Christopher Little

Quick Spin: 2017 Kia Soul

For 2017, Kia has made a big change to the Soul that might just make you Exclaim. The top-trim Soul ! (pronounced Exclaim, if you didn’t know) now comes with a 1.6L turbocharged engine and dual-clutch transmission. Redesigned front and rear fascia with revised headlights and fog lights give the Soul a freshened appearance to go with the extra pep in its step.

The Exclaim is loaded with standard features. A leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel, large 8-inch touchscreen UVO infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple Car Plan, and Harmon Kardon audio system give it an upmarket feel. New for 2017, 2 additional USB charging ports and a power-adjustable passenger seat mean everyone is happy. Kia’s rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitor are optional safety features that came fitted on our tester.

There’s an attention to detail in the new Exclaim that most other cars in this price point lack. It’s the little things that add up to set this Soul apart. The Exlaim’s Soul badge and lower trim line stand out in red to signify the hotter engine underhood. Stylish 10-spoke 18” wheels and dual chrome exhaust tips add to the Exclaim’s curb appeal. Climb inside and the trend continues. The orange accent stitching throughout the cabin adds a little color. Toggling the Sport setting triggers the driver’s display to show a boost gauge in place of more mundane information.  It’s a small detail that makes the Exclaim feel unique.

Kia’s 161hp 2.0L engine is now relegated to the Plus trim, with the meager 130hp naturally-aspirated 1.6L engine only available in the base model. With 40 more horsepower and 45 more lb-ft torque, the quirky Soul Exclaim comes alive. The Soul’s dual-clutch transmission makes quick work of changing gears without sacrificing stop-and-go drivability. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to tell that it wasn’t a traditional automatic around town. The transmission’s default settings are tuned in favor of economy over fun. Thankfully, the Soul’s drive mode settings have a Sport option. Our only complaint is the lack of paddle shifters on this sportier setup. Relegated to choosing our own gear via the gear stalk, Kia continues to program upshifting as forward push, perhaps the most unintuitive trend in many modern cars.

After several hours of rewiring our muscle memory (push to upshift, pull to downshift), the Soul becomes more rewarding. The short wheelbase and stiffer suspension paired with the extra torque from the turbocharged engine makes for a lively driving experience. The upright seating position and large greenhouse amplify the perception of speed without the Soul actually getting you into too much trouble with the law. There’s no need to go flat out because this quirky car is best enjoyed on mid-speed back roads. The tweaked setup brings out all the character from this funky little platform. It’s exactly what the Soul needed to feel refreshed.

When we first drove the second generation Soul, we said it had an appeal that was hard to put into words. The new Exclaim has that same hard-to-articulate attraction, but it has become clearer. Quirky, funky, full of character; the Kia Soul has…well…a soul. There’s personality behind the wheel, and the turbocharged Exclaim enhances that.

-Christopher Little

2016 Kia Soul !
Tech Package $3,000
Panoramic Sunroof Package $1,000
Destination Charges $895
As Tested MSRP $27,695

New Generation: 2015 Kia Soul !
Artificial Heart: 2016 Kia Soul EV

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