Don’t sleep on the Kia Soul. As the Korean brand preps a fully redesigned version, the current generation of the tall crossover has sold better than Ford Mustang and the Optima midsize sedan in 2018.
But the 2019 Soul indeed marks the end of this era. Here’s what’s new for the final edition of the second-gen model, and how Soul rates in several important categories.
1. Updates for 2019
As you might expect for the final year before a redesign, there were only a few changes in the 2019 Soul. The rear-view camera and automatic on/off headlights will now come standard in every trim from the base model ($16,490) to the Soul + ($20,490) and ! ($22,990).
If you’ve had your eye on the 2018 model, you’ll notice the base Soul jumped $290 this time around. Meanwhile, the two higher trims both went up $90.
In other changes, the voice recognition system and a standard 5-inch touchscreen come to the base model. There is just one new cosmetic option for this model: Inferno Red now becomes available in every trim.
2. Manual/auto transmissions and turbo engine
The 2019 Soul continues to offer one of the few manual transmissions on the U.S. market. (Kia Forte, the automaker’s compact sedan, is another.) Upgrading to automatic runs the base model (with 1.6-liter engine) to $18,190, which is a $390 price bump compared to the ’18 model at the time of its arrival in dealerships last year.
Buyers hoping to upgrade from the base (130 horsepower) engine have to choose the + model, where a 2.0-liter (161 horsepower) engine comes standard. Soul’s most powerful (201 horsepower) engine remains the turbo 1.6-liter available in the ! trim with 7-speed automatic transmission.
3. Cargo and styling
Clearly, one reason many people will buy a Soul comes down to cargo room (especially its height), and it remains unique in this class and price point. Meanwhile, the 16-inch (base) and 17-inch (+) standard alloy wheels add a dose of style to the exterior. (18-inch wheels become an option in the higher trims.)
The upgraded exterior look arrived in 2017, and it hasn’t lost much luster since. A Designer Collection appearance package ($400) offers an upgrade at a reasonable price in Soul+ models.
4. Quality and reliability ratings
Through 2017, Kia Soul landed top performance and quality ratings from J.D. Power, though the category (compact multi-purpose vehicle) was a bit thin on competition. (Ford’s C-Max and Transit lines, along with Toyota Prius V, were the other contenders.)
On the reliability front, Consumer Reports rated Soul above-average for every year of this generation (2014-18), so we don’t see that coming down this time around. Owner satisfaction rates have been high for this vehicle since 2016.
5. Fuel economy
EPA ratings improved slightly in a few of the different Soul engines for 2019. The top performers are the base and turbo engines (28 mpg combined) while the 160-power engine gets a 27 mpg rating.
More importantly, real-world testing by Consumer Reports basically verified these results. (Testers averaged 26 mpg combined.)
All in all, the 2019 Soul remains a solid value as a new edition waits in the wings for the next model year. As always, expect much more leeway with pricing on ’18 models still hanging around dealerships.