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2016 Kia Soul: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader November 2015

As if the Kia Soul wasn't distinctive enough on its own, the cute compact wagon gets even more standard features this year, making it one of the best equipped, best warranted small cars you can buy. Toss in a very reasonable base price, peppy engine lineup and new color combos for 2016, and it's hard to think of a reason not to buy a 2016 Kia Soul.

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 2016 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 2016?

For 2016, Kia's base Soul gains 16-inch alloy wheels. The Plus trims adds gloss black bumper tusks, fog lights and access to the Designer Collection option. Finally, the Exclaim loses some features, substituting 17-in wheels for last year's 18-inchers and halogen headlamps in place of projector-style beams. New packages for Exclaim include the Premium, Umber and Umber II.

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 with base engine; no all-wheel-drive version

How Much?

$16,515-$29,500

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 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 ($16,515) starts with the manual transmission, the smaller 1.6-liter engine, 16-in alloy wheels, power accessories, variable intermittent wipers, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, rear privacy glass, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, driver-selectable steering feel, steering-wheel-mounted audio and Bluetooth controls, a trip computer, manual air conditioning and a 6-speaker audio system, satellite radio in addition to USB and auxiliary audio jacks.

The Soul Plus ($20,015) adds the automatic transmission, the larger 2.0-liter engine, 17-in alloy wheels, fog lights, turn-signal indicators on the exterior mirrors, a front center console with an armrest, 3.0B audio with 4.3-in color touchscreen, SiriusXM, remote keyless entry, a rear center armrest with cup holders, cruise control, 1-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 ($21,915) boasts unique 17-in alloy wheels, LED running lights and taillights, fog lights, automatic headlights, power-folding exterior mirrors, UVO's voice-command functionality, a rearview camera, leather seating surfaces, 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 and the Convenience package that adds 4.3-in touchscreen audio, auto on/off headlights and a rear backup camera.

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 starting, a heated steering wheel, a 10-way power driver seat, heated front and rear seats, ventilated front seats and leather upholstery). The ECO package adds an Idle Stop & Go system, while the Designer Collection package offers 2-tone root and trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The Exclaim, meanwhile, is eligible for the Premium package that adds a panoramic sunroof, navigation with 8-in touchscreen, Infinity audio, speaker illumination, automatic climate control, projector-style low-beam headlights, LED running lights, keyless entry with push-button starting, an upgraded 4.3-in color driver-information screen, lane-departure warning, forward-collision control warning, a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, ventilated front seats and a power sunshade.

The Umber I and Umber II packages add premium Nappa leather and HID headlights.

Safety

The 2016 Kia 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 gave the 2016 Soul its highest rating of five stars overall, while the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gave the Soul its highest rating of Good in all applicable crash-test categories.

Behind the Wheel

The 2016 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 17-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 in the near future, perhaps in the form of an optional turbocharged engine with superior power and fuel economy.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Honda Fit -- The Fit's amazingly spacious interior is great for hauling stuff, and it gets better fuel economy, to boot. Its loud, gaudy interior pales in comparison, however.

2016 Mazda CX-3 -- If you're looking at a Soul Plus or Exclaim with some options, stop by a Mazda dealer and see if there's a CX-3 for about the same price. We really like the Mazda's mix of style, performance, space and efficiency. It also 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 2011-2015 Kia Sportage will offer many of the same cool features as the Soul but with the bonus of all-wheel drive and an available turbocharged engine. Get a certified pre-owned car, and Kia will reinstate the original 10-year/100,000-mile warranty.

Autotrader's Advice

The Exclaim with the Premium 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.

Find a Kia Soul for sale

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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.
2016 Kia Soul: New Car Review - Autotrader