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Review of: 2016 Kia Soul 5dr Wgn Auto LX

6.5

2016 Kia Soul: Basic in a box

By Chris Chase

Dec. 19, 2016

Kia is known for loading even its entry-level vehicles up with kit in upper trims that challenge more luxurious vehicles at bargain prices. But every one of those entry-level models comes in a true entry-level trim, too, like the Kia Soul LX.

Soul pricing starts at $17,195 for 2016, an MSRP that gets get you an LX model with a 1.6L four-cylinder engine and manual transmission. The list of standard kit is short, but includes some useful things, like heated side mirrors, Bluetooth, tilt-and-telescopic steering, trip computer and fog lights.

Our tester is an LX auto, which, along with a six-speed automatic transmission, adds air conditioning and keyless entry, for $19,895.

Pros & Cons

  • + Styling
  • + Price
  • + Interior space
  • - No cutting-edge technology
  • - Steering feel
  • - Not particularly powerful
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  • Walkaround

    The nice thing about the Soul is its boxy styling still stands out and still makes what is very much an economy car look more exotic than it really is.

    The only thing that looks cheap on LX models are the decidedly unsexy steel wheels (16-inch) with plastic covers. But though these are the smallest wheels offered, they don’t look tiny relative to the car’s body.

    7.5Good
  • Interior

    For obvious reasons, generous headroom is a highlight of the Soul’s interior, especially in a basic model sans sunroof. But despite sharing a platform with the little Rio subcompact, the Soul also boasts respectable, if not incredible, legroom for four adults.

    The other thing we like is how the upright rear creates a cargo area that can swallow 530 litres of stuff with the rear seats in place.

    At this price point, interior materials are functional rather than pretty. It’s all about low-gloss black plastic here; if you want a bit more flash, move up to the EX trim with its gloss black centre stack and console accents. Heated front seats show up in the LX+ (which, strangely, only comes with the stickshift) and remain standard the rest of the way up the range.

    7.4Good
  • Tech

    As we mentioned up top, the Soul’s list of standard tech stuff is pretty short. You get Bluetooth and a USB input for the stereo, and with the automatic transmission, Kia throws in keyless entry.

    If you want Kia’s UVO infotainment system, once again, you have go to for the mid-level EX model. Navigation doesn’t become part of the deal until you reach the top-end SX.

    4.0Poor
  • Driving

    We’ve spent most of our Soul seat time in uplevel models with the 2.0L engine; LX trim gets a 1.6L whose 130 hp and 118 lb-ft of torque are down 34 and 33, respectively, compared to the larger engine.

    It’s only in highway driving where you’ll really notice that deficit. The 1.6 is happy to rev and moves the Soul just fine around town, but quickly runs out of breath on the highway, particularly on significant uphills and in passing maneuvers.

    Don’t get the 1.6 thinking it’ll save you much gas: fuel consumption estimates for both engines are quite similar, at 9.8 L/100 km in city driving for both, and the 1.6L with the automatic is actually rated a little thirstier than the 2.0L on the highway, at 7.8 L/100 km.

    Soul’s economy car origins mean it’s not a sporty drive. The steering is numb, and while handling is agile enough, you reach the suspension’s limits quickly. Ride comfort is good, but again, the car’s econo-box roots mean that loading it up with four adults and a bit of luggage pretty well maxes out the rear suspension’s load capacity, leading to some bottoming out on rough roads, particularly at highway speeds.

    Credit where credit is due: Our tester (to which we gained access outside the normal channels for this sort of thing) had more than 50,000 km on its odometer and was still free of creaks and rattles.

    6.3Okay
  • Value

    At one point, the Soul faced a number of competitors from the likes of Nissan’s Cube and the Scion xB, but the latter disappeared earlier this year when Scion shut its doors and the former is long gone.

    That leaves the ungainly Fiat 500L as the Soul’s only true competitor as a tall wagon that slots in somewhere between compact hatchbacks and little vans like Kia’s own Rondo and the Mazda5.

    The 500L doesn’t look anywhere near this good, but it has more trunk space and rear seats that slide fore and aft for greater interior flexibility. It also gets a standard touchscreen interface. But it’s more expensive, at about $22,000 to start, so we’d call the value comparison a wash, and that’s if you ignore the fact the Soul is the better looker by far.

    We’d argue you’ll find better value in the Soul’s mid-range EX trim, which gets more standard kit at a still-palatable price.

    7.2Good
  • Conclusion

    The Soul’s appearance is its main draw, along with how that styling translates into a useful interior inside of a truly compact footprint. It’s definitely not as interesting to drive as it looks, but the Soul is a very charming little car that we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend if you’re in the market for something a little bit different that’s still practical enough for everyday driving.

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