With last year’s turbocharged personality implant a successful operation, the 2018 Kia Soul takes a year off from big change.
Offered in base Kia Soul, Plus and Exclaim models, it’s still among our favorite compact hatchbacks, as much for its versatility as for its style. Still, we think the newly available automatic emergency braking should be offered on more trim levels—and a rearview camera should be made standard.
We give the 2018 Soul a 6.8 out of 10. It’s let down by meager base content and those safety omissions. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Review continues below
Heavy on style, the boxy and compact Soul has real flair. The shape’s been around for a while, but it’s still fresh thanks to a chunky set of body panels and a high roofline. The interior’s more subdued, but for its price, it’s a high-quality environment.
Skip the poky base 1.6-liter inline-4; it’s sluggish and has tiny 16-inch wheels, and you’ll pay lots more to give it a rearview camera. The mid-range 2.0-liter inline-4 has 161 horsepower and a 6-speed automatic, and it’s perky enough despite a transmission that hunts too much at highway speeds. We’re more enthusiastic about the gutsy 1.6-liter turbo-4 and its 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, but it’s not offered with automatic emergency braking. No matter which Soul you buy, the ride is somewhat stiff and steering isn’t full of feedback, but the car still feels composed, not busy or twitchy.
The Soul’s best asset is packaging that grants four adults ample space, especially head room, from a compact footprint. The 63-plus cubic feet of storage behind the front seats maintains up to 24 cubic feet behind the rear seats. Three people will fit across the back seat, tight at the shoulders but well-supplied for leg room.
On the safety front, the Kia Soul earns good crash-test scores, but the continued absence of a standard rearview camera on all models brings its score down here, as does the optional forward-collision warnings and automatic emergency braking available only on a single model.
Other features include standard Bluetooth, satellite radio, and air conditioning, but cruise control also is an option. Kia bundles features like its excellent Uvo infotainment system in packages, and leather and ventilated seats and a sunroof are among the options, but when the Soul spins past the $25,000 mark, the value proposition wanes sharply.