Funky Runabout Gets Turbo Pep
The folks at Kia are a fun bunch. Spend some time with them, and you get the feeling they understand there is more to designing a car than something to make a late-night eggs and milk run. Case in point is giving one of their cars the name “!”…as in Exclaim. So when Clean Fleet Report reserved the 2017 Kia Soul Turbo Exclaim, we did not know if we would be screaming like a kid on a 100-foot dip on a rollercoaster or simply enjoying a bit more punch than the 2016 Soul+ non-turbo we drove recently. While there was no screaming the performance gains were noticeable and appreciated.
Occasionally, when testing a car, one gets the thought that more power would just take it to the next level of enjoyment. With weight and fuel economy now critical factors, getting more power by dropping in a larger engine is no longer the answer. In the case of Kia, getting more power for the 2017 Soul was accomplished by adding a twin-scroll turbocharger to its 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine. The Soul has two other non-turbo engine options–1.6-liter and 2.0-liter four-cylinders (the engines of the base and Plus models, respectively).
Clean Fleet Report drove the front-wheel drive 2017 Soul Exclaim, powered by the 1.6-liter turbo that produced 201 horsepower (hp) and 195 pounds-feet (lb-ft) of torque while running on 87 octane gasoline. Power gets to the wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic that allows for manual shifting. The dual-clutch automatic shifts quickly, which helps with fuel economy, but those gains can be off-set by a heavy foot that activates the turbo too often.
The beauty of a small displacement engine is the potential high fuel mileage numbers. But, if you spend most of your time in the city, rush hour freeway traffic or bopping around on mountain roads, your actual mileage will be less than optimum. And if you opt to shift manually, then the added rpm between shifts will make your drive more spirited, but lead to sipping more gasoline. When I first learned to drive, the instructor told us to pretend there was a raw egg between our foot and the accelerator pedal to get smooth and efficient performance. Keep this in mind when driving any turbocharged engine, not just the Soul Exclaim.
The 2017 Kia Soul Exclaim has an EPA rating of 26 city/31 highway/28 combined, with Clean Fleet Report averaging 30.5 mpg over 447 miles of driving throughout Southern California–mostly on highways averaging 65 mph. For comparison, fuel economy is almost identical (but a bit less than the turbo) for the 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter non-turbo engines, at 24 city/30 highway/27 combined. However, if you are interested in not burning any gasoline at all, you should take a look at the 2016 Kia Soul EV that Clean Fleet Report gave high marks to in a recent review.
Driving Experience: On The Road
The additional 40 hp and 45 lb-ft of torque compared to the 2.0-liter engine is very welcome. After a bit of turbo lag when launching from a stop, the acceleration kicks in, and the fun begins. Though not to be confused with a Volkswagen GTI’s performance, the Soul Exclaim did not disappoint, providing plenty of spirit and pep. With the torque kicking-in at a very useful 1,500 rpm and the seven-speed automatic finding the right gear quickly, putting the Soul Exclaim through its paces made for a good driving experience.
The Kia Soul Exclaim weighs in at 3,232 lbs. which felt evenly distributed, well-planted to the road and never heavy during acceleration, stopping or cornering. Contributing to the sprightly
handling were standard 18-inch alloy wheels and 235/45-R18 all-season tires, plus rack and pinion with an electric motor steering system. Front independent MacPherson struts, rear coupled torsion beam suspension and gas-filled shocks all-around complete the package. Technology also is part of ride and handling with electronic stability control and vehicle stability management.
The Soul is taller than most hatchbacks, but it never felt top heavy during cornering or quick maneuvers at highway speeds, and there was little body roll or leaning that might be expected from a tall car. The Soul has two driving options, Normal and Sport, with the Sport the tightest and most responsive of the two. When selecting the Sport mode, dash readouts add torque and boost gauges. Going against the preconceived idea that a small car can’t deliver a smooth and quiet ride, the Kia Soul does just that with a comfortable ride and low road and wind noise.
Stopping comes from front and rear active hydraulic boost-assisted, vented front and solid rear disc brakes, with ABS and brake assist. Rear disc brakes on a car of this size is a rarity. The stops were straight and, after repeated stops from 60 mph, there was no pedal fade.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The distinctive Soul Exclaim has a very recognizable look and profile, even more so for our test vehicle painted in Wild Orange. An upright windshield and a flat, but slightly slanted, roof ends in a near vertical rear hatch and large LED rear taillights. Twin bright exhaust tips finish off the rear. Up front on the Exclaim model you will find black gloss bumper “tusks” and a lower air intake with LED fog lights on the outer corners of the fascia. Our Exclaim had high intensity discharge (HID) headlights, separated by a narrow grille, that were flush and wrap the fenders. The turbo part of the Exclaim is stealth, as it takes a close eye to spot the word “Soul” in red on the hatch – the only indication that a sleeper is next to you.
