2017 Kia Soul Turbo! is turbocharged fun in a usefully tiny package

2017 Kia Soul Turbo

The Kia Soul Turbo is the common name for the Kia Soul ! trim (also called the Exclaim) and it’s new for this year. Kia basically took the well-made little crossover-ish hatchback and added what everybody wanted to see: turbocharging to boost the car’s little inline-four-cylinder over 200 horsepower.

The manufacturer says

It's the Soul you know. It's not the Soul you know. It's what happens when you're not afraid to mess with the formula.

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Kia
  • Year, Model: 2017 Soul Turbo
  • Class, Type: Compact crossover
  • Propulsion system: Turbo i4
  • Base Price: $22,800
  • MSRP as tested: $29,895
  • Availability: Now

Overview

Available only in the top-most trim, the turbocharged engine and its new transmission is what makes this new Kia Soul Turbo the car we loved to drive. The regular Kia Soul in other trim points has its appeal, including good fuel economy, right-sized geometry, and a warranty that is the envy of the industry (10 years, 100,000 miles).

The Kia Soul, as-is, has a great offering with its little 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual or automatic transmission options. The Plus model with its 2.0-liter four-cylinder is a bit better, having 161 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque (versus the 130 hp, 118 lb-ft of the 1.6). The Turbo model takes the 1.6L and turbocharges it to 201 horses and 195 lb-ft. Then adds on a beautifully-done seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

What’s interesting is that the turbocharging and dual-clutch transmission actually make the 1.6L turbocharged Kia Soul Turbo a more fuel efficient car than the other Soul cars in the model line. The regular Soul is EPA rated at 27 mpg combined (25 city, 30 highway) and the 2.0L model is rated at 27 mpg combined as well (24/30). The Kia Soul Turbo is EPA rated at 28 mpg combined, with 26 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

Going with those solid fuel economy returns is a fun driving experience thanks to the quickness and turbo’d fun of the Turbo model. That goes along with the already-versatile Kia Soul design as well. It’s boxy and maybe doesn’t appeal to everyone, but that square build has a lot of bonuses for the Soul’s interior.

The 2017 Kia Soul has good front driver and passenger seats with good adjustability and plenty of head and shoulder room for most occupants. The rear seats are firm, not as supportive, and have the knee room of a compact vehicle, but are good for the class. Kia likely expects that most rear passengers are going to be either children in booster seats or canines who aren’t picky about knee room. For occasional adult use, the rear seating is adequate enough to be useful.

Cargo space is also pretty good in the Kia Soul, despite its tiny size. There are 19 cubic feet of space (most of it vertical) in the Soul’s cargo area when the rear seats are up. Fold them down and it increases to a respectable 61 cubes. We noted that the rear seats don’t fold completely flat, however, so there are limits to that cargo space’s usefulness for some items. We also found the little bin under the cargo floor to be useful for small items that need to be hidden away or kept from being crushed by larger items on top.

What we like

Great price point for the amenities and trim offered.

Fun driving experience that doesn’t kill fuel economy, but actually aids it.

What we don't

Small item storage and places to put things other than drinks are lacking.

Dual-clutch transmission is sometimes a bit noisy at low speeds.

Conclusions

The 2017 Kia Soul Turbo is a fun little car with a lot going for it. It’s fun to drive, versatile enough for most needs in this category, and one of the better daily-use compacts we’ve driven lately. Fuel economy is good (and realistic) despite the fun factor that the turbocharging brings the car. Add in the best warranty in the industry and you’ve got a compelling case for owning a Kia Soul Turbo.

Test Period Length and Limitations
The Kia Soul Turbo was a manufacturer’s media loan for about a week. During that time, a total of 300 miles were put on the car in varied driving conditions and with varied passenger loads.

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