Design | Comfort | Tech | Performance | Safety | Fuel Economy | Pricing
The Kia Soul has been a quirky standout for the Korean brand since it went on sale back in 2008. The third generation of what the automaker calls its “urban runabout” debuted in 2020, and it’s been refreshed for the 2023 model year.
Kia has tweaked the front and rear styling a bit but more importantly has simplified the lineup from six to four trim levels and offering just one non-turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The off-road–esque X-Line and sporty GT-Line Turbo have been dropped.
A more efficient lineup of Souls remains that goes from affordable to feature-packed. Today we’re testing the GT-Line, the third trim level that’s supposed to project an air of sportiness. There’s not much sport without last year’s turbo, but we still found the Soul an impressively evolved ride at a great price.
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|Quick Stats||2023 Kia Soul GT-Line|
|Output:||147 Horsepower / 132 Pound-Feet|
|Fuel Economy:||28 City / 33 Highway / 30 Combined|
|Base Price:||$19,890 + $1,325 Destination|
Gallery: 2023 Kia Soul GT-Line Review
- Exterior Color: Neptune Blue
- Interior Color: Black SynTex and Cloth
- Wheel Size: 18-inches
Each generation of the Soul’s design has lost a little bit of charm. The first one was all full of bevels and chamfers that gave the cute impression it was wearing a backpack. The 2023 Soul, representing the model’s third generation of styling, is still boxy, but the sheetmetal is smoother than any Soul before it. The implied “backpack” has been reduced to a wide, thin bump out on the rear hatch.
The problem is that the Soul has gone from being identified with cool dancing hamsters to looking like a stormtrooper's helmet. Is it ugly? Not at all, but it’s less interesting and gregarious than the original design.
The interior is another story. The Soul’s interior has gotten better with each generation and the current one is the best to date, with a wide 10.3-inch high-resolution touchscreen display, all-digital gauge cluster, soft-touch plastics, and a little bit of pop in the seat inserts and stitching. The accents are oddly colored in that they don’t go with the exterior color – Neptune Blue, in this case – which is a missed opportunity for coordination.
save over $3,400 on average off MSRP* on a new Kia Soul
- Seating Capacity: 5
- Seating Configuration: 2 / 3
- Cargo Capacity: 24.2 / 62.1 Cubic-Feet
The Soul has truly grown up from being an inexpensive econobox aimed at first-time car owners. The new Soul has been designed for a more mature buyer who values a comfortable ride and quiet driving experience.
Despite its short wheelbase, this small car rides like a bigger one over rough roads thanks to a compliant suspension. Likewise, the engine is impressively quiet for a car in this class. The level of sound and vibration suppression is impressive for this price point.
|Interior Dimensions:||Headroom, Front/Rear:||Legroom, Front/Rear:||Cargo Volume:|
|2023 Kia Soul||38.3 / 39.5 Inches||41.1 / 38.8 Inches||24.2 / 62.1 Cubic Feet|
|2024 Chevrolet Trax||39.6 / 38.1 Inches||41.9 / 38.7 Inches||25.6 / 54.1 Cubic Feet|
|2023 Hyundai Venue||38.4 / 38.6 Inches||41.3 / 34.3 Inches||18.7 / 31.9 Cubic Feet|
|2023 Nissan Kicks||40.4 / 38.5 Inches||43.7 / 33.4 Inches||25.3 / 53.1 Cubic Feet|
The seats are also large and wide, capable of accommodating any size butt or back, and should be great for commutes and long road trips. Likewise, rear seat passengers get impressive leg room for the class at 38.8 inches. Compare that to the 33.4 inches rear seat riders get in the Nissan Kicks. On the spectrum of comfort and performance, Kia has definitely turned the dial towards comfort with this one.
- Center Display: 10.3-inch Touchscreen
- Instrument Cluster Display: 4.2 inches
- Wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto: Yes / Yes
Buying a Soul has always been a way for people on a budget to access luxury and tech features that are usually reserved for higher-priced cars. This new Soul is no exception.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (not wireless, though), heated seats, push-button start, radar-based cruise control, USB A and C ports, wireless charging, the list goes on. Conspicuously absent, though, is a heated steering wheel – a big omission that used to be available on the Soul and which some competitors, like the aforementioned and less expensive Nissan Kicks, still offer. Also missing is the option for a 360-degree camera, which isn’t absolutely necessary with a small car like the Soul but can be useful in any size car.
- Engine: 2.0-Liter I4
- Output: 147 Horsepower / 132 Pound-Feet
- Transmission: Continuously Variable
The Soul wasn’t designed to be a hot hatch or high-performance crossover and never has been. The engine, while well mannered, runs out of power as your foot nears the floor. There’s enough oomph for 95 percent of situations, but having fun on a backroad full of twists falls in that missing five percent.
Still, the continuously variable transmission is well behaved with smooth takeoffs and zero of the “rubber band” behavior for which CVTs are (in)famous. Braking, while not breathtaking, is well-modulated with good linear application and pedal travel length.
This all adds up to the kind of vehicle that’s good for a highway jaunt or errand escapade, but is too soft for enthusiasts to sink their teeth into.
- Driver Assistance Level: SAE Level 2 (Hands-On)
- NHTSA Rating: Four Stars Overall
- IIHS Rating: Not Top Safet Pick/Top Safety Pick Plus
One can’t fault Kia on the safety front. Impressively, the Soul is available with an SAE Level 2 (Hands-On) driver-assist system that both keeps a preset distance from the car in front of you and steers itself inside the lane. It requires a hand on the steering wheel, and the system offers very little feedback on what it’s doing or what it sees, but it’s the kind of basic version of this technology we’re impressed to find in a $20,000 vehicle.
Kia has also made an impressive list of safety features standard this year that used to be optional. That list includes the camera-based forward collision avoidance assist, lane keeping assist, lane following assist, driver attention warning, lane departure warning, high beam assist, and rear occupant alert.
- City: 28 MPG
- Highway: 33 MPG
- Combined: 30 MPG
|2023 Kia Soul||28 MPG||33 MPG||30 MPG|
|2023 Jeep Renegade||23 MPG||29 MPG||26 MPG|
|2023 Mazda CX-30||26 MPG||33 MPG||29 MPG|
|2023 Nissan Kicks||31 MPG||36 MPG||33 MPG|
- Base Price: $19,890 + $1,325 Destination
- Trim Base Price: $24,815
- As-Tested Price: $27,215
The Soul is not the lowest priced crossover SUV you can buy. That distinction goes to the Hyundai Venue ($20,985), with the $21,225 Soul slotting in between it and the redesigned Chevrolet Trax ($21,495) and the $21,775 Nissan Kicks (all prices include the respective automaker's destination charges). Our test car is the GT-Line trim, which starts at $24,815 and is the third of four trim levels right under the range-topping EX.
While it costs a bit more than those other vehicles, the Soul is more refined with higher quality features (just compare the infotainment graphics of the Soul with the Kicks and you’ll see what we mean). While far from a luxury car, it gives economy buyers a taste of the good life at a great price.
Soul Competitor Reviews:
- Chevrolet Trailbalzer: 8.0 / 10
- Chevrolet Trax: Not Rated
- Ford Bronco Sport (non-Badlands): Not Rated
- Ford EcoSport: Not Rated
- Honda HR-V: 8.3 / 10
- Hyundai Kona: Not Rated
- Hyundai Venue: Not Rated
- Jeep Renegade: Not Rated
- Kia Seltos: 8.1 / 10
- Kia Niro: Not Rated
- Nissan Kicks: 8.4 / 10
- Mazda CX-30: 8.3 / 10
2023 Kia Soul GT-Line