Written by Anne Proffit:
After more than 900 miles, most of them at 70mph or above, the little 2016 Kia Soul in Alien II green went back to its Hamster barn with his oddly yet endearingly colored friends last Wednesday. And he didn’t seem worn out at all by the marathon I put him through. Just like the ads said when they launched the latest generation Soul, this is a “totally transformed” and grown-up Kia Soul.
Kia’s Soul has kept true to its core concept over the years but evolved with the needs of its buyers, going from being a “cute ute” of a box to an all-around excellent conveyance with unique looks, one that acts like a well-bred machine and returns the kind of real-world economy and ecology we’re looking for today.
Even with fuel prices at a decade-low, it’s wise to look at vehicles that are economical over the road. The 2016 Kia Soul Exclaim (!) does a good job with its ratings of 23/31/26 using regular fuel in the 14.2-gallon tank. This Soul now has more than 12,000 miles on it – a lot for a manufacturer’s press vehicle and giving us a real-world visit – and achieves 30mpg on our watch in mixed driving. If the Soul weren’t such a “box”, the mileage might be better – but then it wouldn’t be a Kia Soul!
Much of this economical goodness of Kia’s running gear is due to the direct-injection inline four-cylinder 2-liter engine that puts out 164 horsepower at 6200rpm and 151 lb-ft of torque at 4,000; redline is right around 6,750 rpm, well above both peak power and torque. This Soul has a six-speed, shiftable automatic transmission with excellent gearing that has the engine quietly turning around 2,500 north of 70mph. There is an active ECO mode that dulls throttle response and changes gearing, but with hills on the agenda, it’s best to turn it off.
The strut/torsion beam suspensions are compliant but not too soft and all-wheel disc brakes stop this 2837-pound (base) 5-door wagon quickly and efficiently. The electric power rack-and-pinion steering is precise; there are comfort, normal and sport steering settings and we stayed in sport for the directness provided. This 2016 Kia Soul ! rides on sticky Nexen 235/45R tires with 10-spoke, 18-inch alloy wheels holding them on.
Because the EPA classifies the Soul as a small wagon, we look at how much it can contain under the hatch when packed to the gills. While the behind-rear-seat space is 24.2 cubic feet, it doesn’t always feel that big, due to a high floor – and despite an under-floor compartment for smaller items – but when the rear seats are down, there’s an amazing 61.3 cubic feet of space. With all seats up, we fit a 22-inch suitcase, two large, completely full shopping bags and a big backpack, keeping everything hidden under the hatch. There is no spare tire but an air refill kit is provided.
When we took delivery of the 2016 Kia Soul !, we asked where the kitchen sink was, because this hatch is loaded with options. Starting at $21,615 including freight fees, the sticker on this Soul climaxes at $26,835, thanks to some awesome, technology-based packages.
The two big option packages are each valued at $2,500. The Sun & Sound package includes automatic climate control, an amazing panorama, modestly tilting sunroof with power sunshade. There’s an excellent navigation system with eight-inch screen, Sirius traffic, Infinity audio system and speaker lights that can be changed to fit the driver’s desires for steady or pulsating colors.
The Whole Shebang package includes excellent HID headlights (fogs are standard), pushbutton start/stop (at the base of the central stack next to the shifter – an odd position), leather seating, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear outboard seats, heated steering wheel (lower left of the dash), supervision meter cluster with 4.3-in color LCD and engine immobilizer. Add another $120 for fully carpeted floors and that’s how Kia arrives at the total. Would we change anything? Naw.
The driver’s fully adjustable seat made our long drives very comfortable and being able to alternately burn or chill our bums with three settings was lovely. The heated steering wheel works quickly on a chilly morning. The instrument and information/entertainment array is easy to work with and has no annoying features to it. Navigation offers ease of use and has excellent directions – better than Siri on the iPhone for sure. Syncing the phone was a 10-15-second exercise.
The bright screen has a glossy surround and five options on either side to choose from: on the left are radio, media, UVO, seek and track. The right side has map/voice, navi, phone, info and setup. I’m loving the latest edition of Kia’s UVO eServices, including roadside assistance, vehicle diagnostics, My Car Zone, parking-minded, my POIs, eServices guide and settings.
The Info screen accesses Pandora, apps, the quick guide to this vehicle, climate controls, SiriusXM data and voice commands. The setup screen allows access to navigation, sound, display, phone, UVO eServices, voice recognition, clock and wifi inside the car.
Among the unexpected conveniences on the 2016 Kia Soul ! are the wonderful LED lights inside and front positioning/rear lights, open storage at the base of the central stack with two 12-volt plug-ins, one auxiliary and one USB with a grippy floor below, the cup holders in all four doors and in the central tunnel, the array of soft plastics about the dash area (more hard plastics are in the back), the soft headliner, that wonderful panorama sunroof, the small central closed storage that’s also a good armrest, the rear fold-down armrest/cup holder that keeps two feuding kids from killing one another and the great Infinity audio system with SiriusXM.
Other pleasures are the keyless entry, excellent cruise control, good visibility throughout, steering wheel controls for audio and phone on the left and cruise/trip info/steering mode on the right. The steering wheel itself is a pleasure to hold – even for hours on end. The pulsating speakers are fun, especially at night.
The 2016 Kia Soul ! is a thoroughly grown-up but still cute ute, and it’s got Kia’s great warranty that, these days you’re likely never to need. In addition, safety wonks will note overall five-star ratings for its collision effectiveness. As someone who lives to drive, the 2016 Kia Soul ! goes the distance for me in terms of roadworthiness, excellent manners and technological simplicity, something that’s not easy to achieve.
Words and Photos by Anne Proffit/Video: Kia Motors America