Cheap & Very Chearful – 2023 Kia Soul

January 23rd, 2023 at 2:42pm


There’s a trick to making cheap cars not look cheap. It takes jazzy styling, bright colors and good value for the money. That’s the familiar formula that Kia used ever since it introduced the Soul. And it’s working. Sales continue to grow.

For 2023 the Soul got a facelift, well, actually more like a nip and tuck. The front fascia looks like it’s more in your face. The rear end looks sportier. And the interior looks like it took a small step upscale.

Kia simplified the lineup for 2023, axing the X-Line and Turbo models. Now, the whole line-up gets the same 2.0-liter four with 147-horsepower and 132 lb.-ft. of torque. Acceptable power, but I found I preferred to keep it in Sport mode because that makes it more responsive.


One surprising thing. When I popped the hood up to look at the engine I started searching around for a prop bar to hold the hood up. I couldn’t find one. That’s because there are two struts that hold it up, and that’s a feature that many cars which cost twice as much don’t offer.

A base Soul starts a touch over $21,000 and the GT-Line that I test drove starts around $24,700. Those are entry level prices in today’s market, but you get a lot for your money, including navigation-based adaptive cruise control, a powered driver’s seat and forward collision avoidance.


What sets this car apart from other entry-level compacts is its styling. It’s not often that I get passersby to comment on cars in this class because they’re usually not very notable. But people liked the look of this car.

This Soul came with the Surf Blue paint job, and it really stood out. “Bold and lively” Kia calls it, and that’s not just marketing hype. The paint is so shiny and has such good depth-of-gloss that it looks like they forgot to run it through the paint ovens and just put it in the showrooms while it was still sopping wet.


That, and clever design details are what catch people’s eye—like the “floating roof” treatment, the trapezoidal exhaust tip, and snazzy wheels. Inside, several features make the interior look like it was styled and not just engineered. The door handle surrounds are bright red, scalloped and textured. The door arm rests have the speaker grille integrated into them and they get a trim piece that uses the same red offset to make sure you notice it.

The cloth seats are comfortable, snug enough, and have red stitching so they don’t look too plain. One thing about those seats, though. Man do the seat heaters get hot! Even on the low setting they’re enough to burn your ass off.


Thanks to its boxy, upright design, there is plenty of room inside the car. Even backseat passengers will find plenty of headroom and decent legroom as long as they sit up straight.

Kia is following a pretty straightforward formula: design a car that will make people notice it, give them the features they want as standard equipment, and price it to sell. That’s the checklist you need to get people to come to your showrooms and Kia checked all the boxes.

–John McElroy

Follow us on social media:

Instagram Twitter Facebook

Comments are closed.