2014 Kia Soul PlusPosted on December 3rd, 2013
Compact crossover gains in style and performance
By Nina Russin
This year, Kia introduces the second-generation Soul compact crossover: the first major redesign since the car was introduced in 2009. The original Soul was one of several box-shaped vehicles aimed towards young urbanites needing interior versatility.
The new Soul builds on the original theme, with a slightly larger interior, more nuanced styling and upgraded powertrains. Kia expects the midlevel Plus trim to be the volume leader, priced from $18,200.
The Soul’s spacious interior and fold-flat second-row seats make it a good option for buyers with active lifestyles. The 2014 model won our Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year award in the urban category.
An audio package on the test car adds navigation, automatic climate control, and an Infinity sound system with speaker lights ($1400). Other options include a premium package with a panoramic sunroof, push button start, leather seating, power driver’s seat, heated and ventilated front seats ($3000), UVO infotainment system with rearview camera display ($500) and carpeted floor mats ($115). Together with the $795 destination charge, final MSRP is $24,010.
Test drive in Phoenix
I first drove the new Soul at a media event in Minneapolis last September. This week, I drove the crossover on surface streets and highways in the Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona metropolitan areas, as well as a section of the Bush Highway in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains east of town.
The new Soul delivers on Kia’s promises in every sense of the word. It is more substantial than the original car: quieter, more powerful and with noticeably better fit and finish throughout the interior.
Exterior styling is slightly less edgy, with softer, more rounded surfaces. But there is no danger of the Soul fading into the background. The profile is as distinct on crowded highways as it ever was.
Power comes from a two-liter, 164-horsepower direct injection engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Engineers boosted low end torque, for better acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into highway traffic.
Although the new Soul is slightly longer and wider than the model it replaces, the car’s small footprint is ideal for maneuvering through dense urban traffic. The wheelbase is just over 101 inches, and the turning circle a very reasonable 34.8 feet. Drivers should have no problems parking the Soul on the street or performing the occasional U-turn.
Engineers lowered the chassis about half an inch to improve the car’s coefficient of drag for better gas mileage. According to EPA estimates, the 2014 model averages 31 miles-per-gallon on the highway and 23 around town. The lower center of gravity also improves stability on winding two lanes roads such as the rural Bush Highway.
Engineers improved torsional rigidity by using more high strength steel throughout the chassis, translating to better steering feedback. The electric power steering system has ample assist at low speeds for maneuverability with a pleasantly heavy feel on the highway.
Phoenix saw some unusually heavy rain during part of the week, giving me the opportunity to put both the brakes and steering to the test. Four-wheel disc brakes did a good job of stopping the car firmly on wet roads. Front-wheel drive cars with a short wheelbase can be prone to understeer, but at no point did I feel the Soul’s front end break loose.
The suspension is basically unchanged from the former model: MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam rear end. I didn’t have the opportunity to ride in the second-row seats to assess ride comfort, but the solid rear axle didn’t have any obvious effects on stability of steering response.
Engineers added more expansion foam and isolation pads to make the interior quieter. The new car is certainly quieter than the former model, although I did notice some tire noise at higher speeds.
The interior of the 2014 model is a big step up from the outgoing car. Not only did product planners raise the bar on infotainment and connectivity, but also fit, finish and quality of materials. For example, the second-row seat feels more solid and snaps into place better when it is folded flat to extend the cargo floor.
The steering wheel is a nicer design, with well-placed redundant controls. The center stack screen is now large enough to house two images side-by-side, so the driver can use navigation maps and still maintain a display for the audio system. I found the screen easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions.
Keyless entry and start on the test car enables the driver to enter the car and fire the ignition without having to remove the key fob from his pocket. Buttons on the outside door handles relock the car upon exiting.
Visibility to the front and sides of the car is quite good. The rearview camera eliminates blind spots in the back corners caused by the thick rear pillars. It makes a big difference in the driver’s ability to monitor cross traffic in crowded parking lots.
The Soul has a surprisingly spacious interior for a relatively small car, holding four adults comfortably on long road trips and up to five on shorter ones around town. With the second-row seats folded flat, it easily meets our bicycle-friendly standards.
The 2014 Kia Soul comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, hill start assist and tire pressure monitoring.
Kia’s standard ten-year/100,000 mile factory warranty protects owners against repair costs due to defects in manufacturing and includes five years of roadside assistance.
The 2014 Soul is rolling into Kia dealerships nationwide.
Like: Kia’s newest compact crossover improves on the original model with more refined styling, a roomier interior, more powerful engine and enhanced connectivity features.
Dislike: Some tire noise at higher speeds.
Model: Soul Plus
Base price: $18,200
As tested: $24,010
Horsepower: 164 Hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 151 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 23/31 mpg city/highway2014, Urban 2014, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Kia, performance, pricing, standard safety
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