Back in 2009, when I was introduced to the first generation of the Kia Soul to be offered in the U.S., the company’s product team listed a multiplicity of reasons its new offering would appeal primarily to young people.
It had a distinctive look, they said. It had a booming audio system with illuminated speaker grilles that pulsed to the beat of the music. It was reasonably priced — and — it had a crew of Hip Hop hamsters that were bound to keep youthful eyeballs glued to its marketing campaign.
Fourteen years later, my 85-year-old mom is currently driving her third leased Soul.
Granted, she’s righteously robust for her age; she still works, plays a mean game of Bingo and — she loves her some Kia Soul. She says it’s cute, will carry pretty much anything she needs and the price is unbeatable. In other words, she was won over by the Kia’s deft combination of style, practicality and value.
Turns out, those qualities are appreciated by everyone, not just young people.
Yes, the Kia could be more nimble and powerful, but what it gets right, it gets absolutely right, which is probably why it’s the last of the “box” cars such as Honda’s Element, Nissan’s Cube and Scion’s xB still in showrooms.
As a result, the Kia Soul now occupies a niche unto itself.
Instantly recognizable, the Soul’s iconic silhouette boasts a new grille accented by LED headlights and a revised fog light treatment. Updated Daytime Running Lamps and turn signals complete the freshening of the Kia’s appearance in rear view mirrors.
New 17- and 18-inch alloy wheel treatments, a redesigned tailgate and updated taillights complete the hardware revisions. The Soul also enjoys a pair of new two-tone paint schemes: Clear White with a Fusion Black roof and Surf Blue (seen here) with a Fusion Black roof.
The interior furnishings are paragons of style, quality and thoughtfulness.
A new 10.25-inch touchscreen hosting navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a premium audio system by Harman/Kardon is the centerpiece of the dash treatment. Available features include ambient lighting, wireless smartphone charging, a head-up display, push-button ignition and keyless entry, as well as heating for the seats and steering wheel.
And yes, you can still get the illuminated speakers that pulse in sync with the rhythm of the music they play.
The Kia’s tall profile affords occupants plenty of headroom. Legroom is also remarkably generous, considering the overall length of the Soul. Cargo capacity is plentiful too, even before you fold the rear seat to further expand it. Yes, it would be nice if the rear seatbacks folded flat, but the Soul’s overall capaciousness inclines me to give it a pass in that regard.
Once upon a time, the Kia Soul could be had with a variety of powertrain choices. Among them was an EV as well as a 201-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbocharged ICE.
For the 2023 model year, choices have been reduced to, well, none.
The sole (no pun intended) offering is a 147-hp 2.0-liter normally aspirated 4-cylinder. The engine produces 132 lb-ft of torque and drives the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. Fuel economy for the GT-Line Soul I drove is rated at 28 mpg in the city, 33 on the highway and 30 combined.
Safety and Technology
Standard safety features for the 2023 Kia Soul include: Forward Collision Avoidance Assist; Pedestrian Detection; Lane Keeping Assist + Lane Following Assist; Driver Attention Warning; Lane Departure Warning; High Beam Assist; and Rear Occupant Alert
Available comfort and convenience tech includes satellite radio, traffic updates in real time, nav-based smart cruise control and an electronic parking brake. Both USB-A and USB-C charging ports are offered as well.
Remarkably quiet for a car of its type, the Soul GT-Line also delivers a comfortable ride and a surprising propensity to get up and go, considering the displacement of its engine. Yes, there is the characteristic drone you get from continuously variable transmission-equipped powertrains, but it isn’t unpleasant — at all.
On the other hand, there is a fair amount of body roll in the corners and ultimate grip does leave something to be desired. I expected it to be somewhat better in this regard, given the GT-Line badge the cute little Kia brandishes on its backside. However, the fact remains the Soul was never intended to be a Miata, so it shouldn’t faulted for not handling like one.
In a word, the Kia Soul delivers competence. It’s just sporty enough, just comfortable enough and just interesting enough to avoid have the label bland hung like an albatross around its proverbial neck.
2023 Kia Soul GT-Line Specifications
|Dimension||L: 165.2 inches/W: 70.9 inches/H: 63 inches/Wheelbase: 102.4 inches|
|Powertrain||2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine w/ Atkinson two-motor hybrid; continuously variable transmission|
|Fuel Economy||28 mpg city/33 mpg highway/30 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $19,890; As tested: $23,490 plus $1,325 destination charge.|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
Marching in lock step with the old axiom, “You can a sell a youthful car to older people, but younger people won’t buy a car they deem to be intended for old folks,” the Kia Soul enjoys near universal appeal. With, or without the hard partying hamsters fronting for it, there is much to love about Kia’s most iconic model.
2023 Kia Soul GT-Line – Frequently Asked Questions
Is the 2023 Kia Soul a reliable car?
According to Consumer Reports, the 2023 Kia Soul is anticipated to have average reliability when compared to other new cars.
How long will a 2023 Kia Soul last?
Previous generations of the Soul have easily traveled more than 200,000 miles — given proper maintenance.
Is the Kia Soul high maintenance?
The Kia Soul Reliability Rating is 4.5 out of 5, according to the rating site RepairPal.com. This ranks it third out of seven for subcompact SUVs. The Kia’s average annual repair cost is said to be $437.