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2018 Kia Soul: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Kia Soul, we’ve published an updated review: 2020 Kia Soul Review

The 2018 Kia Soul continues to offer a lot of features in a smart package at a very reasonable price. Last year’s addition of a turbocharged engine eliminated previous complaints about the Soul’s underpowered engine options, but limited availability of important driver-assist features keep the Soul one step behind cars like the Toyota CH-R and Honda HR-V. As always, the Soul’s amazing 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty remains in place, as does its strong resale and reliability record.

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. This is 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 2018 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 2018?

For 2018, the Kia Soul’s base Convenience package gains automatic climate control and the UVO3 system, featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Soul Plus (+) gets UVO3 as standard equipment, while the Plus Primo package is changed to the Primo Lit package and gains HID headlights, Plus Designer Collection and new Wild Orange paint. See the 2018 Kia Soul models for sale near you

What We Like

Premium interior look and feel; refined ride; ample cargo space; rich feature content; distinctive styling; powerful turbocharged engine

What We Don’t

Average fuel economy; uninspired acceleration with base engine; no all-wheel-drive version; best driver-assist features not available on turbocharged model

How Much?


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. Choose the standard 6-speed manual transmission, and the Environmental Protection Agency says you’ll get 24 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. Chose the 6-speed automatic, and those numbers move to 25 mpg city/30 mpg hwy.

The Soul Plus (+) models feature a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that generates 161 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. The 6-speed automatic is the only transmission offered. Fuel economy is essentially unchanged at 25 mpg city/30 mpg hwy.

The Soul Exclaim (!) is powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, making 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, paired with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. EPA estimates for this engine are a respectable 26 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Kia Soul 5-passenger hatchback is offered in base, Plus (+) and Exclaim (!) trim levels.

The base Soul ($16,995) starts with the manual transmission, the smaller 1.6-liter engine, 16-inch alloy wheels, power accessories, variable intermittent wipers, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, rear privacy glass, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, Flexsteer driver-selectable steering feel, steering-wheel-mounted audio and Bluetooth controls, 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 ($21,195) adds the automatic transmission, the larger 2.0-liter engine, 17-in alloy wheels, fog lights, automatic climate control, Drive Mode Select, heated exterior mirrors, a front center console with an armrest, UVO3 with a 7-in color touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a rearview camera, remote keyless entry, fog lights, auto on/off headlights, 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 ($23,695) boasts unique 18-in alloy wheels, a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, larger front disc brakes, automatic headlights, power-folding exterior mirrors, supervision meter cluster with 4.3-in color LCD display, leather seating surfaces, push-button start with Smart Key and a leather-wrapped D-shaped steering wheel and shift knob.

Options on the base model include the automatic transmission and the Convenience package that adds 7-in touchscreen audio, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, auto on/off headlights, rear-camera display and automatic temperature control.

The Plus model offers the Audio package that includes leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, upgraded dashboard and door trim, a navigation system with an 8-in touchscreen, UVO telematics with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a Harman Kardon sound system with a subwoofer, pulsating speaker illumination, push-button start with Smart Key, two USB charging points, leatherette meter hood and piano black accents. The Primo Lit package requires the Audio package and adds a panoramic sunroof, supervision meter cluster with 4.3-in TFT color LCD display, a heated steering wheel, a 10-way power driver’s seat, 8-way power passenger seat, heated front and rear seats, ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, blind spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, HID headlights, LED taillights and power-folding mirrors.

The Designer Collection package offers two-tone roof and trim, 18-in wheels and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The Exclaim, meanwhile, is eligible for the Panoramic Sunroof package that adds a panoramic sunroof, and the Technology package that brings much of the same equipment as the Plus’ Audio and Primo Lit package plus HID headlights and power-folding side mirrors, but minus the lane-departure and forward-collision warning systems.


The 2018 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). Optional equipment includes forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2018 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 2018 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 latest version 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. The new turbocharged 1.6-liter engine does the trick, but you’ll have to opt for the most expensive trim to get it.

What’s more, the Soul’s maximum of 31 mpg is unimpressive by current standards, where most of the Soul’s competitors are pushing past the 35-mpg mark.

Other Cars to Consider

 2018 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.

 2018 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.

 2018 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 2011-2016 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 Technology package is tempting, but it results in a pricey Soul, so we suggest looking at the Plus model with the Audio package. If you’re looking for more safety features, add the Primo Lit package, which, ironically, is only offered on the middle Plus trim and with limited color choices.

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  1. I love my 2016 Soul, but am so happy I have the 2 litre engine. It performed superbly on a recent 6,000 mile road trip. My only gripe is that the rear seats do not fold flat. That said, the cargo space is impressive and held all my gear for a nearly one month camping trip (admittedly, I travel alone so can even use the front seat area for a cooler and other essentials.

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