The Kia Soul enters the 2019 model year with minor enhancements, including standard five-inch touch screen, rear camera display and voice recognition on the base model. Metro News Service photo

The party continues for the 2019 Kia Soul

As the Soul matures, it maintains its youthful glow

In the history of automotive advertising, the Kia Soul hamsters are legendary. The cute, adorable human-sized hamsters that loved to party were the ideal way for Kia to launch this cute, quirky, youth-oriented compact car. It showed the youth invasion was coming and Kia was there to capture the next wave of drivers and car buyers.

Hip hop hamsters aside, Kia was successful in their launch back in 2009. And now, here is the Soul on the cusp of its third generation. It’s more mature, but still holds onto its youth vibe. This week, I drove the 2019 Soul which is the last year of the second generation of this cute compact. The 2020 Soul will take this car even further into maturity with all-wheel drive, but for now, there’s still plenty to party about for the 2019 version.

With so many blah designs and lack of distinction on the road, it’s refreshing to see the Soul maintain attractive styling. There’s something youthful about the Soul’s styling with its round daytime running lights and the small, squinty grille. The side profile is slightly boxy, but the slope of the C pillar gives it a distinctive look and shape. That quirky look continues on the back end with long vertical taillights that span more than half the height of the vehicle. Circular rear running lights complete the look from front to back.

Even the Soul’s engine options show its level of maturity. The tame, and mature, base trim 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine makes only 130 horsepower. Thankfully, this 45-year-old was able to embrace my heavy-footed younger side with the 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. This one is quick with 201 hp. The Soul! earns that exclamation point with this fun-to-drive version that hugs the road, offers responsive steering and nice off-the-line acceleration. There is a little bit of turbo lag in some gears but otherwise I liked the seven-speed dual clutch transmission. The brakes were a little mushy for my liking.

If there’s one area where the Soul’s maturation is most evident, it’s the five-passenger car’s interior. The interior has really improved throughout the years, now offering a high-quality, comfortable cabin. Once again, the Soul! trim earns its exclamation with leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering and generally the nicest interior in this car’s history.

New for 2019 is an upgraded infotainment system and new 8-inch touchscreen. The Harman-Kardon sound system would get the hamsters dancing again with bass-pumping quality.

Cargo room is excellent in this compact car. There’s 24.2 cubic feet of space behind the back seat which is well above average for this segment. That cargo area expands to 61.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. However, those seats don’t fold flat, which is the only drawback to the cargo area.

There are three trim levels, plus an EV version. The Base and + trims start under $20,000. My tester was the top-of-the-line Soul! which has a starting price of $22,990. With other options like the Exclaim Technology package (which includes the advanced sound system, heated rear seats and youth-inspired speaker lights), cargo net and remote start, my tester had a final MSRP of $27,610.

The turbocharged, front-wheel drive Soul has an EPA rating of 26 mpg/city and 31 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of mostly suburban driving I averaged 28 mpg.

We all have to grow up eventually. But just as we mature, we can still hold onto our youth in many ways. The 2019 Kia Soul holds onto its playful, youthful side as it continues to evolve and mature.