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Kia Soul gets the power boost it needs

Kia's hamster-loving compact gets a powerup to 201 hp and new safety equipment.

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Chris Paukert
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Chris Paukert

Executive Editor / Cars

Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris has spent most of his entire career in automotive publishing. Mentored by "Automobile Magazine" founder David E. Davis, Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as Editor-in-Chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's Executive Editor from 2008 to 2015. Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has been serving on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards since 2010. He proudly joined the CNET team in mid-2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.

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On sale since 2008, Kia's Soul has been a megahit since it first showed up in the US. Smart styling, generous standard equipment, a low price of entry and frequent updates have helped keep the compact in the sales limelight long after all of its box-shaped rivals faded.

For all its virtues, though, the Soul has always felt like it could use a power boost. For 2017, it's getting it in the form of this 1.6-liter turbocharged engine unveiled here at the Paris Motor Show. The engine generates 201 brake horsepower, a healthy increase over the 164 hp of today's up-engined model (and miles better than the 130-hp unit in base models). The direct-injected four-cylinder is backed by a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which should quicken shift times and help fuel economy.

Even with a new drive mode selector, the 1.6-liter powertrain won't suddenly make the Soul a GTI-rivalling hot hatch on stilts, but the extra power will be welcome for quicker starts away from stoplights and for freeway overtaking. Kia says to expect 0-60 mph times of about 7.5 seconds, about a second quicker than today's naturally aspirated 2.0-liter model.

2017 Kia Soul Turbo

The 2017 Kia Soul gets a slight visual refresh, but the big changes are under the hood.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Visual callouts for the Turbo model include a model-specific front bumper and grille, as well as 18-inch, 10-spoke wheels and red-painted trim highlights. HID headlights with LED daytime running lamps are optional.

As was recently announced, the Soul's UVO infotainment system will also include Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and additional Turbo-specific cabin tweaks include a flat-bottomed steering wheel, and unique cloth and leather seating surfaces with orange contrast stitching.

2017 Kia Soul gets welcome turbo power

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On the safety front, blind-spot assist with rear cross-traffic alert finally becomes available (front collision and lane-departure warning systems were already on offer). In addition, the Turbo is fitted with 12-inch vented front discs to improve stopping power and, chiefly, fade resistance.

There's no official word yet on when the Soul Turbo will be available in the US, but our sources advise that it's coming sooner rather than later.

Update, 10/3/16: Kia has informed Roadshow that it incorrectly stated the Soul Turbo's front-brake diameter in its initial press release. The story has been updated to reflect the correct information.