The Car Connection Kia Soul Overview
The Kia Soul is a compact hatchback that was introduced in the 2009 model year. A part of Kia's compact family of cars (one that includes the Forte sedan, coupe, and hatchback), the Soul has an unorthodox hatchback shape that's won it the affection of buyers who might otherwise be shopping for a small crossover SUV.
The Soul has become one of the company's most popular vehicles in the U.S. despite other boxy vehicles like the Nissan Cube and Scion xB withering on the sales vine. Today, it's a rival for vehicles such as the VW Golf, Scion iM, and Nissan Juke.
The Soul is the South Korean brand's first and only model sold with an all-electric version in the U.S., albeit in very small quantities. The Kia Soul EV has about 100 miles of battery-powered driving range.
MORE: Read our 2017 Kia Soul review
The new Kia Soul
A redesigned version of the Soul emerged in 2014, with more power and a much better interior. Engine options include a pair of four-cylinders, with manual and automatic transmissions on offer. The base engine is a 1.6-liter four with 130 horsepower and 118-pound-feet. Soul Plus and Soul Exclaim hatchbacks are fitted with a 2.0-liter, direct-injection four-cylinder that produces 164 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, paired only with a 6-speed automatic, which is optional on the base model.
The styling has been modernized without losing the flavor of the original; it's slightly more aggressive looking while maintaining the friendly bulldog look. Crash-test ratings have improved on the new Soul as well.
The Soul offers good space for four passengers, although adding a fifth will make things a bit cozy. Second-row seats can be folded forward to increase cargo space to more than 61 cubic feet, and there is a small storage bin located below the cargo floor, with an organizer inside that separates the area into different spaces. The seats are comfortable and the interior is relatively flexible for a small hatchback.
A 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty extends to the Soul, which also comes with power features, iPod connectivity and Bluetooth standard on most versions. A navigation system and Kia's system for voice controls for infotainment are available, although unfortunately you can't get both together as of yet. Other available features include ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and adjustable mood lighting.
Kia recently showed an all-wheel-drive Soul concept that could be bound for production. Called the Trail'ster, it uses an electric all-wheel-drive system; the gas engine drives the front wheels like normal, while an electric motor provides rear-wheel motivation when needed. This kind of hybrid all-wheel-drive layout is already used in cars like the Lexus RX hybrid ad would be an economical and efficient way for Kia to add all-weather capability to the little hatch.
Few changes were made to the Soul through the 2016 model year. In 2017, a turbocharged model was added to the lineup. The 1.6-liter turbo-4, borrowed from the Elantra Sport, makes 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque and is paired exclusively with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Kia Soul history
First shown in production form at the 2008 Paris auto show, the Kia Soul was designed at the company's U.S. headquarters near Irvine, California, credited to Mike Torpey under the design leadership of Peter Schreyer.
The Soul went on sale in 2009 with a Web-driven marketing campaign that featured hamsters driving, and borrowed characters from Nickelodeon's lineup of cartoons. But the Soul is a more serious effort than that all seems. The hatchback was pitched directly against the likes of the Toyota Matrix, Nissan Cube, Scion xB, Chevrolet HHR and Chrysler PT Cruiser, as Kia tried to establish a larger foothold among younger drivers looking for a dash of style.
Two engines and two transmissions were available in the 2010 and 2011 model years. A 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 122 hp was teamed with a 5-speed manual in base models, and was rated at 26/31 mpg, city/highway. More common was a version powered by a 2.0-liter four with 142 hp, which offered an optional 4-speed automatic; the EPA rated this combination at 24/30 mpg, city/highway.
Kia revamped the Soul's engine offerings for 2012 while also giving it a light once-over inside. A new 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 135 hp and 121 lb-ft of torque took over as the base engine, while the optional engine became a 2.0-liter four making 164 hp and 143 lb-ft. A 6-speed manual was standard, with a 6-speed auto as an option on some trims and standard on others. Fuel economy for either transmission was rated at 26/34 mpg city/highway. The Soul continued to be a confidence-inspiring little runabout, if not wholly exciting on the road.
The 2012-2013 Kia Soul is one of a set of vehicles found to have overstated fuel-economy numbers. Kia initially submitted figures of 27/35 mpg, city/highway, and 30 mpg combined (or 26/34 mpg, city/highway, for the larger 2.0-liter engine) according to the EPA, which allows automakers to self-certify fuel economy. On a check of several vehicles, the EPA found the Soul's actual tested fuel economy to be 25/30 mpg cityhighway with the 1.6-liter engine, or 23/28 mpg (25 combined) with the 2.0-liter engine and automatic transmission or 24/29 mpg with the manual transmission. 2013 Kia Soul Eco models, which earned 29/36-mpg and 27/35-mpg ratings have been downgraded to 26/31 and 24/29, respectively. Owners can register with Kia to receive reimbursement for the gas consumed above and beyond expected levels; more details are found at KiaMPGInfo.com.
On the 2013 Soul, Kia improved gas mileage slightly by offering the an engine stop-start system as part of an Eco Package.