The Soul is among the latest witness to the slow death of the manual transmission, as Kia's boxy wagon loses its stickshift along with the entry-level trim it was available in.
But just as the Soul loses its example of one of the oldest bits of automotive technology, its EX Tech trim gains a much newer one in an adaptive cruise control system with automatic emergency braking; it joins the frontal collision alert and lane departure warning systems carried over from last year's EX Tech model.
Losing the LX manual trim means the LX AT becomes with new base trim, with its automatic transmission, air conditioning and keyless entry and a $19,995 price that carries over from 2017.
The Soul has been a big success for Kia, with quirky styling that houses a surprisingly spacious interior, considering it shares a platform with the subcompact Rio. You can thank the Soul's tall roof and big-time headroom for that, but we feel like Kia must have worked some kind of sorcery to find even more space for a truly useful cargo area behind the back seats.
Kia was ahead of its time with the Soul, which now competes with subcompact crossovers like the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and Toyota CH-R, but in a package that's more practical what with an upright roofline that forces none of the interior packaging compromises inherent in more rakish crossovers.
The LX model uses a 1.6L four-cylinder engine with 130 hp and 118 lb-ft of torque, which is a fine starting point, but falls a bit flat when the Soul is loaded with four adults. We prefer the 2.0L that joins the party in EX trim, with its 161 hp and 149 lb-ft, and if that's not enough, the SX Turbo gets a 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder good for 201 hp and 195 lb-ft.
A sampling of the Soul's standard features includes a windshield wiper de-icer, Bluetooth, USB input, height-adjustable driver's seat, air conditioning, power windows, power heated side mirrors and power locks with keyless entry.
EX models add 17-inch alloy wheels in place of 16-inch steel wheels, backup camera, heated front seats and steering wheel, colour audio system touchscreen and cruise control.
EX Premium models get leather seating, power driver's seat, blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert and an auto-dimming rearview mirror, while the EX Tech comes with HID headlights, ventilated front seats and the active safety additions we detailed above.
SX Turbo adds a sport suspension and 18-inch wheels, while the SX Turbo Tech model gets LED fog lights, a premium sound system and navigation.