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2018 kia Soul

Proving once and for all that it's hip to be square, the Kia Soul stands out from other compacts with a unique look that manages to be both boxy and extremely funky. The affordably priced, hamster-endorsed hatchback also delivers a roomy cabin, ample standard features and numerous optional extras, making it an appealing blend of style and substance.

Overview
Like the distinctive original model, the second-generation Soul is distinguished by a tapered roof line and rising belt line that creates a gentle wedge shape. Fresh touches include reshaped headlights, cleaner flanks and a novel "floating" segment of bodywork inset in black trim below the rear window.

The focus on style continues inside, where a circle-themed design is executed in unusually high-quality materials for the segment. Despite a low starting price, A/C, power windows and locks, and Bluetooth connectivity come standard, and there's a long list of options like a panoramic sunroof, an eight-inch touchscreen and Kia's UVO3 infotainment system.

Due to the Soul's boxy body and tall roof, interior space is ample for four adults, and the cargo area is sufficient for 24.2 cubic feet of gear - nearly as much as larger, more expensive crossover models.

Technical specifications
The Soul powers its front wheels with the buyer's choice of three different four-cylinder engines.

The standard 1.6-liter mill produces 130 horsepower and 118 lb-ft of torque, while those in need of a bit more pickup can spec a 2.0-liter with 161 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque.

The smaller engine comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission and offers an optional six-speed automatic. The 2.0-liter shifts only through the automatic.

For a little bit more pep, buyers can order a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that provides 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. It's offered exclusively with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The most powerful Soul is also the efficiency champ. It returns 26 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 28 mpg in a combined cycle.

Trim level breakdown
Three different trim levels are available for the Soul. They're called base, +, and !, respectively.

The entry-level Soul is equipped with the 1.6-liter four and six-speed manual in addition to Bluetooth connectivity, A/C, power windows and locks, and six-speaker stereo with SiriusXM satellite radio, AUX and USB inputs, and 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps. Options include 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control with steering-wheel-mounted controls, center console armrest and storage, rear center armrest with cup holders, and remote keyless entry.

The Soul+ brings the base optional features the 2.0-liter four and six-speed automatic, 17-inch alloy wheels, UVO eServices, gloss black with chrome bezel front upper grille, and outside mirrors with turn signal indicators.

The Soul! comes standard with the turbo four, 18-inch alloy wheels, UVO3, a keyless ignition, xenon headlights, LED running lights, and a chilled glovebox.

The list of standalone options includes navigation, HD radio, a panoramic sunroof, power-folding mirrors, LED fog lights, HID headlights, and a upgraded sound system. Note some of these options aren't available on the base model.

Occupant safety
All Soul models come standard with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and electronic brake force distribution.

Key Competitors
Those looking for an spacious yet affordable compact with unconventional styling can consider alternatives to the Soul such as the Nissan Kicks.

Additionally, more traditional hatchbacks like the Ford Focus and Mazda Mazda3 also warrant consideration.

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