What the experts say about the 2017 Kia Soul

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In this ongoing series, Boston.com talks with automotive authorities about why you should consider driving — or avoiding — a specific model.

2017 Kia Soul

The Kia Soul, which has grabbed attention since it launched nearly a decade ago, was the Korean automaker’s best-selling model last year. The improved 2017 version of the five-passenger crossover delivers an upscale interior, spacious cabin, and advanced safety and technology features for one of the lowest starting prices on the market.

The Soul’s well-equipped base model comes with Bluetooth, a USB port, and satellite radio, which is unusual for the vehicle’s $16,000 starting price. The top trim comes standard with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and new-for-2017 Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. Kia’s UVO infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen and an eight-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system are available.

The front-wheel drive crossover offers a comfortable but not particularly powerful ride. The base model comes standard with a 130-horsepower, 1.6-liter engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Buyers can upgrade to a six-speed automatic transmission for an additional $1,600. The Soul Plus trim comes with a 161-horsepower, 2.0-liter engine and the six-speed automatic transmission. The top-of-the-line Soul Exclaim packs a more impressive performance: Its 1.6-liter turbocharged engine delivers 201 horsepower and is paired with a smooth-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. An all-electric model is also available.

The Soul boasts excellent safety scores, earning top honors from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Optional rear cross traffic alert and blind spot detection are new for 2017, but those features are not available on the base trim.

The Soul starts at $16,100. The mid-grade Soul Plus trim begins at $19,800 and the top-tier Exclaim starts at $22,800.

What the experts are saying

Swiss Army knife versatility

“The Kia Soul can be a lot of things to a lot of people. On one hand, it’s great as a small crossover alternative with tons of space for people and things, wrapped in a more stylish, expressive package than your traditional crossover utility vehicle. It’s also affordable – about the same price as a compact sedan – but far more functional. Plus, Kia offers a full suite of premium amenities and infotainment technology. It can do work as a comfortable cruiser or as a modern workspace. With its Swiss Army knife usability and standout style, it’s no wonder the Soul was Kia’s best-selling car in 2016.” – Steven Ewing, managing editor at Motor1

Iconic and affordable

“The Kia Soul has an unusual role in that it resides near the entry point to the Kia brand, yet it is undeniably the brand’s icon and halo vehicle. It communicates loud and clear what the brand is supposed to be about – and that is a role usually reserved for a high-priced offering within a brand lineup. The fact that it is the brand’s icon despite its entry-level positioning is testament to the car’s strengths. First and foremost, there’s the car’s fun and cheeky styling. Boxy cars like the Scion xB and Nissan Cube have been done before, but none have had quite the appeal of the Soul. Secondly, that styling is complemented by a really roomy and functional interior. Its elevated seating means a great view of the road and ease of getting in and out.” – Ed Kim, vice president of industry analysis at marketing research and consulting firm AutoPacific

Bigger and better than before

“Kia has come a long way since the Soul was introduced to us, and the 2017 Soul has done a lot of growing up. The design is much more sophisticated. The lines of the vehicle are sharp, muscular, and sporty, versus the previous design that was a lot rounder. Everything that everyone loved about the previous generation Soul is still there; it’s now just bigger and more sophisticated. The demand for the Soul has been tremendous, and we see buyers from all walks of life. We actually get a lot of business owners who say that the cargo volume is perfect for delivery businesses and that the exterior is great for advertising wraps because it’s so unique.” – Senee O’Connell, general manager for Herb Chambers Kia of Burlington