Driven: 2017 Kia Soul!

Driven: 2017 Kia Soul!

I think Kia puts the exclamation point in the wrong place. The name of this car should be 2017 Kia Soul Turbo!

2017 Kia Soul! has turbocharged engine | Larry Edsall photos

2017 Kia Soul! has turbocharged engine | Larry Edsall photos

I think Kia puts the exclamation point in the wrong place. The name of this car should be 2017 Kia Soul Turbo!

I’ve always liked the Kia Soul, and the spunky little box on wheels has gotten better and better, not only with each new generation, but with each model- year update.

The car was made popular by using hipster hamsters in its television commercials, and its appeal to the millennial generation was enhanced with big front audio speakers that not only glowed but changed color as they danced tune with the beat to whatever music was playing — and playing loudly.

This Soul! has spunk

This Soul! has spunk

But it wasn’t only young drivers who liked the car. As I said above, and I’m a relatively early post-war Baby Boomer, the car had spunk and was fun to drive, even if you were listening to NPR instead of some electric rock.

And things only got better with the introduction of the second-generation Soul, what with a wider track and better dynamic capabilities.

Now we get not just the Soul, or even the Soul+, but the Soul!, which the automaker says is the symbol for its Soul Exclaim package.

Although there is no “turbo” badging on the car, there is some red trim and apparently signals those in the know that your Soul is powered by a 1.6-liter, gasoline-direct injected four-cylinder engine which has its performance boosted by a turbocharger. Oh, and that engine is linked to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that responds the way you’d want were you flicking a manual gearbox.

In unboosted guise, Kia’s 1.6-liter four pumps out 130 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque. Opt for the + version and you get a 2.0-liter four good for 161 horsepower and 150 pound-feet.

Turbo boosts engine's output to 201 horsepower

Turbo boosts engine’s output to 201 horsepower

But raise your hand for the turbo and you can access 201 horsepower and, at a mere 1,500 rpm, 195 pound-feet of torque.

And that’s not all, The rear track is half an inch wider than up front, where 12-inch brake rotors are mounted to help keep things under control. The car also rides on wider, 18-inch wheels with rather grippy 234/45 tires. It also gets a chromed, twin-tip exhaust system.

Inside, there’s a leather-wrapped, flat-bottomed steering wheel, Kia’s UVO3 infotainment with integrated Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The car also has fog lamps, automatic climate control, a 7-inch touchscreen, rear-view camera, tilt and telescoping steering column and a cargo cover, as well as traction control, electronic stability control, vehicle stability management and hill-start assist

There’s also a button on the steering wheel that lets the driver shift into Sport mode, which not only bumps up rpm but nicely adjusts shift points.

Interior is roomy and comfortable

Interior is roomy and comfortable

The base price is $22,650 and with a little aftermarket suspension work the Soul! could be a real pocket rocket, albeit one that is a terrific vehicle for your daily commute or, with room in the back seat and beneath its rear hatch, a great road-trip machine.

Speaking of trips, I drove for a week, made good use of the Sport mode, and averaged 33.6 miles per gallon in a car that the EPA anticipates would average only 31 on the highway and 28 on average.

Our test car was equipped with an optional panoramic sunroof with power shade ($1,000), and a technology package ($3,000) that includes navigation with an 8-inch screen, 315-watt Harman Kardon premium audio system with eight speakers, the glowing and vibrating speaker lights, LED lighting, power-folding exterior mirrors with blind-spot warning when they’re open and you’re driving, power-adjustable front seats and heated front and outboard rear seats.

Add in optional rear floor mats and delivery charges and the as-tested price is $27,620 for a car that’s a hoot-and-a-half to drive regardless of your generation.

The turbocharged Kia Soul is a car worthy of its exclamation point!

2017 Kia Soul!
Vehicle type: 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback, front-wheel drive
Base price: $22,650 Price as tested: $27,620
Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 201 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm, 195 pound-feet of torque @ 1,500 rpm Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Wheelbase: 101.2 inches Overall length/width: 163.0 inches / 60.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,232 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 26 city / 31 highway / 28 combined
Assembled in: Gwangju, South Korea

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