Quirky, fun-to-drive Kia Soul now offers turbo engine option


The 2017 Kia Soul Turbo has upped its level of personality for the new model year, adding a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine to its lineup.

The 2017 Soul is better looking and presents a new way to roll, with a modest freshening of its iconic design form, which some refer to as “cute.” Its interior has been refined, and its cargo volume has been increased by up to 24.2 cubic feet. Ingress and egress have been improved along with reductions in noise, vibration and harshness.

The 2017 Kia Soul continues to be offered in three levels of trim: Base, Plus (+) and Exclaim (!). All are available in a vibrant and playful color palette. Sporty new wheel designs also contribute to its dynamic, funky “boxy” car styling.

Powering the new Soul are three transversely mounted front engine variants. The Base model receives a 1.6-liter, DOHC, 16-valve gasoline direct-injection, inline four-cylinder that delivers 130 horsepower along with 118 pound-feet of torque. Powering the Plus and Exclaim models is a 2.0-liter four-banger with 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque.

The third engine choice is a 1.6-liter, DOHC, 16-valve turbocharged inline four-cylinder with gas direct injection that puts out a healthy 201 horsepower at 6,000 rpm along with 195 pound-feet of torque in a range from 1,500 to 4,500 rpm.

Power reaches the front wheels with the base 1.6-liter mated to a six-speed manual transmission as standard (or to an optional six-speed automatic). The Plus and Exclaim models are available exclusively with the six-speed automatic transmission with sportmatic and active Eco (except in the case of the Turbo model, which changes gears through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic).

My test 2017 Kia Soul was in Exclaim trim, powered by the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine mated to the seven-speed transmission. The exterior was sprayed Inferno Red metallic and came with a black-and-gray hounds’ tooth cloth interior and piano-black trim accents and orange double stitching.

The 2017 Kia Soul Turbo in Exclaim trim is a blast to drive. Acceleration is responsive with some noticeable turbo lag under load, but when the spirit kicks in, smiles are prone to erupt. Despite the extra horsepower, the turbo engine beats both other variants in EPA fuel economy, promising 26 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.

Speed-variable electric power steering delivers good on-center feel over twisty back roads. The ride quality is comfortably compliant, but the boxy form offers a substantial target for 45- to 50-mph crosswinds.

There are plenty of thoughtful storage nooks and crannies. 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 touch screen. A larger 8.0-inch unit comes as part of an optional package that also includes two additional USB ports and navigation.

The Kia Soul is proof positive that 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.