A decade has passed since the Kia Soul first started turning heads, making a name for itself amongst its other "box-car" rivals. Fast forward to 2019, the Soul still earns its namesake, extruding a sense of style, fun, and character that makes it anything but square. This subcompact crossover SUV brings more than looks to the table too, with three engine options to choose from, sporting either a 1.6-liter (130 horsepower / 118 lb-ft of torque), 2.0-liter (161 hp / 150 lb-ft), or 1.6-liter turbocharged (201 hp / 195 lb-ft) inline-four engine, it offers performance at different price points. With quirk in its corner, the Soul is a strong rival against the likes of Mazda's CX-3 and the Jeep Renegade, in a segment where charm is needed to sway the buying masses.
The 2019 Kia Soul remains largely the same as last year's model, with only minor changes present in the form of features and technology shifting between trims. The base model Soul boasts better standard specification, getting some of the tech and convenience features normally only available on its more expensive Plus and Exclaim trim levels such as automatic on/off headlights and a rearview camera. The base derivative also receives a new paint color - Inferno Red. Economy on the Base model has also improved a fraction when paired with an automatic transmission, albeit only from 27 to 28 mpg. Updates have been kept minor, however, as an all-new Soul is expected later in 2019 as a 2020 model.
The Soul carries a base model price of $16,490 in base trim, excluding tax, registration, licensing, and a $995 destination charge. At the top of the range is the Exclaim trim, with a starting MSRP of $22,990 before options, while splitting the difference is the Plus, with a price in the USA of $20,490. However, with a new model due for 2020 release, there are bound to be deals galore as dealers look to clear their lots for the arrival of the new version, so it pays to shop around.
See trim levels and configurations:
The 2019 Kia Soul handles like a much smaller car than it actually is. Steering inputs feel direct and seldom require correcting, even at highway speeds. Road feedback is also just enough to make the Soul feel predictable but unintrusive enough to allow you to relax when behind the wheel. When sporting the base trim, the manual transmission is very forgiving to drive and gives a heightened sense of control on back roads and through corners. The Plus and Exclaim trim levels also have Drive Mode Select (DMS) as standard, allowing you to engage sport mode if and when the urge arises. Most notably, this stiffens up the steering wheel by a small amount, which makes cornering feel more composed, but doesn't really add anything in the way of communication.
Although the 1.6-liter motor in the base model is sluggish and hampers the car's driving pleasure, the same can't be said of the 2.0-liter and 1.6-liter turbocharged variants. Both have the Soul feeling limber and ready to spring into action, which is just as well, as the Soul's chassis darts in and out of corners with agility, while still feeling refined enough should you drive a little more sedately. Bumps and dips in the road are ironed out well, with the suspension dealing with them more than adequately enough to give the Soul high levels of composure, particularly on the base model. However, moving up the trims and equipping larger wheels tends to unsettle things a little, and sharper jolts permeate the cabin more than is ideal on the 18-inch wheels on the Exclaim.
Larger wheels also tend to drive up the amount of tire noise, which detracts from the otherwise impressive levels of noise damping.
With a good set of standard features, a comprehensive options list, and additional packages that make sense, the 2019 Kia Soul is a good companion for drivers and passengers alike. It offers both fun and practicality, wrapped in a stylish exterior at a very reasonable price point. Compared to its Mazda CX-3 and Jeep Renegade rivals, it's cheaper to buy and maintain but lacks an AWD system and any off-road potential. Kia's Soul makes a compelling argument for itself however, with an excellent warranty period, a reliable track record, and an inexpensive base model for the budget-conscious buyer. However, the base engine is lacking potency, and the higher output engines offer more in terms of both drivability and better gas mileage. On the whole, the Soul is worth a look and nearing the end of the current generation, there are bound to be great deals on offer at the dealers.
The 2019 Kia Soul Plus is the best buy in our opinion. Featuring a 2.0-liter motor and six-speed automatic, it's capable of producing the grunt needed but lacks the outright pace of the turbocharged Exclaim. However, with a plethora of standard features, exclusive packages and body colors to choose from, and a price point that remains exceptional value for money, it really outshines its base model counterpart. We recommend the Primo Package here, as it adds the Audio Package by default, and delivers the best experience all-around. The Exclaim model omits autonomous braking from its features, making it the performance option with a disregard for safety. That said, the base model, despite being at a great price point, lacks some of the qualities that make the Soul fun.
Comparing the Soul to the CX-3 at a base level leaves the Soul both underpowered (130 hp vs 148 hp) and at a loss from a gas mileage standpoint, 24/30/27 mpg to the CX-3's 29/34/31. Furthermore, the CX-3 is available with all-wheel drive, while the Soul isn't. Further up the model ladder, though, the Soul redeems itself, offering extremely good value for money and a pair of more powerful motors that aids the Soul's city-centric demeanor. The Soul also redeems itself inside, boasting more spacious interior accommodation and advanced infotainment options the CX-3 can't match. Cargo capacity for the Soul is also substantially better, with 24.2 cubic feet of space compared to 12.4 cubic feet. The CX-3 is vastly more fun to drive, but the Soul is more practical, and those are the key traits buyers will need to decide between.
The Jeep Renegade has a substantially larger and more powerful motor as standard, with a 180-hp 2.4-liter motor, compared to the Soul's 130 hp from its 1.6-liter. At base trim, the Renegade carries an MSRP of $22,025, finding itself priced just shy of Kia's Exclaim trim, without the features to boot, which gives Soul buyers a little more flexibility in terms of kitting the Soul out, while still undercutting the Renegade. Off-road capability goes the way of the Renegade, however, with no AWD available for the Soul. Cargo capacity is in the Soul's favor too, with only 18.5 cubic feet of cargo space in the Renegade compared to the Soul's 24.2. Ultimately, the Soul is more fun to drive and better equipped, too, but if you need to tackle moderate off-road scenarios, the Renegade lives up to the Jeep badge on its nose and delivers impressively.
The most popular competitors of 2019 Kia Soul: