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2015 Kia Soul: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader January 2015

The Kia Soul rolls into 2015 with few changes. Fresh from its complete makeover last year, the 2015 Kia Soul continues to impress us with its bold styling, efficient engine lineup and low price. As compact cars go, Kia's Soul continues to offer up one the freshest, most colorful and feature-filled vehicles in its class.

Many of the Soul's competitors offer similar flashy exterior colors and cool wheels, but they usually fall flat once you gain access to the interior. Not so in the Soul. Hop into the driver's seat, and you're immediately struck by the copious supply of high-quality surfaces, stylish design themes and an impressive equipment roster. The 2015 Soul is still a head-turner, to be sure, but it also cultivates a premium vibe for those inside, and that's sure to broaden its appeal.

What's New for 2015?

Changes to the 2015 Kia Soul are limited to a few new colors and Special Edition packages. The base Soul can be equipped with Kia's UVO eServices package (UVO, rearview camera and fog lights). The Soul Exclaim offers a new Umber Color package.

What We Like

Premium interior look and feel; refined ride; ample cargo space; rich feature content; distinctive styling; still a great value

What We Don't

Average fuel economy; uninspired acceleration; no all-wheel-drive version

How Much?

$15,900-$28,500

Fuel Economy

The base Soul is powered by a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 130 horsepower and 118 lb-ft of torque. Whether you choose the standard 6-speed manual transmission or the optional 6-speed automatic, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says you'll get the same 24 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

The other Soul models feature a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that generates 164 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. The 6-speed automatic is the only transmission offered. Fuel economy is essentially unchanged at 23 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Kia Soul 5-passenger hatchback is offered in base, Plus (+) and Exclaim (!) trim levels.

The base Soul ($15,900) starts with the manual transmission, the smaller 1.6-liter engine, 16-inch steel wheels, power accessories, variable intermittent wipers, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, driver-selectable steering feel, steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, keyless entry, a trip computer, manual air conditioning and a 6-speaker audio system with satellite radio in addition to USB and auxiliary audio jacks.

The Soul Plus ($19,400) adds the automatic transmission, the larger 2.0-liter engine, 17-in alloy wheels, turn-signal indicators on the exterior mirrors, a front center console with an armrest, a rear center armrest with cup holders, one-touch up/down passenger power windows and 12-volt power outlets in the cargo area (the base model only has them in the main cabin).

The Soul Exclaim ($21,500) boasts 18-in alloy wheels, LED running lights and taillights, fog lights, automatic headlights, power-folding exterior mirrors, UVO voice-command functionality, a rearview camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a refrigerated glove compartment, a 10-way power driver seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

Options on the base model include the automatic transmission, automatic engine stop/start, 16-in alloy wheels, the UVO eServices package and the rear center armrest with cup holders.

The Plus model offers the Audio package (leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, upgraded dashboard and door trim, automatic climate control, a navigation system with an 8-in touchscreen and an Infinity sound system with a subwoofer and pulsating speaker illumination) and the Primo package (panoramic sunroof, fog lights, keyless entry with push-button start, a heated steering wheel, a 10-way power driver seat, heated front and rear seats, ventilated front seats and leather upholstery).

Note that the Plus can also be equipped with the ECO package (automatic engine stop/start and smaller 16-in alloy wheels with low-rolling-resistance tires), but only if you forego the three packages described above.

The Exclaim, meanwhile, is eligible for the Sun and Sound package (panoramic sunroof, navigation with touchscreen, Infinity audio, speaker illumination and automatic climate control) as well as the memorably named Whole Shabang package (xenon low-beam headlights with auto leveling, LED running lights, keyless entry with push-button start, an upgraded 4.3-in color driver information screen, a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, ventilated front seats and leather upholstery).

Safety

The 2015 Soul comes standard with stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, height-adjustable front seat belts and six airbags (front, front-side and full-length side-curtain).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2015 Soul its highest rating of five stars overall, while the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also gave the Soul its highest rating of Good in all applicable crash-test categories.

Behind the Wheel

The 2015 Soul's refinement on the road is a revelation. When the first generation arrived, we thought of the Soul as just an economy car with a funky wrapper, but this redesigned model is actually a respectable high-speed cruiser, remaining quiet and composed in the fast lane. The suspension's compliance over bumps is likewise greatly improved, ranking with the best at this price, even with the Exclaim model's low-profile 18-in tires. We find the 3-level adjustable steering gimmicky, but it's nice that Kia gives you the option.

Given these great strides in driving dynamics, we're disappointed in what's under the hood. The base 1.6-liter engine is weaker than the Kia Rio subcompact's unit, and it delivers meager acceleration in the larger Soul. As for the 2.0-liter engine, Kia trumpets its direct-injection technology and improved low-end torque, but it still feels soft, and it sends a fair amount of racket into the otherwise hushed cabin at full throttle.

What's more, the Soul's maximum of 31 mpg is unimpressive by current standards. Expect progress before long, perhaps including an optional turbocharged engine with superior power and fuel economy.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Honda Fit -- The Fit's amazingly spacious interior is great for hauling stuff, and it gets better fuel economy, to boot. Its loud, chintzy interior pales in comparison, however.

2015 Mazda CX-5 -- If you're looking at a Soul Plus or Exclaim with some options, stop by your Mazda dealer and see if there's a CX-5 for about the same price. We really like the Mazda's mix of style, performance, space and efficiency. And it offers all-wheel drive.

2015 Toyota Prius -- You might not think of the Soul and Prius as rivals, but the Prius is likewise a roomy hatchback that's not too expensive. It also offers the added benefit of incredible fuel economy.

Used Kia Sportage -- A 2011-2014 Kia Sportage will offer many of the same cool features as the Soul, but with the added bonus of all-wheel drive and an available turbocharged engine. Get a certified pre-owned (CPO) car and Kia will reinstate the original 10-year/100,000-mile warranty.

AutoTrader's Advice

The Exclaim's Whole Shabang package is tempting, but it results in a pricey Soul, so we suggest looking at the Plus model with the Audio package. The UVO eServices package is part of the deal, as well, so you get voice-command functions, the big touchscreen with navigation, Infinity sound, upgraded interior trim and automatic climate control, all for about $22,000.

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Used 2015 Kia Soul
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Kia Soul: New Car Review - Autotrader