For 2017, Kia has made just a few very small efficiency, style and feature changes to the Soul that make the charming little box just a little bit better and a tad more appealing than it already was. Oh yeah, and the automaker made one massive change: the addition of a top-trim Turbo model, complete with a more powerful 201-horsepower turbocharged engine.
I hit the road in the 2017 Kia Soul Turbo Exclaim near our San Francisco offices to see just how much difference 40 more ponies made to my opinion of the compact SUV.
Across the Soul lineup, the Kia Soul’s Base, Plus and Exclaim trim levels get new wheel designs and a slight visual refresh that features new headlight and bumper designs. The new look is so subtle, I couldn’t even spot the changes without a side-by-side comparison with a 2016 model, which is fine by me. I think the Soul was already a decent-looking ride.
In the cabin, the ’17 Soul can now be had with the newest-generation UVO3 dashboard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Users interact via either a 7- or 8-inch color touchscreen depending on options chosen. The majority of my testing was done with Android Auto onscreen, but I was impressed with the simplicity and fluidity of Kia’s onboard navigation.
My sole annoyance with the UVO3 system is a minor one. The in-dash USB port that you connect a smartphone to seems to use older, low power for charging. As a result, my phone would would slowly drain when plugged in, ending extended driving session with less power than I plugged in with. I’ve not had this problem with most other systems.
Also new to the Soul’s options list is an eight-speaker, 315-watt Harman Kardon audio system, a first for the model. On the road, it’s loud and clear — maybe not at audiophile levels, but good enough for popular music — and still features “mood lighting” illuminated grille surrounds that interact with the sound, subtly pulsing to the beat of the music.
An optional eight-way power passenger seat, two new high-speed USB center console chargers and automatic climate controls are welcome additions to the upper Plus and Exclaim trim levels. Optional blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert bring the Soul’s safety tech into the modern age. Normally, here is where I’d lament the lack of more advanced features like adaptive cruise, autonomous emergency braking or lane keeping assist, but features like those are still rare at this price point, where buyers are more sensitive to additional charges.
Careful study of the fuel economy sticker also reveals a single city miles-per-gallon bump for the 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter models, but let’s be honest: You’re here about the new Turbo.
The top-tier Exclaim trim level is now powered by the Hyundai Motor Group’s Gamma 1.6-liter turbo, which you may recognize from the Kia Forte Koup SX.and