by Larry Lark, Herald Special Sections Writer
If you love funky, power, fun, versatility and gas mileage, the 2017 Kia Soul Exclaim (!) with its brand-spanking-new 1.6-liter turbocharge GDI engine will turn your crank.
Soul has become one of Kia’s best-selling, most-iconic and beloved vehicles in the South Korean automaker’s lineup. And with the addition of some midcycle tweaks that includes 40 more horsepower (201 total) and 45 lb.-ft. more of torque – there’s only more to love.
You can even chirp the tires, for crying out loud. Acceleration is immediate – without hesitation – from standing starts and through cruising speed. Performance is further enhanced with a new seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission that induces quick shifts and even more dynamic acceleration.
Of course, specialized trim and more upscale sportier features have been added to to complete the seduction. Soul has also been ranked tops in quality in its segment for the third straight year – another reason it has won the hearts of so many U.S. consumers.
“We wanted to provide loyal Soul lovers and new buyers a sportier option,” said Orth Hedrick, vice president, product planning KMA. “The 2017 Soul Exclaim with its turbocharged engine gives the car’s fans another wonderful choice from an already wonderful line-up.”
For the uninformed, Soul is a front-engine, frontwheel drive, five-door, small crossover vehicle that seats five adults, provides a decent-sized cargo hold and delivers close to 28 miles per gallon fuel economy in a combination of city/highway driving. It is the top-selling vehicle in this market niche.
The driver gets a commanding view of the road for a smallish ride, and visibility all around is better than average. Soul zips in and out of traffic in a heartbeat, is easy to park, and rides and handles smoothly.
The 2017 Soul is available in three trim levels: Base with manual or automatic six-speed transmission; Soul Plus with the six-speed automatic, and my tester – the Soul Exclaim. There are also two new exterior colors, redesigned headlights and fog lights, along with front and rear fascias that lend a more aggressive appearance while the availability of two dedicated USB charge ports and an eight-way power passenger seat add convenience and comfort.
The Exclaim includes specialized trim and sportier features, include exclusive 18-inch wheels, red-accented body trim, chrome grille surround, unique Soul tailgate badge, and — for the first time on Soul — dual chrome twin-tip exhaust.
An extensive list of standard features will make this a commuter favorite, as well as weekend warrior. Creature comforts include a standard, flat-bottom, leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel, push-button start with smart key, and a head- thumping 315-watt Harman Kardon premium audio system with eight speakers, including a center channel and sub-woofer, navigation and eight-inch touchscreen display.
Other new options for the 2017 model year are convenience systems such as rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot detection.
2017 KIA SOUL EXCLAIM
BASE PRICE: $22,650
AS TESTED: $27,620
Base price includes destination charge. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturer. Prices may vary at local dealerships.