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While most people know the Kia Soul primarily through its long-running series of divisive ad campaigns featuring pop hits and computer-generated hamsters, there is a surprisingly good car hiding behind all the marketing fluff.
It is a very spacious and comfortable compact hatchback that provides drivers and passengers with excellent seats, nice interior trim, and a modern set of infotainment and technology features. Even more surprisingly, this entire package comes in at well-below the typical price point for the segment, even with a lot of options checked.
Unusual and distinctive, the Kia Soul could be a great choice for your next family vehicle. The 2018 Kia Soul is mostly unchanged from last year, when it saw a mid-cycle refresh that introduced a new look, a new engine, and some more technology to the model. Like in other areas, the trim levels on the Soul are somewhat unusual, with three very different options on offer. In this guide, we go over each one, as well as reviewing the available optional features on each model.
Compare the 2018 Soul base vs + (Plus) Trims. What is the difference?
The base model of the Kia Soul does not have any kind of a special name, being simply the Soul, or the Soul base. The base Soul comes with an entry-level 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 130 horsepower of output. It is sufficient for most driving, but is not particularly exciting and will struggle once you start filling up the large interior with friends and cargo.
It comes with a standard manual transmission, as well as Bluetooth, air conditioning, power locks and windows, and an audio system with satellite radio and a USB port.
A six-speed automatic transmission is an optional feature for this model, and it unlocks the only other available optional package. The Base Convenience Package adds a 7-inch touchscreen running the UVO infotainment system with voice recognition and support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It also adds a rearview camera, automatic headlights, and an automatic digital climate control system. The package is not available on the manual transmission model of the Soul base.
The mid-range trim level of the Soul is officially names +, but is commonly referred to as Plus by everyone outside of Kia itself. The Plus comes with an upgraded engine which displaces 2 liters and raises the car’s power level to 161 horsepower. This engine feels a lot more comfortable on the open road or when the car is full, and comes exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Interestingly enough, it gets the same economy as the smaller engine. Beyond the mechanicals, the Soul Plus also gets all of the features from the Base Convenience Package, as well as 17-inch alloy wheels and nicer interior and exterior trim over the base model.
It also offers significantly more packages. The Designer Collection Package upgrades the wheels to 18-inch ones, and covers the shift knob and steering wheel in leather. It also opens access to several Designer Collection colors that are not available without the package.
The Audio Package upgrades the sound and infotainment systems. This bundle includes an 8-inch touchscreen in lieu of the 7-inch one, a navigation system, push button start with keyless entry, extra USB ports, and Harman/Kardon audio. It also includes the leather-covered steering wheel and shift knob, in addition to a number of additional leatherette and satin interior trim pieces and extra ambient lighting.
Finally, the Primo Lit package upgrades the seating to leather upholstery, adds seat heating in both front and rear rows, power adjustments to the front row, a heated steering wheel, auto-leveling HID headlights, LED exterior lighting, a power moonroof, and a set of active safety features. Those include a forward collision warning system with automatic braking, smart cruise control, lane departure warning, and blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert. This package requires the Audio Package, and transforms the Soul into a very upscale vehicle.
As we’ve already mentioned, Kia has taken a very unique approach to the trim levels with the Soul. While the base model is fairly analogous to the entry-level models of other similar vehicles, the Plus covers most of the rest of the product range. On its own, it is also fairly entry-level, albeit with an upgraded engine, but the Audio Package pushed it into mid-range territory and it becomes a premium model when equipped with the Primo Lit package.
Outside of budget buyers who will like the base model’s low price, the best choice for most will probably be either the base Plus or the Plus with the Audio Package. In either configuration, it is still priced slightly below comparable competitors, while feeling significantly better to drive and offering a much more upscale interior.The Primo Lit package may be a little much for most buyers, but it is still one of the least expensive vehicles in the segment that are equipped with leather and premium features like heated rear seats, though not by much.
Compare the 2018 Kia Soul + (Plus) vs ! (Exclaim) Trim Levels. What is the difference?
The Kia Soul model equipped with the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine is known as the Exclaim, and is the most powerful one with 201 horsepower and a quick 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Leather is standard, as is the premium interior trim, 18-inch wheels, and push button start. The 7-inch touchscreen with UVO is also included on this model.
While this model gets more power and 1 mile per gallon more than the Plus, it also offers a more limited selection of optional packages. The Technology Package for the model includes the 8-inch touchscreen, premium audio, heated and powered seats, and the upgraded Harman/Kardon audio system from the Plus, as well as the blind spot monitors and the HID and LED exterior lighting.
It does not however, include the smart cruise control, automatic emergency braking, or the lane departure warning functions available as options on the Plus. The moonroof is also separate, offered as the Sunroof package that requires the Technology Package.
The Plus and the Exclaim are difficult to compare side by side. The Exclaim offers more features standard compared to the Plus, but ends up with less features overall when fully-equipped and at a slightly higher price. It makes up for these shortcomings with a much more responsive powertrain and slightly better fuel economy.
Ultimately, if you are not particularly interested in having a more powerful vehicle and find your driving enjoyment to be more affected by the features available, then the Plus will probably be the better choice. The same holds true if advanced active safety features are a must-have for you. The only exception is if your only major feature of interest is the leather interior. In that case, a base Exclaim model without optional packages brings the best value.Drivers who are after a little more performance will definitely want to go with the Exclaim, as the extra 41 horsepower do make a noticable difference when you start pushing the Soul to its limits.
Which Trim Level to Choose?
Thanks to the many options available on each trim level and the three engines that are on offer, the 2018 Kia Soul lineup almost feels like it consists of three different cars. The base Soul is an economy hatchback with an optional upgrade that includes some highly demanded connectivity features.
The Soul Plus ranges from a nicer entry-level vehicle to a near-luxury model when equipped with the Primo Lit package. Finally, the Soul Exclaim fills the role of a hot hatch, with its additional power and improved styling, though that comes at the cost of a few options. Budget-oriented drivers will naturally gravitate to the base model, while the comfort-focused ones will prefer the Plus, and the performance enthusiasts will lean towards the Exclaim.
Thanks to the variety available, choosing a Kia Soul that works with your lifestyle is easier than it seems!
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