Kia Canada sells a version of the Soul compact wagon for as little as $21,195. It’s a rather plain and perfectly sensible runabout wagon, one a little taller than the usual small car. You might overlook it entirely if you saw one in a parking lot.
But there’s not missing the top-end of the Soul model, the Soul GT-Line Limited with its brilliant paint, D-cut sport steering wheel, side sill accents, roof rails, sport bumpers and every bit of fancy equipment Kia sells in the Soul. In all, what Kia’s top designer, Peter Schreyer, once called the South Korean automaker’s answer the German People’s Car (the Volkswagen Beetle), is sold in eight different trim lines and the most embraceable one lists for less than $30,000 – well below the average vehicle transaction price in Canada.
Now all Souls have the same powertrain, the centerpiece of which is a 147-horsepower four-cylinder engine mated to a pulley-and-belt continuously variable transmission or CVT. Old-school gearheads consider CVTs an abomination, in that they lack (shift) feel and don’t require any input form the driver. But car companies like the five per cent fuel economy bump delivered by the typical CVT.
I doubt anyone buying a Soul of any sort, even one with the sporty design and slick pretensions of the Soul GT, care a whit about transmission engagement and feel. They do care about design, and in that, the Soul GT delivers. They also care about infotainment and the look and feel of the cabin. That this version of the Soul is a perfectly pleasant car to drive is something of an afterthought for these shoppers, I think.
The smartphone set will, indeed, not be disappointed with the interior. My tester was stuffed with a 10.25-inch HD colour touchscreen capable of displaying up to three functions at once. It was a car happy to integrate with Android Auto4 and Apple Car Play5 and the Bluetooth6 Multi-Connection proved brilliant. Two of us tied our phones into the same unit. The eight-inch head-up display was handy, too. And sound coming from the 640-watt Harman Kardon7 audio system, with its amplifier and 10 speakers (tuned centre speaker and subwoofer included) was par excellence.
At this point, you’re probably asking: What do the extras add, price-wise? Not a penny. All that I’ve discussed is standard, plus leather upholstery, smart cruise control, a very sharp-looking instrument cluster, wireless phone charger, heated and cooled seats, a heated steering wheel…
So, for 30-large, the fancy Soul with the GT badging and some very interesting mood lighting in the cabin is loaded up like a luxury car.
All the technology pieces are very accessible and easy to operate without cracking the owner’s manual. Millennials, in particular, will find the do-dads have quite familiar form and function – intuitive for those who can’t remember a time when there was no internet.
Meanwhile, boomers will like the slightly elevated ride height, in that it puts the hip point just so, where it’s a slide in, rather than a climb down. The rears have passengers sitting tall and comfortably and the cargo space is pretty generous.
For those who want friendliness and functionality in a city-fied small wagon, one with a superb paint job and from a brand with an increasingly impressive quality reputation, the Soul GT-Line Premium is really something to consider. No, it’s not an SUV (sport-utility vehicle) or even an SUV-pretender. It’s a front-drive runabout based on a formula that puts a premium on features, looks, space, in-car technology and comfort.
It’s the future of the typical everyday car, I think.
2020 Kia Soul GT-Line Limited
Base price: $$29,595. Freight and PDI: $$1,795.
Engine: 2.0-litre I4 (147 horsepower/132 lb-ft of torque), Atkinson Cycle.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.6 city/7.1 hwy using regular fuel.