2014 Kia Soul has a slighly larger, reshaped body and upgraded
interior from its predecessor.
The worst new
car that I ever drove was the 2000 Kia Rio. The Kias that followed
were better, but not by much.
with the arrival of the 2010 Kia Soul, an outrageously funky box
that proudly proclaimed Kia’s arrival on the world stage and
maturation into a distinctive brand that stands apart from its Asian
competitors. Yes, the Soul was different, an image reinforced by its
marketing, which featured rap-loving hamsters.
The Soul was
indeed the design soul of Kia’s line-up, and every vehicle that
has followed in its wake employs some aspect of its aesthetic.
So you can
understand why the redesigned 2014 Kia Soul doesn’t stray far from
the corporate Habitrail. The front end is a bit tidier. There’s
less fussiness in the headlamp shape, and the front grille has been
simplified, although cleaning and drying the lower grille is sure to
drive you crazy. The car’s profile looks unchanged, save for
simplified side sculpting over the front wheels. The biggest change
comes in the rear, where a rounded circle floats in a sea of black,
part of which is door trim, part of which is window. From a
distance, you can’t discern which is which. It’s a unique
design, one that’s instantly identifiable and masterfully modern.
You can be
forgiven if you think that, hatch design aside, not much has
changed, because the Soul’s size is close to that of the outgoing
model’s. It’s 0.6 inches wider, 0.4 inches lower, but no longer.
So you’ll find that interior space is the same as before: decent
up front, a bit tighter in the back and a cargo hold that, while it
can hold 24.2 cubic feet of stuff, has a fairly high floor, limiting
how much can be stored under the cargo cover.
itself seems to have a slightly better grade of materials, although
it may have as much to do with design as anything else. Kia
designers used the circle as design inspiration and it’s evident
throughout the interior.
The Soul is
impressively equipped with an 8-inch touch screen that controls the
updated Android-based navigation system, 10-speaker 350-watt
Infinity sound system, and Kia’s UVO concierge service. Pandora is
pre-loaded into the car and can be controlled through voice
commands. And yes, the audio system speakers are still framed by LED
lighting that pulses to the beat of the music.
electronics, there was a boatload of comfort and convenience items
that pleased my hedonistic soul, such as a push-button starter,
panoramic sunroof, 10-way power driver’s seat, leather seat trim,
heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and a heated
Even if you
don’t want your Soul fully loaded, which trim level you opt for
makes a difference. A 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces
130 horsepower powers base Souls. If you can, choose the Soul Plus
or Soul Exclaim, which have the 2.0-liter four that generates an
extra 34 horses. Either engine can be had with a six-speed manual or
that the Soul is a bit pokey off the line, although mid-range power
is good. Choosing the manual transmission will unlock this
powerplant’s full potential, although the automatic is fairly
well-mannered and can be shifted manually if desired. This feature
came in handy during a recent snowfall, and shifts were actuated in
a timely manner. That said, you will notice a lot of engine
vibration at idle.
nicest surprise was the 2014 Soul’s newfound manners. A new
suspension set-up, revised steering and a longer wheelbase give this
car a needed dose of refinement. Impact harshness over bumps is
greatly reduced, and ride motions are virtually nonexistent.
choose the Soul for its look and low price, not performance. Drag
racing isn’t in the equation. Getting as much attention as Justin
Bieber in a Lamborghini is. That’s why Kia offers three new colors
this year: Solar Yellow, Kale Green and Inferno Red. Trust me, the
Solar Yellow does draw the eye of fellow motorists.
But if you’re
young, or young at heart, and prefer Target over Wal-Mart for its
design acumen, then you’ll like the 2014 Kia Soul for the same
affordable cute ute, it functions as it’s supposed to. As a design
statement, it smartly stands apart at a price that won’t break the
bank. It’s not for everyone, but that’s the point.
2014 KIA SOUL:
2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder
space: 24.2-61.3 cubic feet
(city/highway): 23/31 mpg
consumption: 29.5 mpg
base model: $14,900
test model: $18,400
including destination charge: $23,895