With bright orange paint, exuberant styling and a turbocharged 201-horsepower engine, the recently tested 2017 Kia Soul looks like a car that’s designed for fun more than functionality. But for better or for worse, the Soul is the most successful as a roomy, refined, affordable box – not as a sporty car.
The Soul started out as a uniquely styled alternative to an ordinary subcompact car like a Honda Fit or Nissan Versa, but when the first generation appeared as a 2010 model, it quickly filled a market segment that’s now considered the subcompact crossover. A higher seating position, additional refinement and higher fuel consumption distinguish it from the Versa or Fit, especially in the second-generation Soul that’s been on sale since the 2014 model year.
For 2017, Kia added the aforementioned turbocharged engine to the top-of-the-line Soul ! (pronounced “Exclaim”) model. In addition to zippier acceleration, this engine even delivers better EPA fuel economy ratings than less-powerful Soul models that lack turbos: 28 miles per gallon in mixed driving instead of the 27 mpg managed by other versions. That figure still trails the Honda HR-V or Mazda CX-3, however, which achieve 31 mpg, and those competitors offer an optional all-wheel-drive system that Kia lacks.
Meanwhile, pedestrian steering and handling don’t deliver the sporty promise that the Soul’s styling might suggest – and that eye-catching wild orange paint is apparently applied only to Souls lent out to journalists, not those available at your local Kia dealer.
But for everyday virtues, the Soul is a standout. Most versions offer a quiet, decently smooth ride, though the new turbo model, which also has suspension tweaks, can be on the stiff side. Seat comfort and interior build quality are top-notch for this class, and ergonomics are user-friendly. The high roof allows ample passenger and cargo space. And prices are competitive even with economy cars; it starts at just $16,995, with a decent complement of standard equipment. Even the tested fully-loaded turbo model isn’t unreasonable at $27,620. Overall, the Soul is an impressive vehicle and a terrific value, even if it’s no sports car.
Shoppers looking for a luxury crossover these days have no shortage of choices, but Jaguar has launched a new option for those who’d like to blend the flavor of a sports sedan with the high seating position and useful interior space of an SUV.
The all-new 2017 F-Pace, a five-passenger midsize model, merges Jaguar’s performance heritage with the SUV know-how of the marque’s sister brand, Land Rover. With the front end of a Jaguar sedan and the taillights of the brand’s F-Type sports car, the F-Pace avoids blending in with a crowd of similar models without looking unnecessarily flashy.
A clean design aesthetic continues into the interior, where a well-executed touchscreen infotainment system offers crisp displays and quick responses. Meanwhile, drivers get a commanding view from high seats – unlike some low-riding sporty crossovers, Jaguar didn’t try to minimize the SUV feel from behind the wheel. The rear seat and cargo hold also offer respectable utility, though a high cargo floor isn’t ideal for heavy items.
On the road, some buyers will wish Jaguar had emulated Mercedes-Benz or Lexus rather than trying to be a sporty option. The F-Pace has a stiff ride, especially on the tested R-Sport model, which reduces the luxury ambiance any time you hit imperfect pavement. For some drivers, though, this may prove a fair tradeoff when you hit a winding back road; there, the F-Pace’s height and bulk don’t truly vanish, but it demonstrates respectable composure for this type of vehicle.
The F-Pace is offered with a host of engine options: a base turbocharged four-cylinder engine (new for the 2018 model year), a choice of two ferociously quick supercharged V6s, and a fuel-efficient diesel four-cylinder.
The base price is $43,060, surprisingly reasonable for Jaguar’s only crossover. That price also includes various standard features that competitors often charge extra for, including all-wheel-drive, a panoramic sunroof and a power-operated liftgate. On the other hand, some common features do cost extra on the F-Pace, including a $410 backup camera, so prices can rise quickly. Shop this Jaguar against the cushier BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC, as well as the smaller but similarly sporty Porsche Macan. Add on all the options and its price also rivals the larger BMW X5 or Mercedes-Benz GLE.