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2021 Kia Soul Performance Review


Performance: 7.5

The 2021 Kia Soul is a comfortable cruiser that delivers a relatively smooth ride and gets decent acceleration from its base engine. The stronger optional turbocharged engine offers more gusto. The Soul’s gas mileage figures are on par with those of several class rivals.

  • "The newly named Soul Turbo employs, unsurprisingly, a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine developing 201 horsepower. It delivers raucous acceleration, along with a bit of turbo lag at low revs and noticeable tugs through the steering wheel when sprinting off from a standstill." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Just don’t expect the Soul to sports-car its way down a two-lane, for while suspension tuning is comfortable and controlled through corners, the hatch is a little too top-heavy to toss around with glee." -- Automobile Magazine (2020)
  • "The engine may be average, but the CVT impresses, partly because it spends its time simulating a silky smooth automatic. Popping it into manual mode lets you shift through predetermined ratios that never fluctuate. This not only reinforces the feeling of having real gears, but it makes the powertrain feel more responsive and lets you take advantage of engine braking. When you are ready to shift, the change comes smoothly and responsively." -- Autoblog (2020)

Engine Options, Horsepower, and Acceleration

  • Base engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque
  • Available engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque (Turbo)
  • Drivetrain: front-wheel drive
  • Transmission: standard six-speed manual; available continuously variable automatic (CVT); available seven-speed dual-clutch automatic

The Soul's base 2.0-liter engine delivers plenty of power for your daily commute, though acceleration is leisurely. The CVT pairs well with this engine and performs much like a traditional automatic transmission. Shoppers who want a tad more power and quicker acceleration should consider the top-of-the-line Turbo trim and its stronger turbocharged engine that’s paired with a dual-clutch automatic transmission.

  • "The base engine’s 148 hp is not going to light up any drag strips, but it’s punchy enough for most situations. And the i-VT automatic transmission is an evolution away from most people’s bad memories of CVT units. This one is responsive and helps the driver get the most out of the engine, both in terms of power and fuel economy." -- Autotrader
  • "The base 2.0-liter engine’s 147 horsepower might sound disappointing in theory, but the accompanying continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) does an admirable job of maximizing the muscle available, while the LX trim’s 6-speed manual leaves that task to the driver. Full-throttle acceleration fills the cabin with a strained 4-cylinder wail, but this unit is perfectly capable of normal commuting. Drivers with enthusiast tendencies will like the Soul Turbo, whose 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and sport-tuned suspension result in more thrilling journeys." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The four-cylinder engine is about par for the segment. Acceleration is sluggish with plenty of noise, but throttle response is snappy, and the sounds it does emit is pleasantly growly." -- Autoblog (2020)

MPG Estimates

The Soul has average fuel economy among subcompact SUVs.

  • 2.0-liter, manual: 25/31 mpg city/highway
  • 2.0-liter, CVT: 28/33 mpg
  • 1.6-liter: 27/32 mpg

Handling and Braking

The Soul's small size makes it easy to maneuver in tight spaces, and its ride is mostly comfortable. The only real downside is that the Soul tends to shake over bumpy pavement. Models like the Mazda CX-3 provide sharper steering and livelier handling.

  • "Driving around the city shows off the Soul’s tight turning circle to good effect, while its subcompact footprint and squared-off design make easing into parking spaces a pleasure. Out of town, the Soul is a comfortable cruiser, with plenty of stability through corners." -- Autotrader
  • "The only drawbacks are numb, imprecise steering, and a bit of busyness over bumps that may be a side-effect of the Soul's torsion beam rear suspension. Neither were annoying enough to put us off the Soul." -- Autoblog (2020)
  • "The Soul rides more stiffly than other small crossovers, and driving over harsh bumps and dips results in noticeable shocks transmitted into the cabin. However, the upside is that Soul feels more in control. Rivals are often too softly tuned, resulting in a ride that can feel floaty and disconnected at higher speeds. The GT-Line, when optioned with its upgraded engine and suspension, has an even firmer ride, but driving enthusiasts won't likely mind." -- Edmunds (2020)
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2021 Kia Soul

MSRP: $17,490 - $27,550

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