(Contributing Editor: Susan Frissell, Women With Wheels.com, ChicagoNow.com “Girls Go Racing”)

On a roll Korean automaker Kia has effectively used a hip-hopping Hamster family to push its SOUL to small family crossover utility vehicle dominance.

 

Intent on staying at the top the “Cute Ute” heap, the 2017 Soul has been fortified with a “hotter” “Turbo” version.

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WHAT: 2017 Kia Soul Turbo ! 2-Row personal sub-compact Crossover Utility Vehicle.

Standard Power: transverse 1.6L DOHC 16V DI gas I-4 = 130 hp/ 118 lb-ft + 6-spd. torque converter planetary automatic transaxle.

OPTIONAL: A) 2.0L DOHC 16V DI gas I-4 = 161 hp/ 150 lb-ft + upgraded 6-speed automatic. (PLUS variant)

B) intercooled turbocharged 1.6L DOHC 16V DI gas I-4 = 201 hp/ 195 lb-ft + 7-spd. automated dry dual-clutch helical transaxle. (EXCLAIM variant)

WHAT [A] STYLING [DIFFERENCE]: Soul was already an expressive take on the twin-slot bread toaster:  Low front cowl, rising hood-line attaches to monolithic nose broken by low profile bow-tie grille, oversized;  Swept back white LED browed headlamps;  Rising belt-line and seriously raked roof;  Deep sculpted rear quarter flaring into oversized bumper cover;  Tell-tale tall vertical rear lamp housings;

Exclaim Turbo switches from lattice to horizontal theme front fascia;  Rear bumper cover goes shallower;  Red contrast bar connects front fog-lamps & is painted along length of darkened lower rocker panels;  Front & rear lower matte aluminum pseudo skid plates;

WHY: A practically packaged small active family “Cute-Ute” that can make more city green lights.

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Autumn 2016

WHERE: Kia new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: Ulsan , South Korea

HOW ROADWORTHY: Robust 1.6L turbocharged DOHC DI gas 4-cylinder is compromised by boost lag, tepid throttle tip-in; 7-speed automated DCT dry clutch engagement is clunky resulting in jerky launches; Generally inert compliance can lean towards skittish as dampers rebound nervously in response to tautly sprung torsion beam rear-end + 18″-inch alloys; Lean proclivity of less sporty models has been excised; Purposefully hefty electric steering, exhibits intervals of vague input response; Eagerly larger front brake rotors are only hampered by non-linear pedal feel; No exception to rule that Hyundai/ Kia GDI engines sound raucous, but here concealed by hushing cabin susceptible to minimal side mirror wind whistle at excessive speed.

HOW FAR: 24 combined miles per gallon = 15% < base SOUL 1.6L Eco with Idle Stop & Go; Near-zero Fahrenheit ambient operating temperatures and MTBE fortified fuel likely dinged this figure.

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: immense-for-segment cabin fits 5 adult occupants; +1 Rear passenger knees enjoy Mississippi River-width clearance;

HOW USEFUL: Chrome metal load floor skid plate; near flat folding 60/40% split 2nd Row tilting seatbacks; Low cowl & belt-line = +1 Forward visibility & minimized side, rear blind-spots; +1 large front door pockets; Tow Rating: Not Rated.

HOW SAFE: 6 airbags; Rear camera; sonar front & rear Park Assist, Roll Mitigation, Blind spot, rear cross traffic warning.

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Heated driver/ front passenger seats; 10-way / 6-way power driver’s / front passenger’s seats; Heated steering wheel; D-shape heated leather steering wheel with large tactile spoke-integrated controls;

Cool Gizmo(s): Key-fob proximity hands-free power folding wing mirrors;  Panoramic roof; Audio rhythm variable 5-color illuminated front door loudspeaker bezels

Details Done Right: Metallic bezel rotary dials, tipped door switchgear;  Dashboard corner integrated vent – speaker housings Red tandem contrast stitching;  Piano gloss black appliques;

Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Short seat cushions; -1 Sparse leather seat trim,-1 Steering wheel heating switch hidden from view; -1 Red night illumination = vision blurring;

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: 8″ matte capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen; +1 Large icons; Voice command hands-free communications; 3-D SD GPS navigation; Subscription based Sirius XM TravelLink Sports, Weather, Traffic; Fueling; Cinema; Complimentary UVO telematics includes Park Minder, Geo-fencing; ; Robust but overly reflective Harman Kardon audio; UVO-3 Apps: Android Auto, Apple Car Play, Google Local Search, destination import, Siri-Eyes, Pandora, SoundHound, Yelp

USB x 2, 12V x 3; +1 Generous lower center stack mobile device connectivity/ storage;

HOW MUCH: $27,500 = fully loaded 2017 Kia Soul Exclaim Turbo; Just $1500 > 2016 Exclaim adds turbocharged 1.6L engine/ 7-spd. DCT, stiffer springs and upsized front brake rotors and 235-45/18 tire-wheel combo as standard.

WHAT’S MISSING: Smoother transmission; Driver seat/ mirror position memory; 115V outlet, Cabin color contrast; native SMS messaging app; Lane departure forward collision warning + cooled front seat ($4k Primo pkg.) only available on mid-level Plus model; AWD option??

ANY COMPETITION: FIAT 500L: +1 cargo capacity; Honda HR-V: +1 Swiss Army knife 2nd row Magic Seat, fuel economy; MINI Clubman S: +1 “on rails” handling, enthusiast cult following Nissan Juke: +1 Froggy-face cute, fuel economy; Toyota C-HR: +1 streamlined cockpit, standard comprehensive driver assist safety suite.