Keep on rolling

For 2018 Kia wants to keep the Soul on top of its seg­ment

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - AUTOMOTIVE - By David Sch­midt Auto Writ­ers Ink If you have any ques­tions, com­ments or ideas, please send them to com­ment@Au­toWrit­er­sInk.com.

Now sev­eral years into its sec­ond gen­er­a­tion, Kia’s Soul adds fea­tures and power to broaden its ap­peal to those who like the tiny cross­over ve­hi­cles for their size rather than their price.

The Kia re­mains quite pop­u­lar and cer­tainly sur­prised Kia when they orig­i­nally in­tro­duced it. They ex­pected it to be some­what of a niche car, and they pre­sumed to go up against the Nis­san Cube when had been re­cently in­tro­duced.

But thanks to its dis­tinc­tive looks – and per­haps be­cause it wasn’t quite as edgy as its equally boxy Nis­san com­peti­tor – it be­came a run­away hit in a seg­ment that keeps grow­ing in sales. Per­haps it would only be fair to com­mend Kia’s truly great mar­ket­ing. Cre­at­ing heat and light about an en­try level car us­ing ham­sters, well, who ’da’ thunk.

The Kia I tested cost a bit more than $27,000 be­cause it was the top-of-the-line Ex­claim. For that there was noth­ing miss­ing: nav­i­ga­tion, leather, plenty of safety fea­tures and as good a con­nec­tiv­ity sys­tem as ex­ists.

The Ex­claim gets you Kia’s tur­bocharged ver­sion of their 1.6-liter in­line-four-cylin­der en­gine. This re­sults in the en­gine cre­at­ing 201 hp. and 195 lb.-ft. of peak torque. In­ter­est­ingly, at 26-mpg city and 31-mpg high­way it is the most fuel ef­fi­cient of all Souls.

This power flows to the 18-in. front wheels through a shiftable, seven-speed, dual-clutch au­to­matic. This is the only tranny avail­able. It was plenty lively – es­pe­cially if you put it into man­ual shift. It is also a smooth shifter which will please those who buy this car but don’t wish to hot-rod around town.

In nor­mal driv­ing, it slipped into as high a gear as quickly and smoothly as it could. It did this mov­ing up through its sev­enth gear if you were on the high­way. In town, it tended to top out in sixth gear, which was a rea­son­able com­pro­mise be­tween ef­fi­ciency and per­for­mance.

The wheels are at­trac­tive and add a bit of edge to the ham­ster­soft image of the Soul. They are shod with all-sea­son 45-pro­file tires. The sus­pen­sion is the same as the other Souls, but Kia says the springs and dampers are tuned dif­fer­ently. The front brake ro­tors are big­ger at 12.0in. al­though the rear clam­pers re­main the same size.

With these fea­tures the per­for­mance of the Soul is a bit live­lier and when you drive it you can feel that this is no base model of an econobox. Granted this is a seg­ment that is driven by price, but among those who are value-ori­ent there are buy­ers who want fea­tures with­out a heavy price. Kia is pretty sure that no mat­ter what cat­e­gory or price a car is, there are cus­tomers who re­ally want their pur­chase loaded.

By of­fer­ing a more pow­er­ful and loaded model, Kia can ap­peal to the “us and them” as­pect of any group of po­ten­tial cus­tomers.

So, the Ex­claim is graced with spe­cific trim and fea­tures. These in­clude the ex­clu­sive 18-in. wheels, red-ac­cented body trim, a chrome grille sur­round, the Soul tail­gate badge and, for the first time on Soul, dual chrome twin-tip ex­hausts.

Inside there’s a stan­dard leather-wrapped, sporty flat­bot­tomed steer­ing wheel, push­but­ton start with a smart key and Kia’s con­nec­tiv­ity sys­tem called UVO. The in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem also comes with in­te­grated An­droid Auto and Ap­ple CarPlay. Sound is driven by a 315-watt Har­man Kar­don pre­mium eight\-speaker au­dio sys­tem, nav­i­ga­tion and you can get an eight-inch touch­screen. You can also opt for rear cross-traf­fic alert and blind-spot de­tec­tion.

The 2018 Soul comes in three trim lev­els. They start with the Base, with ei­ther a man­ual or au­to­matic six-speed trans­mis­sion at $16,100 or $17,700 with the au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. Next is the Soul Plus with the six-speed au­to­matic at $20,300 and the top model Ex­claim which could hit the street at $22,800. Trim Lev­els/Pric­ing3 – MSRP: (ex­cludes $895 des­ti­na­tion)

Chances are that won’t hap­pen, as I said my Ex­claim test car was priced at a bit more than $27,000.; and the Ex­claim turbo with the new seven-speed DCT. The Base model with a man­ual gear­box starts life The Plus starts

Al­though Kia is em­pha­siz­ing the turbo power, that isn’t be­cause it’s now a rocket. Cus­tomers have said for years that they would like a bit more power, and now they can get it.

This isn’t a com­peti­tor of the hot hatch­backs. In­stead it’s a cross­over com­pet­ing with the Mazda CX-3, Chevro­let Trax, Fiat 500X and Honda HR-V, to men­tion a few of the mini cross­over utes. And, oh yes, it is the seg­ments top seller.

Kia hopes adding a turbo will help to spin up sales even fur­ther.

Thanks to Kia Soul’s dis­tinc­tive looks – and per­haps be­cause it wasn’t quite as edgy as its equally boxy Nis­san com­peti­tor – it be­came a run­away hit in a seg­ment that keeps grow­ing in sales.

Inside the Kia Soul is a stan­dard leather-wrapped, sporty flat­bot­tomed steer­ing wheel, push­but­ton start with a smart key and Kia’s con­nec­tiv­ity sys­tem called UVO.

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