2018 Kia Soul

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2018 Kia Soul Expert Review

By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor

KBB Expert Rating: 8.6

Since its debut, we’ve loved everything about the Kia Soul except its lack of power. Well, that all changed last year with the introduction of a new turbocharged engine. With more power onboard, the 2018 Kia Soul wagon delivers in every area that matters. Its styling remains fresh and funky, and the interior provides room for five, or two people and a ton of cargo. Kia knows its intending audience is a young one, so Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are along for the ride, too. While the 2018 Kia Soul doesn’t offer the all-wheel-drive capability of the Fiat 500X, Mazda CX-3 or Mini Cooper Countryman, it competes well against the Chevrolet Cruze and Honda Civic hatchbacks, and its 10-year/100,000-mile warranty smokes them all.

You'll Like This Car If...

Kia’s 2018 Soul compact wagon is a tempting choice for anyone seeking a boldly styled, fun-to-drive hatchback that’s as easy on the wallet as it is on gas. Available equipment like a harman/kardon audio system and advanced driver-assist features make the choice all the more easy to live with.

You May Not Like This Car If...

If you need your next compact car to have the year-round driving ability afforded by all-wheel drive, you’ll need to look elsewhere. And, while the 2018 Kia Soul is a competent driver, it lacks the go-kart-like ride and handling of the Mazda3, Honda Civic and Ford Focus.

KBB Expert Ratings

  • 8.6
  • 8.1
  • 7.4
  • 8.5
  • 9.0
  • N/A
2018 Kia Soul Low/wide front photo What's New for 2018

For 2018, the Kia Soul sees the UVO3 infotainment system expanded to the Base Convenience package and made standard on the Soul Plus. The Plus Primo package becomes the Primo Lit package and gains HID headlights, LED positioning lights and a new Wild Orange paint option.

Driving the Soul
2018 Kia Soul Front angle view photo
Driving Impressions

The Soul’s driving experience is on par with similar cars like the Nissan Juke, Chevy Trax and Hyundai Elantra GT, but it’s the turbocharged...

... engine in the 2018 Kia Soul Exclaim that really wakes this car up. The Exclaim’s on-road performance is further enhanced by firmer shock and spring settings along with a big 18-inch wheel/tire package. While we give Kia credit for improving the Soul’s steering feedback, it’s still not up to the standard set by the Honda Civic and Mazda3. Cornering capabilities are better than one would expect from such a tall vehicle, but some of the fun is sapped from the experience by the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. We found it slow to shift, and random surges of power sometimes made us question if the transmission was fully engaged, even when using the Sport setting. And why are there no steering-wheel paddle shifters? Oh well, maybe next year.

Who doesn’t love horsepower? With the 2018 Kia Soul 5-door wagon, you’ll get all the power you need without sacrificing fuel economy. In fact, the turbocharged engine in the Soul Exclaim gets the best fuel economy of the Soul’s three engines. The only penalty is the extra cost, but it’s worth it.

With Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, your infotainment system will always be as up to date as the latest smartphone. Both systems allow you to access everything on your phone, such as the iPhone’s Apple Music or Android’s Google Maps.

2018 Kia Soul Details
2018 Kia Soul Dashboard, center console, gear shifter view photo Interior

The 2018 Kia Soul wagon offers 5-passenger seating, although four will be more comfortable. Upholstery and trim get notably better as you climb the model ladder, with the Soul Exclaim getting contrast stitching on its cloth and leather seats, plus a sporty D-shaped steering wheel. Available dual USB ports allow you to recharge one phone while the other is used for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The Soul's boxy shape provides very good headroom for all passengers, and offers good cargo space, especially when you fold the rear seatbacks down. The pulsating speaker lights are pure whimsy.

2018 Kia Soul photo

You'll still immediately recognize Kia’s Soul for 2018 for what it is, but there are minor tweaks to the exterior that distinguish from the first generation. Front and rear bumpers have changed a bit, with the Soul Plus getting body-color inserts, and the Soul Exclaim getting black. The Exclaim also distinguishes itself from its non-turbo mates with 18-inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust tips, HID headlights and LED fog lights – updating an exterior already known for a quirky blend of function and fashion. The upright styling offers good cargo and passenger space, and the distinctive vertical taillights are practically the car's signature.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

The 2018 Kia Soul comes in three models: Base, Plus (+) and Exclaim (!). Base models include 16-inch alloy wheels, a new drive-mode function, and an updated audio system. They combine with preexisting features: air conditioning, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, 6-way-manual-adjust driver's seat, power windows and door locks and Bluetooth wireless technology. The standard engine is a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder connected to a 6-speed manual transmission, making the base model the only Soul available with a stick. Higher-level models come standard with more, like bigger engines, better interior materials, and larger wheels, including 18-inch alloys on the Exclaim.

Optional Equipment

Options vary by model level, with base models with an automatic transmission offering a Convenience Package that adds the UVO3 infotainment system with a rearview camera, and automatic headlights. Soul Plus offers the Primo Lit package that combines a panoramic sunroof, leather seats with power adjustments and heating and cooling in front, blind-spot detection, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and a bunch of other features. Then there's the Exclaim which, along with the turbo engine, offers a panoramic sunroof and a Technology package that adds most of what's in the Primo Lit package, along with a harman/kardon audio system.

Under the Hood
2018 Kia Soul Engine photo

The Soul Base model gets a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder with a meager 130 horsepower, connected to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic; to say it's sluggish is an understatement. The Soul Plus comes with a more satisfactory 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 161 horsepower connected only to a 6-speed automatic. Last, there’s the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, with its 201 horsepower and 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. All Soul models are front-wheel drive and while all are fairly fuel-efficient, the thriftiest is actually the turbo, and not the base model.

1.6-liter inline-4
130 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
118 lb-ft of torque @ 4,850 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/30 mpg (manual), 25/30 mpg (automatic)

2.0-liter inline-4
161 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
150 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/30 mpg

1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4
201 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
195 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/31 mpg

The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price on the 2018 Kia Soul Base with a manual transmission starts right at $17,000 including the $895 destination charge; add about $1,600 if you want an automatic. We suggest at least the Soul Plus, starting around $21,200 and which offers more power and options as well. If you want turbo power, you'll need $23,700 for the Soul Exclaim. Options add up of course, but even a fully loaded Soul Exclaim is less than $28,000, which is a pretty solid price for a very nicely equipped, uniquely styled and fun-to-drive hatchback. It compares nicely with compact SUVs like the Honda HR-V and Fiat 500X, and against compact hatchbacks like the Honda Civic and Chevy Cruze hatchback. Check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid for their 2018 Kia Soul, and note that resale value is generally very good.

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