$13,239 - $26,179

2018 Kia Soul Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2018 Kia Soul was new.


Performance: 7.7

The 2018 Kia Soul is fun to drive, with uplevel models exuding a hint of sportiness. Among its four powertrain options are a lackluster base engine, an animated turbocharged engine, and an all-electric Soul EV that's available in select markets. The Soul feels stable on the highway, but it gets terrible gas mileage for a compact car.

  • "The Soul's driving experience is on par with similar cars like the Nissan Juke, Chevy Trax and Hyundai Elantra GT, but it's the turbocharged engine in the 2018 Kia Soul Exclaim that really wakes this car up." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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 (2017)
  • "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 (2017)

Acceleration and Power

For 2018, four powertrains are available, each associated with a different trim level. The standard powertrain is composed of a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic transmission is available. Test drivers aren't big fans of this powertrain, which has a 130-horsepower rating and sluggish acceleration. Its gas mileage is also below average, at 25 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

Powering the 161-horsepower Soul Plus (+) is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a six-speed automatic transmission. This feels livelier and has the same fuel economy rating as the base model. It's the Exclaim (!) that most prefer, however. Its turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Acceleration feels sprightly with the 201-horsepower Exclaim, and it gains 1 mpg for each rating.

The all-electric Soul EV has a 109-horsepower electric motor that's quiet but not peppy. It can drive 111 miles on a single charge and has an mpg-e rating of 124 in the city and 93 on the highway. Recharging the battery takes about five hours with a 240-volt outlet or 24 hours with a 120-volt outlet.

  • "The Soul Base model gets … a meager 130 horsepower, connected to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic; to say it's sluggish is an understatement. The Soul Plus comes with a more satisfactory 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 161 horsepower connected only to a 6-speed automatic. … All Soul models are front-wheel drive and while all are fairly fuel-efficient, the thriftiest is actually the turbo." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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 (2017)
  • "While the engine is very likable, a big part of what makes it all work is the seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission. … 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 (2017)

Handling and Braking

The front-wheel-drive Soul isn't quite as lively as its styling suggests, but it's agreeably smooth and stable on the highway. Body roll is at a minimum, and steering takes little effort.

  • "… 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 (2017)
  • "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 (2017)
  • "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 (2017)

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