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Kia Soul: Turbo adds the pop to value-laden lineup

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The 2018 Kia Soul is still the distinct looking vehicle that straddles the boundaries between cute crossover and compact SUV. Featuring fun, sporty wheel designs, a $16,200 base price,  and that playful “boxy” car styling, it also has the Kia warranty to make it one of the best values in the market.

Three Trim Levels

Offered in three trim levels: Base, Plus (+), and Exclaim (!), the Soul is definitely outspoken when it comes to exterior styling and vibrant colors. Featuring hues such as Solar Yellow, Kale Green and Inferno Red, the Soul occupies a rare place in the market by really being “unique.”

Inside, the Soul’s seating provides ample lateral and thigh support and available leather trim. High-gloss piano-black trim pieces on the center console and dash interior add sophistication.

Cabin Design

The instrument cluster sports deeply recessed gauges, matching sculpted circles in the door panels around the power windows and door locks. The center console features a round gearshift knob and push-button. The front-door-mounted speakers mirror the circular, high-mounted “floating” tweeters and utilize available LED-string light technology to create a ripple effect, with red-hued mood lighting.

The steering-wheel-mounted controls are housed in Soul-exclusive circular groupings along the lower spokes with the buttons for the audio system and trip computer falling readily to the thumbs, enabling the driver’s hands to remain on the wheel at all times.

Conveniences

Soul’s instrument panel offers an available 8-inch touch screen, as well as UVO eServices, Kia’s second-generation infotainment and telematics system. Positioned side by side for the first time in a Kia vehicle, the audio/video and optional navigation controls are viewable on the home screen. Kia says combining the most-accessed ancillary controls on a single screen helps to reduce driver distraction and improves overall functionality and ease of use.

There are plenty of thoughtful storage nooks and crannies, along with cool, quirky features such as the audio speakers that flash mood lighting to match the bass notes. Rear-seat passengers will find sufficient space, even behind tall front-seat occupants. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay infotainment integration are standard on all cars with the 7.0-inch touchscreen. A larger 8.0-inch unit comes as part of an optional package that also includes two additional USB ports and navigation.

Power

Powering the new Soul are three transversely mounted front engine variants: the base 1.6-liter, inline 4-cylinder with 130 hp along with 118 lb.-ft. of torque; the high-end engine option for the Plus and Exclaim models, a 2.0-L 4-cylinder with 164 hp and 151 lb.-ft. torque; and the 1.6-liter, turbo inline 4-cylinder that delivers 201 hp at 6,000 rpm along with 195 lb.-ft. of torque.

The base 1.6-liter engine is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission as standard, or to an optional 6-speed automatic. The Plus and Exclaim models are available exclusively with the 6-speed automatic transmission with sportmatic and active Eco, except in the case of the Turbo model, which changes gears through a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.

I tested the Kia Soul Turbo in Exclaim trim and found it to deliver comfortable  transportation with the signature Soul flair. Acceleration is responsive with just a little  turbo lag under load and offering up 26 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.

The Kia Soul is proof it’s cool to be square. Add the squarely good looks to the 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty and 5-year/60,000 mile 24-hour roadside assistance program, and the Soul on any level provides a hip, value-packed compact ride.

This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication