KIA Soul is one of the most space-efficient vehicles currently available on the market. It ticks all the boxes to make it an ideal city and family car, you won’t need a lot of parking space, it’s seriously spacious and if you simultaneously need to watch the price tag and keep an eye on the fuel budget, then Soul might be a car for you.
My dilemma is how to classify this car? which mostly a good thing. I enjoy a car that refuses to be shoe boxed. It’s a small hatchback, but it doesn’t have much in common with the rest of it’s five door family members.
OK, I admit; it’s not a great looker Its boxy profile is rather unique and off putting and some even might suggest it was originally drawn by five year old, however that five year old has managed somehow to capitalize on the shape by providing more space for people, pets, spare piano you have lying around or any cargo for that matter.
The base Soul is powered by a 1.6-litre engine producing 130-horsepower, 118 lb-ft of torque. You have additional options in form of Soul Plus and Soul Exclaim both mounted with a 2.0-liter, direct-injection 4-cylinder engine that produces 164 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, paired only with a 6-speed automatic which is optional on the base. The electric power steering system offers three settings—comfort, normal, and sport, however I could not detect much difference between these settings, so I will have to assume these are more gimmicky than actually providing any useful benefits, and the added or reduced weight doesn’t seem to do anything to improve actual road feel.
The interior of the 2016 Soul is quite comfortable, It’s very easy to get in and out of, front or back, Back-seat space is impressive, even though there’s plenty of head and leg room, keep in mind that the Soul has the width of a small car, so fitting three adults across in back should be avoided unless they are rather flexible.
The safety is top notch; with all models include a total of six airbags, with dual front airbags, seat-mounted side bags, and full-length side curtain bags. You can opt for front collision warning and lane-departure warning systems this year on top Exclaim models, but they don’t include automatic braking.
As briefly mentioned, there are three different trim levels: base Soul, Soul Plus (+), and Soul Exclaim (!). All models now for 2016 include alloy wheels, and by splashing a bit more; you can add things like a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, and cooled/ventilated front seats.
Kia has also added an inexpensive Convenience Package that allows a rear-view camera, touchscreen audio, and satellite radio on base 2016 models; there are also additional packages available which I have not covered in this review.
KIA has rated the base Soul at 24 mpg city, 30 highways, and 26 combined with the 1.6-liter engine—and that holds true whether you opt for the manual gearbox or automatic.
Upgrade to the Soul Plus and Exclaim models equipped with the 2.0-liter engine, and you get a slightly better mileage—24/31/27 mpg.
In the inside – 2016 Soul, although looks a bit more complete than in its previous iteration— however, it still feels like an inexpensive small car peppered with some rather up-market premium bits. The steering wheel chunky as it is, sporty gauge cluster, and soft-touch fluffy materials from elbow level on up add to that impression.
Performance is probably the one area in which the 2016 Kia Soul doesn’t really challenge or over-do. Driving is competent and easy- some- how even verging on athletic in some respects, but this five-door hatch won’t tick any boxes if you’re looking for a sporty five-door hatch.
Four-wheel disc brakes are included in all three trim levels of the Soul; that’s a noteworthy upgrade versus the rear drums in other budget cars. Anti-lock braking, brake assist, hill-start assist, and electronic stability control are all included.
Additional features such as rear camera system is included with the top Exclaim model; it is also included on the Soul Plus if you get the UVO e-Services Package, and can now be optioned on automatic transmission base-model Souls once you select the same UVO e-Services Package. For 2016, the Premium Package on the top Exclaim model you get forward collision warning and lane-departure warning systems.
There’s one thing that should serve us as a reminder of the Soul’s economy-car origins, and that’s engine noise. Let me just say that, you’ll hear the engine’s coarse note throughout the cabin when accelerating, climbing highway grades, as matter of fact anytime your feet goes any-where near the accelerator paddle.
There’s also an all-electric version; in the form of 2016 Kia Soul EV, which is the Korean maker’s only battery-electric vehicle, now in its second year on sale in some ways it’s the best of the current crop of 70- to 100-mile cars on the market
In styling, the Soul EV retains the boxy profile and different look of the basic model, which offers more space for people and cargo than most small cars with the same footprint. The design’s blunt front end replaces the grille with a blanking panel that includes the door for the charge port, the rear tall taillights and the front bug-eye headlights are the same as the basic model.
The major difference of course is the removal of the gasoline engine, transmission, and fuel tank and filling all these redundant space with a large flat air-cooled lithium-ion battery pack in the floor, powering an electric motor that powers the front wheels. The battery’s energy capacity of 27 kilowatt-hours is about 10 percent higher when compared to that of the high-volume 2015 Nissan Leaf, at 24 kwh, and gives the Soul EV a combined EPA range rating of 105 miles which again is higher than the 2015 Leaf’s 84 miles. The motor itself is rated at 81 kilowatts (109 horsepower), which gives it relatively quick acceleration away from rest and acceptable passing power on the highway. This gives KIA Soul a highway range of 92 miles, 120 miles for city.
On the road, the suspension provides a smooth, comfortable ride while remaining taut enough to lend a feeling of security. Typical of Kia vehicles, the electric power steering system offers only limited feedback, and the three levels of weight—comfort, normal, and sport—don’t add a lot to the driving experience.
The funky design of the Soul’s interior has been adapted with some high-gloss plastics for the Soul EV. Soft-touch materials on the surfaces and dual-density foam and extended seat cushions all make the front passenger compartment a comfortable environment. The height and proportion make it quite easy to get in and out, in front or in back. The rear hatch opening is wide, and seats fold forward easily, however as this is Still a small car, the restriction of fitting non flexible grown up across the back still applies same as the non-electronic basic models.
All models include a total of six airbags, with dual front airbags, seat-mounted side bags, and full-length side curtain bags.
For 2016, the Soul EV has acquired a new third trim level. The three flavours are the base Soul EV-e, the mid-range Soul EV, and the top-of-the-line Soul EV+ (plus).
Commendably, every Soul EV includes a CHAdeMO DC fast charge port (with a new-for-2016 plug lock), a 6.6-kw on-board charger for 240-volt Level 2 charging (versus 3.3-kw chargers fitted to other electric cars), and heated front seats and a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, both in the service of minimizing cabin heat to maximize cold-weather range.
Kia says charging times vary from 24 hours for a fully depleted battery using a 120-Volt wall outlet to less than 5 hours when plugged into a 240-volt outlet. Kia has partnered with three different charging-station providers—AeroVironment, Bosch, and Leviton—to offer buyers a variety of home charging station options. As for DC fast charging, the battery can be restored to 80-percent capacity from empty in as little as 33 minutes using a 50 kw CHAdeMO fast charger.
Other standard features on the Soul EV are a 3.5-inch OLED instrument cluster, an illuminated AUX/USB port, smart key with keyless ignition, a driver-only ventilation function that closes the passenger vents to help maximize efficiency based on vehicle occupancy, and a system that adjusts steering feel.
Move up to the Soul EV and you add an 8.0-inch capacitive touchscreen with a rear-view camera display and the UVO infotainment system with special EV functions. It will search for charging stations, check state of charge and other vehicle status data remotely, and precondition the interior temperature while the car remains plugged in. The Soul EV also upgrades to a heat-pump heating and air-conditioning system, which uses less energy and improves real-world range in very hot or very cold weather.
The high-end Soul EV+ layers on ventilated front passenger seats, heated rear outboard seats, leather trim on all seats, front and rear Park Assist, and power mirrors that fold. A new, optional “Sun & Fun Package” bundles a panoramic sunroof, LED interior lighting, and speaker lights that pulse to the beats of the six-speaker audio system.