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New Kia Soul Exclaim tops trim range and pushes horsepower

The Kia Soul is a perfect example of how a distinct exterior is often enough to draw hordes of enthusiastic buyers to the showroom. Not unlike the classic VW Beetle’s appeal, the oft-boxy Soul combines those cute looks with the tried-and-true Kia pricing formula. The results — impressive sales.

So what’s been missing? For me, what the Soul lacks under the hood, it makes up for in value and reliability. So, when Kia announced the new 2017 Soul Exclaim would feature a 40-horsepower increase over the base model standard, it was time for me to test the Exclaim.

Slated to be the range-topping trim level for Soul (Base and Plus are on the lower end), Exclaim comes with increased equipment upgrades and some impressive technology. Equipped with things like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, push-button start, UVO32 (which combines Kia’s e-Services and phone connectivity via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay), a Harman Kardon-5 premium eight-speaker sound system and an 8-inch touchscreen display, the Exclaim lives up to the title.

Previous trims of the Soul looked like twins; there was not much differentiating them. The new 2017 Exclaim is breaking the tradition and loading up with lots of visual accents. Equipped with 18-inch wheels, a chrome grille surround, a gloss black air dam surround, clear lens fog lights and the addition of red accents on the front air dam and side skirts, the Exclaim is clearly different from its lesser trims.

Matching the front, the rear fascia insert delivers a great-looking gloss black finish. Dual chrome exhaust tips (a first for the Soul) and metal skid plates in the front and rear complete the transformation. My only gripe may be in the excessive plastic insert in the front grille. The addition of the turbocharger under the hood necessitated the addition of an intercooler up front. Therefore, Kia had to change up the mesh of the air dam. Overall, good trade.

Inside the cabin of Soul Exclaim, you will find tech conveniences and cozy leather all over, including the steering wheel and seats — even the pad above the instrument cluster and the gear shifter boot are all constructed from fine leather and held together with orange contrast stitching.

The large 8-inch touchscreen fits right in with the upscale feel. The distinct perforated, checkered layout in the center inserts and the tall headrests give Exclaim real attitude. Side bolsters in the seats are gripping and feel great in any position. Kia’s flat-bottomed steering wheel is also a great touch.

Turbo me

The 2017 Soul Exclaim with its turbocharged engine gives the car’s fans another choice from an already impressive and popular line-up. In the case of the Soul Exclaim turbo, a 1.6-liter with a turbocharger increases output by 40 horsepower compared to the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter Plus version.

The turbo Exclaim gets a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that manages to handle whatever the turbo can feed it and whatever the driver demands. The 25/30 mpg fuel economy is a definite plus.

My tester had a base price of $22,650, and with several upgrades it landed at $24,010. That’s plenty of reason to be excited.