One in an occasional series reviewing consumer vehicles.
I knew pretty much what I was stepping into when I climbed behind the wheel of a 2017 Kia Soul !, having last test driven the electric version.
The gas version would be put to the test by what normally would have been a two-hour weekend trip to Julian that took an extra hour because of rain, heavy traffic on the San Diego Freeway starting about San Juan Capistrano-ish and a circuitous GPS-suggested route that could have very well been the robots fucking with us. (Again!)
As I had been with the EV, I was pleasantly surprised that the box on four wheels handled the dips, bumps and curves of the hilly and mountainy roads quite well, certainly better than expected upon looking at the thing.
Meanwhile, my test ride had the same wide and Panoramic Sunroof with power sunshade as the EV did, creating quite magnificent sights when raindrops gave way to blue skies and, on the way home, when stars filled the dark skies, away from city lights.
Four seats were filled for this trip, and no one complained about the legroom (or lack thereof). The biggest hit were the seat warmers in front and back and, for the driver, a heated steering wheel. Those came in quite handy after the sun went down and a chill gripped Julian.
I'd say this would make a damn fine commuter vehicle for those who need more range than the EV affords or who can't afford the price tag of an electric or hybrid.
Looking up my Soul EV review, I see I wrote that the pretty much fully loaded 2016 Kia I tested had a $35,000 sticker price. This 2017 gasoline-powered version lists for $27,620, and I don't feel as if I was denied any of the extras that came with the electric.
It had a sporty Clear White paint job with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED fog lights, LED tail lights and turn signal lights on the exterior mirrors. Add in the black trim and, to me, the exterior seems to mine in the same charmer territory as the modern day Fiats and Mini Coopers.
We passed the time sitting in traffic listening to the satellite radio—the subscription is free for three months for car buyers—that we set with the same 8-inch color touchscreen we used to punch in the coordinates for the navigation system. It's also Bluetooth ready if you want to play something on your smartphone.
Whether satellite, smartphone or AM/FM, the sound is great coming out of the Harmon Kardon speakers strategically located throughout the vehicle. The two by the feet of the driver and front-seat passenger are ringed with lights that change colors as sound comes out of the speakers. (Cue the hipster hamsters!)
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
The leather trim framing the fabric seats and wrapped around the steering wheel give the illusion your are inside a pricey sports car. For safety, there are multiple airbags all around, an anti-lock braking system and a rear camera view on the touchscreen to assist with backing up.
A smart key allows for push button ignition of the 1.6-liter Gas Direct Injection four-cylinder engine. The car has a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. Fuel economy figures (miles per gallon) are not yet available from the EPA for the '17.
If you're interested in this ride, ask a Kia dealer about the 10-year, 100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, five-year, 60,000-mile limited basic warranty and five-year, 60,000-mile roadside assistance programs.
And if you're headed to Julian, leave earlier.