Jeep Renegade vs. Kia Soul: Compare Cars

November 21, 2016
2017 Kia Soul

2017 Kia Soul

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Believe it or not, the Jeep Renegade and the Kia Soul are frequently compared by buyers seeking a small, square-ish, carry-all utility vehicle. While they're both upright five-door hatchback shapes, each has a distinct personality, and they could hardly be more different.

The Renegade is Jeep's littlest SUV, with exaggerated tough-guy styling and genuine off-road prowess. The Soul, on the other hand, is a style-first urban warrior whose attraction lies in its practicality and cheeky character. It doesn't offer the Jeep's all-wheel-drive or, really, any hardware that could bring it even close to rocky trails or mountain climbing. 

Which one is right for may come down to a simple decision: Do you absolutely need all-wheel drive? If so, the Jeep gets the nod. Otherwise, the Kia carries a higher rating from our experts, who gave it better marks for design, comfort and quality, safety, and features.

MORE: Read our full 2017 Jeep Renegade and 2017 Kia Soul reviews

By the numbers, the Soul is a runaway winner. Its 6.8 overall rating is more than a point higher than the Jeep's 5.3, but the competition is closer than that. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

New in 2015, the Renegade is the first vehicle developed from the ground up for global sale by the combined Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Its design is every inch classic SUV, with oversize lights and other details for visual interest.

The interior is straightforward, modern, and contains a number of Jeep-brand reminders in the form of "Easter Egg" design elements. The Renegade's front seats are comfortable, but there's not that much room in the rear unless rear-seat riders bargain aggressively with those in the front. The seats are comfortable and nicely bolstered, and the Renegade is clearly wider than other AWD entries, meaning the shoulders of the two front-seat riders are suitably separated.

The Soul's boxy profile, now in its second generation, is like no other. And it capitalizes on the silhouette by offering much more space for people and cargo. The design has a blunt front end, with a roof that seems to float over a blacked-out greenhouse. The rear end is dominated by tall taillights, while the front end uses bug-eye headlights.

Inside, the Soul dials down the funkiness a notch or two, providing the right amount of sophistication with grown-up soft-touch materials, as well as some extras like ambient lighting. The seats are comfortable, with dual-density foam and usefully long seat cushions in front. It's easy to get into or out of, front or back, and the back-seat space is impressive for a car with this small a footprint.

2016 Jeep Renegade

2016 Jeep Renegade

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2016 Jeep Renegade 75th Anniversary edition

2016 Jeep Renegade 75th Anniversary edition

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2016 Jeep Renegade

2016 Jeep Renegade

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2016 Jeep Renegade 75th Anniversary edition

2016 Jeep Renegade 75th Anniversary edition

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The Jeep Renegade comes with two powertrain options. The base model is propelled by a 160-horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a 6-speed manual. If you don't want to shift for yourself, you'll move up to the 180-hp 2.4-liter four, which uses the new 9-speed automatic transmission that's increasingly common in new Chrysler, Jeep, and Fiat products. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive optional for both engines. We prefer the manual to the automatic's constant shifts and hunting for gears, but the base engine's lean on power. It's a mixed bag, maybe slightly in favor of the rare base setup.

The Kia Soul comes with a choice of three engines, but we recommend against the base 1.6-liter inline-4, with an output of just 130 horsepower, unless you’re getting the 6-speed manual. Soul Plus versions are fitted with a more powerful 164-hp 2.0-liter, direct-injection inline-4, paired only with a 6-speed automatic (an option on the base model). Soul Exclaim models are fitted with a new 1.6-liter turbo-4 that makes 201 hp. The Soul isn't particularly sporty in any of its combinations, but with the larger engine you’ll find it quick enough—although tall gearing means frequent downshifts on the highway, and the transmission can hunt on long grades.

The Renegade's safety ratings have been only middle-of-the-pack—considering there are now a number of high-rated vehicles in its class. It earned four-star overall ratings from federal officials, including four stars for front impact and five for side impact, while it's received a mix of "Acceptable" and "Good" ratings from the IIHS. A rearview camera is standard on all but the base model. Optional safety systems include forward-collision warnings with automatic braking, blind-spot monitors, and lane-departure warnings.

2016 Kia Soul

2016 Kia Soul

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2016 Kia Soul

2016 Kia Soul

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2016 Kia Soul

2016 Kia Soul

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2016 Kia Soul

2016 Kia Soul

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The Soul does better, with five stars overall from federal officials, including five-star scores in every category except rollover resistance, where it gets four stars. The IIHS hasn't yet rated the 2017 editions. You can opt for forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning systems this year on high-end Exclaim models, but they don't include automatic braking.

The 2017 Renegade comes in four trim levels: the base Sport (starting under $20,000 for the base 2WD version), the mid-level Latitude, and the top-of-the-line Limited. All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option. Then there's the Trailhawk model ($7,000 more) with its greater off-road capability, which only comes with all-wheel drive and the larger 2.4-liter engine with the nine-speed automatic. Only a handful of small feature changes distinguish the 2017 Renegade from prior years.

The 2016 Soul comes in base Soul (starting just over $16,000), Soul Plus (+), and Soul Exclaim (!) versions. All include alloy wheels, and for a four-figure premium, you can add things like a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, and cooled/ventilated front seats. Connectivity and infotainment hardware—and the optional navigation system—are fully up to snuff with the systems available in much more expensive, premium vehicles.

Unless you need that all-wheel drive, of course, in which case there's a whole different set of comparisons you should make.

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Summary

5.3
Expert Rating
The 2017 Jeep Renegade is the smallest Jeep you can buy, appealing both to commuters and off-roaders, but its design can outshine its performance.
6.5
Expert Rating
The 2017 Kia Soul rights one of our longtime gripes with the fun wagon—it now has a more capable turbo-4 that makes it a little less boring to drive

Styling

7.0
Expert Rating
The 2017 Jeep Renegade verges on cute, but inside and out it's a Jeep through and through—which makes it appealing.
Read More
8.0
Expert Rating
The Kia Soul is proof that good looks don't have to break the bank.
Read More

Performance

6.0
Expert Rating
The Renegade excels off-road, even if its powertrain lineup isn't especially impressive.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
A new, zesty turbo model adds much-needed kick, the rest of the Soul lineup is a little ho-hum.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

4.0
Expert Rating
Rear passengers may be cramped, but the Renegade's interior is flexible for cargo.
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7.0
Expert Rating
Don't let the dimensions fool you, the Kia Soul is spacious on the inside for four adults and their gear.
Read More

Safety

2.0
Expert Rating
The 2017 Jeep Renegade gets so-so safety ratings at best, and the backup camera isn't standard on all models.
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5.0
Expert Rating
Crash data is generally good, but the Soul is missing key features.
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Features

6.0
Expert Rating
Spartan in base trim, there are a substantial number of ways to outfit the Renegade based on need.
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6.0
Expert Rating
Kia's superlative warranty is the standout here, and the Soul has a long list of options that can push the price well past $20,000.
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Fuel Economy

7.0
Expert Rating
The 2017 Jeep Renegade is far from the most fuel-efficient of the growing crop of small utilities, even if it does have remarkable off-road ability.
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7.0
Expert Rating
The new sportier Soul manages 28 mpg combined, although other models aren't far behind in fuel efficiency.
Read More

MSRP

from $17,995
from $16,100

Invoice

from $17,870
from $15,757

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

25
27

Engine

Regular Unleaded I-4, 2.4 L
Regular Unleaded I-4, 1.6 L

Drivetrain

Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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