.

  • 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 Soul has a smooth and comfortable ride quality, even over rough surfaces. Its handling is stable and it corners confidently with little body roll. Steering is poised but doesn’t provide much feedback.

  • "The suspension remains a MacPherson strut layout up front and a torsion beam in the rear on all variants. This doesn't mean it's sloppy on the road. Despite its tall, boxy shape, the Soul feels stable when the road gets twisty. The car's 235/45R18 tires also help it stick to the road and give a little more stability. Ride quality doesn't suffer due to the wide tires, and the car easily absorbs rough patches." -- Motor Trend
  • "… the car is still a hoot to toss around, in that entertaining way that a lot of slow, budget-friendly cars are. There's not a lot of body roll, despite the high center of gravity, while the dampers are a microcosm of the vehicle they're attached to. The balance between comfort and outright handling ability is just right, so you can zip along a pockmarked urban street without breaking your back, but also throw the car into a bend at speed without worry." -- Autoblog
  • The quick and predictable steering still lacks the feedback of a Civic, but it's acceptable. Power the Soul through a corner and it responds admirably, with less body roll than you'd expect from a tall vehicle." -- Kelley Blue Book

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