We generally support the notion that adding power improves any vehicle, even if every automobile shouldn’t rearrange your innards with g-forces in order to be enjoyable. A case in point is the upgraded 2017 Kia Soul, which finally is available with a perky turbocharged engine that not only brings an important boost in performance but an altogether more thoroughly executed feel.
Limited to the range-topping “!” Version (Exclaim, in the Kia-verse), the Soul’s new turbo setup begins at a reasonable $23,695. While that is nearly $7K dearer than the base Soul (and $1545 more than last year’s non-turbo Exclaim), the upcharge comprises Hyundai and Kia’s corporate turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four making 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque–71 horses over the Soul’s standard, naturally aspirated 1.6-liter plus a strong 40 more ponies than the now mid-level 2.0-liter four-cylinder.
The 1.6T’s power assembles smoothly, and its own 1500-rpm torque peak translates into ample midrange grunt. We dig out the raspy fizz from the Turbo’s twin tailpipes, which seems spunky yet won’t draw the eye of aggro dudes in slammed Honda Civics. (Although if they detect the Exclaim-specific red stripe across the lower body, it’s probably on. You’ve been warned.)
The Soul’s turbo engine is paired exclusively with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which does without racy launch-control programming or paddle shifters (manual gearchanges are potential via the console shifter). Despite those omissions and carrying 117 pounds more weight than the last 2.0-liter Soul we tested, our 3202-pound test car hurried to 60 mph a full 2.0 seconds quicker (6.5 seconds versus 8.5), and its 15.1-second quarter-mile pass at 93 mph was better by 1.6 minutes and 9 mph. As an example, in our last comparison evaluation of subcompact crossovers, in which that 2.0-liter 2015 Soul finished second, the victorious Mazda CX-3 could handle only 8.1- and 16.3-second runs.
The 215-hp Nissan Juke NISMO RS paths the Soul Turbo in a direct line, and both it and the CX-3 are notably tighter inside than the Kia. Our test car’s 24-mpg observed fuel economy, but was considerably lower compared to the EPA’s 28-mpg joint rating and 1 mpg less than what we obtained with the 2.0-liter Soul. The 30 mpg that the Turbo returned to our 200-mile street loop also was shy of the EPA’s quote but by only 1 mpg.
Despite the Soul being the only crossover in its competitive set to not offer all-wheel drive (though the business is working to a more traditional small crossover with that attribute), the Kia offers similar quantities of interior space because its rivals, and it is downright cavernous alongside the Mazda CX-3. More important, Kia has imbued the Soul using quite a bit of refinement through the years, including excellent reliability and visibility, heaps of standard and optional equipment, and enough adjustability between the comfy front seats and the tilting and telescoping steering column to match a wide variety of drivers.
Together with a leather-wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel, additional features regular on the turbocharged Exclaim include proximity entry and keyless start, automatic headlights and weather control, dual-surface leather and fabric upholstery, plus a 5.0-inch centre touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
Our loaded example also sported a massive panoramic sunroof ($1000) that effectively made to get an all-glass ceiling. But it was the $3000 Technology package that actually put a polish on our test car. Spring for this option and not only do you receive an 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, blind-spot tracking, and HID headlights, but also a premium Harman/Kardon sound system with speaker lights, LED fog and taillights, power-adjustable and heated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and power-folding outdoor mirrors.
Add $120 for carpeted floor mats and our as-tested total came to $27,815. That is a significant sum for a small car, but it’s one that’s very well equipped for the purchase price. Additionally, the additional grunt beneath the Soul Turbo’s hood has a transformative impact on its own interesting factor, and none of its rivals can match its combination of speed, value, and practicality.