Despite its polarizing “boxiness,” the Kia Soul has gained a loyal fan base over the years, and has easily become one of the Korean carmaker’s best selling vehicles. Of course you don’t obtain loyal fans without listening to them, and that’s just what Kia has done with the new Soul! (Exclaim).
Kia Soul enthusiasts have been clamoring for a little more power, and they now get it with the turbocharged Exclaim giving you 201 horsepower to play with—40 more than the Soul’s + (Plus) trim and 71 more than the base trim.
I had the opportunity to spend some time with the new Kia. From the rain-drenched roads of an hour-and-a-half-long commute to a sunny drive along the Pacific Coast, the Exclaim showed all of its Soul.
Since the Soul has been on the roads, experts and owners have tried to pin down the car’s identity.
Is it a hatchback?
Is it a crossover SUV?
The Exclaim doesn’t quite help with the answer, because although you definitely see the vehicle’s utility when you first sit in it, the drive feels like sportier hatchbacks while still falling short of really competing with them.
Of course, there is no identity crisis with Kia officials, who continue to absolutely claim that the Soul is a crossover (Kia could probably get just about everybody on board with this if they offered the Soul with an all-wheel drive option). The Exclaim might not be a classic hatchback. Perhaps it could just be called a crossover Sport(ier) Utility Vehicle.
The power of the Soul Exclaim comes from its 1.6-liter turbo engine, which is also used in several Hyundai and other Kia models.
The Exclaim comes with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT), which does live up to its promise of quick and smooth shifting (6-speed manual transmission is only available in the Soul’s base trim). As with typical DCTs, you can switch over to a manual mode to gain some control over the shifting, but many drivers might notice the absence of paddle shifters as the shifting controls are left on the gear stick.
An added bonus to the DCT’s efficiency is improved MPG. The Exclaim beats out the Soul’s Base and Plus trims with its city and highway combined 28 MPG.
From the steering wheel controls, you can switch between normal, Eco, and Sport driving options. Most of the fun can be had in Sport mode, where the engine growls a little deeper and stronger, and the DCT performs at its peak.
Stopping all this new power? Larger front-disc brakes available only for the Exclaim.
There aren’t too many dramatic changes in the Exclaim’s interior; it certainly feels like a Kia Soul on the inside.
Still, there are a few touches that do help with the sportiness of the vehicle, such as the leather trimming throughout, and the leather-wrapped D-shaped steering wheel.
Also standard in the Exclaim is its UVO3 infotainment system which is Android Auto and Apple Carplay ready (optional in the Plus trim) accompanied by a more than adequate sound system. Most controls are available on the center touch screen, with some basic controls at the steering wheel.
The Soul Exclaim also comes with a push button start with smart key system (not available in the lower trims).
Here’s where the Soul has always been the most polarizing. It seems that people think the Soul is either stylish and quirky, or a “toaster on wheels.” Through the years, however, the Soul has managed to win more and more people over and is arguably the best looking of any other boxy cars out there.
The Exclaim punches up the style with trim-exclusive sporty red body trim, black gloss bumpers, and a chrome twin-tipped exhaust—all sitting on 18” alloy wheels, giving the Exclaim a bit more of a stronger stance than the Soul’s lower trims.
The Soul is already highly regarded for its safety features, and it’s not very big news that safety remains a priority in the newer Souls. Blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert is available as an option on the Exclaim (though my test model did not have these features).
The Exclaim is a solid addition to the Soul family. While it may not totally appeal to the extremely power-hungry driver, the additional horsepower is sure to appease Soul fans who have been wanting the extra zip, and can potentially win over anyone who was on the fence about the Soul.
With a starting MSRP of $22,800, the Soul! can be had with all options installed at a relative bargain under $30,000, making it a very strong contender for anyone wanting sport, utility, and soul.