The 2023 Kia Soul, the automaker’s boxy-and-funky compact, gets some updates with new driver-assist safety technologies, along with some styling tweaks.
It’s also available as the all-electric Soul EV, but we’re concentrating on the gas-powered version. It comes in five trim levels, starting at $24,395 including a non-negotiable delivery fee of $1,800. Tested here is the top-level GT-Line Limited, which starts at $31,295. Black is the only colour included in the price of any trim, and so my tester’s $250 coat of new-for-2023 Surf Blue brought the price to $31,545 before tax.
The refreshed styling includes new LED headlights and revised taillights, and a smoother rear bumper. The GT-Line Limited gets its own grille, body-coloured bumper, centre exhaust, and a new design for its 18-inch wheels. The Soul’s signature squared-off styling is a personal preference, but I really like it. That boxy shape is practical for headroom and cargo space, as well as standing out on the road.
Inside, changes include a new instrument cluster and steering wheel, and an updated centre stack that includes a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation on the two top trims. Lower levels get an eight-inch display.
The Soul rates the highest “Good” score across crash-tests done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but only four out of five stars by the National United States Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on overall score, front crash rating, and rollover testing.
But while the Soul offers several driver-assist safety technologies, you have to move one up from the base trim to get emergency front braking, blind-spot collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic alert and avoidance assist, and driver attention alert – and many competitors put at least some of those on everything, especially the front braking. You must move up to the GT-Line Limited to further get adaptive cruise control, highway driving assist, and junction turn assist, which activates emergency front braking when there’s oncoming traffic.
The base Soul LX is fairly austere, but does include heated cloth seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, remote keyless entry, automatic headlights, cruise control, and dual-level cargo floor panel. Moving up the ladder adds such items as a heated steering wheel, wireless charger, LED headlights, sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming mirror, and push-button start.
My GT-Line Limited exclusively added a flat-bottom steering wheel, LED fog lights, premium stereo, ventilated power-adjustable front seats, heated rear seats, and leather upholstery. However, it’s worth noting that the 2023 Soul deletes a few previously-available items, including a head-up display and rain-sensing wipers.
User Friendliness: 9/10
It’s easy to get in and out of this little box, and once you’re in it’s equally simple to run everything. The climate control is handled with buttons and dials, as are the seat heaters and drive mode. The infotainment screen has large buttons for pulling up the menus, and they’re simple to figure out as well.
That boxy shape gives the Soul good cargo access, and the dual-height floor panel gives you between 530 and 663 L of space, depending on where you set it. Fold the rear seats, which go almost flat, and you have up to 1,758 L to stash items.
Small-item storage is good for the car’s size as well. There’s a generous open cubby in the centre stack, and it includes an upper shelf for the wireless phone charger. Many vehicles put the charger in the bottom of the cubby, but here you can stash your phone and have room for items below it, instead of piling them on top.
The front seats are supportive and comfortable, and for rear-seat legroom, the Soul outperforms such compact crossovers as the Honda HR-V, Hyundai Venue, and Nissan Kicks. The steering wheel gets nice and warm, and both the heated and ventilated seat functions have three settings.
The Soul’s updates include more sound-deadening but it’s still a fairly noisy ride, with wind and road clamour easily making their way into the cabin. But if that stresses you, the stereo includes a “sounds of nature” feature, which plays a variety of soothing sounds, including ocean waves, rain, forest sounds or a fireplace – or, if you haven’t been out in public for a while, an open-air café.
All trims use a 2.0L four-cylinder engine that makes 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque. Power goes to the front wheels through an automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT). Kia prefers to call it an intelligent variable transmission, but it’s the same thing.
That’s about midrange with some rivals, where the HR-V makes 138 hp, but the Venue and Kicks make 121 and 122 hp, respectively, and only 113 and 114 lb-ft of torque each. The Soul feels quick on acceleration from a stop, and has more than enough passing power if you kick it down firmly. It’s primarily a city car and performs very well in that environment.
Driving Feel: 8/10
The Soul is a fun little car to drive, with quick steering response, a very tight turning circle, and smooth handling. It feels well-planted and isn’t upset by broken pavement or rough roads; acceleration is linear and the CVT is quiet and well-behaved. It’s not a sports car but it is sporty, and it drives and handles better than many of its peers.
Fuel Economy: 8/10
The Soul is officially rated by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) at 8.5 L/100 km in the city, 7.0 on the highway, and 7.9 in combined driving. In my week with it, I averaged 8.9 L/100 km. It takes regular-grade, 87-octane gasoline.
Its combined fuel rating sits mid-pack, where the HR-V rates 8.3 (and at 8.7 if you opt for all-wheel drive), while the Venue rates 7.5, and the Kicks at 7.2. Both of those are front-wheel drive-only, like the Soul.
At a starting price of $24,395, the Soul is pricier than the Venue at $22,374 and the Kicks at $22,668, but lower than the HR-V at $30,680 (all prices including delivery). The Soul EX Premium, second from the top trim, will likely be a volume seller, as it includes the larger infotainment screen, dual-zone climate control, and auto-dimming mirror missing on lower trims, and is $28,995. But if the budget allows it, the $2,300 jump to the GT-Line Limited at $31,295 brings even more, including that premium stereo, upgraded seats, and adaptive cruise control.
I’ve liked the Soul right from its introduction for 2009, when it was far less refined and sometimes seemed gimmicky, including speakers with pulsating, colour-changing lights. It has matured wonderfully, with the 2023 Kia Soul feeling more upscale than many competitors and with an unmistakable presence on the road. It may be small, but it makes a large impression.
|Peak Horsepower||147 hp @ 6,200 rpm|
|Peak Torque||132 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||8.5 / 7.0 / 7.9 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||530–663 / 1,758 L seats up/down|
|Model Tested||2023 Kia Soul GT-Line Limited|
|Price as Tested||$31,645|
$250 – Surf Blue paint, $250