Driving Experience: Interior
Kia takes pride in offering cars that are well-built and come with many features standard. This holds true for the 2017 Soul, where the base model includes a SiriusXM/FM/CD/AM/MP3/USB sound system, Bluetooth, A/C and power windows. Move up to the Exclaim trim level Clean Fleet Report was driving, and add on a couple of option packages, and the feature list is equal to cars costing many thousands more.
Our 2017 Kia Soul Exclaim had the optional Technology Package that came with an excellent six-speaker Harman Kardon audio system (with subwoofer and external amplifier) that included SiriusXM/FM/CD/AMHD with MP3 playback capability. It also had Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. An eight-inch display gave life to the voice-command navigation as well as the rear back-up camera. Bluetooth for hands-free telephone and audio operations was controlled by the multi-function steering wheel. Oh, and don’t forget the very cool speaker lights. These lights surround the round, front door speakers and are controlled by a dash knob that allows for a red light to pulse with the audio or multi-colors that change at a regular interval. Necessary, no…but cool none the less.
The cockpit design is driver-friendly with the gauges in easy sight, and the controls handy to reach. Convenience features include power windows and outside mirrors, panoramic sunroof, USB and AUX jacks, heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise control, push-button start/stop, automatic climate control, tilt and telescopic steering column, remote keyless entry, carpeted floor mats, cargo cover and Kia’s UVO Infotainment system.
Our leather and cloth seats gave a high seating position for the driver with very good outward front and side visibility. Rear sight lines are a bit compromised by the wide rear pillars, but our Soul had blind sport detection (part of the Technology Package) that worked as promised by alerting when a car was in a neighboring lane.
The Exclaim had comfortable seating for four full-size adults, starting with an optional 10-way power and heated driver seat, with six-way for the front passenger. The front seats have three level heat adjustments that get toasty real fast. Rounding out the front seating experience is a large armrest console with storage bin and reading lights and a lighted sun visor vanity mirror.
The rear seat (where the outer seats are heated–a rare feature on this size vehicle) is divided by a folding armrest with cupholders, and splits 60/40. Cup holders abound throughout the cabin and the soft-touch dash and upper door panels, with satin chrome and black glossy trim, had a good look and feel. The rear seating area, with leg and headroom good for up-to-six-footers, gets an HVAC vent and reading lamps.
The 2017 Kia Soul comes in four models with these base prices:
Soul Base 1.6L with 6-speed M/T $16,100
Soul Base 1.6L with 6-speed A/T $17,700
Soul+ 2.0L with 6-speed A/T $19,800
Soul Exclaim 1.6LT with 7-speed A/T $22,800
Clean Fleet Report’s 2017 Soul Exclaim with options of the panoramic sunroof, carpeted floor mats and the Technology Package brought the MSRP to $26,770. All prices listed do not include the freight and handling fee of $850.
Kia has equipped the Soul with active and passive safety features including six air bags, tire pressure monitoring system, hill start assist control, and the before mentioned 4-wheel disc with ABS.
The 2016 Kia Soul has an Overall 5-Star National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) rating and a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which is the top ranking from both organizations.
The 2017 Soul comes with these warranties:
- Powertrain – 10 years/100,000 miles
- Basic – Five years/60,000 miles
- Roadside Assistance – Five years/60,000 miles
- Anti-Perforation – Five years/100,000 miles
Observations: 2017 Kia Soul Exclaim
Kia says that it is “hard to make something great even better.” They pretty much back-up this bodacious statement by adding a turbocharger to the 2017 Soul Exclaim, giving it an additional 40 hp and 45 lb-ft. of torque more than the previously most powerful Soul engine. A good start, but mating it with the slick seven-speed dual clutch automatic probably got it close to the great level.
The 2017 Kia Soul is an affordable car in any of the four trim levels. Go for the turbocharged Exclaim with optional packages, and you have a fun and practical small hatchback/wagon or, as Kia calls it, their “funky urban runabout.” The Soul has an unique style, excellent passenger and storage space, is easy to drive and park, has a great warranty and top safety ratings. Simply, a good all-around car.
With a low base price and reasonably priced option packages, you will be able to configure a Kia Soul that fits your lifestyle and won’t break the budget doing so.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
Related Stories You Might Enjoy:
Road Test: 2016 Kia Soul +
Road Test: 2016 Kia Soul EV
First Drive: 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid
Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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