2019 Kia Soul! Review: The Party Continues

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Written by Jimmy Dinsmore | January 3, 2019
2019 Kia Soul! Review: The Party Continues

    2019 Kia Soul!

  • Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower: 201
  • Torque (lb-ft.): 195
  • Transmission: 7-speed automatic
  • Drive Configuration: FWD
  • City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 26/31/28
  • Wheelbase (in): 101.2
  • Total Length (in): 163
  • Width (in): 70.9
  • Ground Clearance (in): 5.9
  • Base Price (USD): $22,990
  • Price as Tested (USD): $27,610

In the history of automotive advertising, the Kia Soul hamsters are legendary. The adorable human-sized hamsters that loved to party were the ideal way for Kia to launch this cute and quirky compact car. It showed a youth invasion was coming, and Kia was there to capture the next wave of drivers and car buyers.

Hip hop hamsters aside, Kia was successful in their launch back in 2009. And now, here is the Soul on the cusp of its third generation, and while it’s more mature, it still holds onto its youthful vibe. This week, I drove the 2019 Soul which is the last year of the second generation of this cute compact. The 2020 Soul will take this car even further into maturity with all-wheel drive, and an upgraded EV version, but for now, there’s still plenty to party about this year.

With so many blah designs and lack of distinction on the road, it’s refreshing to see the Soul maintain its uniquely attractive styling. There’s something playful about the Soul’s styling with its round daytime running lights and the small, squinty grille. The side profile is boxy, but the slope of the C pillar gives it a distinctive look and shape. That quirky look continues on the back end with long vertical tail lights that span more than half the height of the vehicle. Circular rear running lights complete the look from front to back.

The Soul’s engine options show its level of maturity. The tame base 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine makes only 130 horsepower, while the mid-grade 2.0-liter makes 161 horses. Thankfully, this 45-year old was able to embrace my heavy-footed younger side with the 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. This one is the quickest with 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft. of torque. The Soul! earns that exclamation point with this fun-to-drive version that hugs the road, offers responsive steering, and nice off-the-line acceleration. There is a little bit of turbo lag in some gears, but otherwise I liked the seven-speed dual clutch transmission. However, the brakes were a little mushy for my liking. The turbocharged, front-wheel drive Soul has an EPA rating of 26 mpg/city and 31 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of mostly suburban driving I averaged 28 mpg.

If there’s one area where the Soul’s maturation is most evident, it’s the five-passenger car’s interior. The Soul’s interior has really improved throughout the years, now offering a high-quality, comfortable cabin. Once again, the Soul! Trim earns its exclamation with leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering and generally the nicest interior in this car’s history. New for 2019 is an upgraded infotainment system and an 8-inch touchscreen. The Harman Kardon sound system would get the hamsters dancing again with bass-pumping quality.

Cargo room is excellent in this compact crossover. There’s 24.2 cubic feet of space behind the back seat, which is well above average for its segment. That cargo area expands to 61.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. However, those seats don’t fold flat, which is the only drawback to the cargo area.

There are three trim levels, plus an EV version. The Base and + trims start under $20,000. My tester was the top-of-the-line Soul! which has a starting price of $22,990. With other options like the Exclaim technology package (which includes the advanced sound system, heated rear seats and youth-inspired speaker lights), cargo net and remote start, my tester had a final MSRP of $27,610.

We all have to grow up eventually. But just as we do, we can still hang onto our youth in many ways. The 2019 Kia Soul holds onto its playful, childish side as it continues to evolve and mature.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist.
Email him at jimmydinsmore73@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @driversside.

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