If you want a versatile daily driver that comes with a good amount of interior space and is not boring to look at, the 2023 KIA Soul should be on your shopping list.
Sometimes normal is the optimal choice. We need to accept the fact that not everyone is a car enthusiast, so we need normal and affordable cars in our lives. With the 2023 Soul, KIA has been offering an affordable car in great packaging. Although KIA calls it a subcompact SUV, it is more of a tall quirky hatchback that offers great fuel economy and comes with the latest tech & safety features.
It is kind of stuck in the middle of being an SUV and a tall hatchback. It does not have any extra ground clearance or rugged looks, so I would consider this a traditional hatchback with more vertical space. The boxy design is what makes the Soul unique since it is first released, giving it a unique look in a market everyone wants to have sportier design language, lower and slopey rooflines, and more aggressive and meaner looks, the Soul just looks like a modern and inoffensive hatchback.
Modern KIA products are a trendsetter when it comes to exterior design, unlike a decade ago where Korean brands were known for being a copycat. They have come a long way regardless even for entry-level entries. One important design feature that hasn’t changed since it was first released is the boxy profile. It has surprisingly good interior space for large adults.
The blue exterior colour, two-tone coloured wheels, and the exhaust tip placed in the middle are the biggest indicators that the Soul is definitely designed for younger demographics. Although I am not a fan of the exhaust tip sticking out in the middle, especially for an economy car, the car looks sharp from all angles. The L-shaped LED headlights are the most distinctive design feature of the vehicle.
The interior design is a great match with the exterior. It is just as quirky, purposeful and lively. It is clear that the Soul is designed for younger people. I do not like the fact that glossy plastic trims are covered the center of the dashboard, as it will get dirty as soon as you leave the dealer lot. However, it’s great to have physical buttons for everything, with KIA’s latest infotainment system, which is known as one of the most intuitive options available.
For a car built to the price point, I think it is a very practical and useful place to spend time. There is no gimmick anywhere in the interior. The windshield is located quite vertically, and due to the high roofline, it gives you excellent visibility. The seats are relatively comfortable, but what is more impressive is that you have tons of space for a small hatchback.
The trunk space is where you start to feel it is not a big vehicle, though it feels much bigger due to the higher roofline. You can still place tall items vertically, but it does not have the depth that you would find in a compact SUV. It is still very impressive for the size of this vehicle. Officially, the Soul offers 24.2 cubic feet (685L) of cargo space behind the rear seats, and it goes up to 62.1 cubic feet (1728L) if you fold them down.
As expected from a budget-oriented compact vehicle, the Soul comes with only one engine and transmission option. It is a naturally aspirated 2.0L 4-cylinder engine that generates 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. It is matched with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) which also has 8 pre-set gear ratios if you want to shift manually. It only sends power to the front wheels and has relatively low ground clearance, that’s why I think the Soul is more of a tall hatchback rather than a subcompact crossover.
Overall the driving experience is what you expect from a compact vehicle. The engine offers a decent amount of power at lower speeds, but it can be a little bit underwhelming on the highway. The CVT does a good job keeping the revs at the right place for optimum torque, but I think the transmission tune is a little bit hyperactive and constantly bumps the revs up and down. The engine is not a direct injection, it has a multi-port injection system which is much better in terms of smoothness, reliability and lower maintenance costs.
So without the direct injection, it is supposed to be a smoother and more silent engine, but you hear a lot of noise coming from the engine bay. This is where you feel cost-cutting measures when you start driving it. However, I found the tire and wind noise is not too bad despite our tester comes with a louder winter tire setup. The suspension tune is also great for any type of road, offering a comfortable ride without being too soft, and the level of refinement is impressive for the price range. The ride quality has come such a long way compared to compact vehicles from a decade ago.
When it comes to the features and everyday driveability, I do not have any critiques. Granted, it is not a brand new platform, but KIA continued to evolve the Soul to make it more competitive. One feature that I love in any modern KIA is the adaptive cruise control with highway driving assist. It simply offers the best lane-centering feature and allows you to keep your hands off the steering wheel on the highway for longer periods of time. The Soul isn’t meant to be a highway crusher, but it is a great “nice-to-have” when needed.
Overall, I think the 2023 KIA Soul has a unique value proposition, and like our tester, the GT-Line Limited trim is the way to go if you want all features available. You will find the modern features carried over from more expensive KIA models, it is good on gas, and is easy to get in & out and drive every day. All of its deficiencies are forgivable considering it is priced just below $30,000 CAD before all taxes and extras, it definitely offers a lot of car for the money.
|Engine||1999cc naturally aspirated 4-cylinder|
|Transmission & Drivetrain||Continuously variable automatic|
|Max power||147 hp @ 6200 rpm|
|Max torque||132 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm|
|0-100 km/h||8.0 sec|
|Curb Weight||2965 lbs – 1340 kg|
|Fuel Economy (Combined)||30 MPG – 7.8L / 100 km|
|Price (as tested)||$29,495 CAD|