2014 Kia SoulPosted on October 4th, 2013
Compact crossover gets a Makeover
By Nina Russin
I’m not sure how I feel about the skinny hamsters in Kia’s newest spot for the 2014 Soul compact crossover. The hamsters’ transformation from T-shirt clad hipsters to red carpet-ready studs is a metaphor for the Soul’s evolution into a much more sophisticated car.
But I’ve always had the feeling that a chubby hamster is a healthy hamster: ready for a winter when food on the ground is less plentiful. And the effort of marketing gurus to portray their product as a more evolved vehicle shouldn’t negate the youthful spirit essential to the original model’s success.
There is no doubt that the newest Soul is a great package, with more resolved styling and a solid powertrain featuring two direct injection engines. Value continues to drive the product strategy, with the base model starting at $14,700.
Unlike the Scion xB that grew larger in its second iteration, the 2014 Soul maintains much the same footprint as its predecessor. It’s about an inch longer, slightly wider and lower.
Engineers contained curb weight to about 2800 pounds, and enhanced torsional rigidity by using ultra high strength steel in key areas of the chassis, increasing stiffness 28.7 percent over the former model.
The newest Soul will also be Kia’s entry into the growing electric car segment. Details on that model come at a later date.
Two engines and three grades
The base model comes with the 1.6-liter, 130-horsepower engine and a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. Standard convenience features include a telescoping steering wheel, six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth interface and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Kia expects the Plus model starting at $18,200 to be the volume leader, powered by a two-liter 164-horsepower engine and six-speed automatic transmission. The Plus gets17-inch rims, UVO infotainment, a rearview camera and center console.
The upscale Exclaim starts at $20,300. It shares the same powertrain with the Plus, but features 18-inch alloy rims, LED exterior lighting, power driver’s seat, leather wrapped steering wheel and cooled glovebox.
All pricing excludes a $795 destination charge.
Test drive in Minnesota
Kia hosted its media preview for the new Soul in Minneapolis: a town known for its thriving arts and music culture. The drive route followed the Mississippi River through small farm towns in Minnesota and a small section of Wisconsin. High-speed two-lane roads offered the opportunity to see how well engineers delivered on their promises of low-end torque and enhanced steering response.
I drove both Plus and Exclaim models, with MSRPs of $24,010 and $26,195 respectively. For buyers who don’t need the larger rims, LED lighting and thin-film transistor display in the gauge cluster, the fully loaded Plus should do just fine.
The aluminum two-liter block is a nice piece of engineering, developing up to 151 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm: about half throttle. A manual gearbox is not available with the bigger block, but the six-speed automatic does a good job of controlling power, with crisp smooth shifts. Despite its high compression ratio, the engine runs on regular fuel. EPA estimated fuel economy is 23/31 mpg city/highway.
The electric power steering system has a pleasantly heavy feel at higher speeds. The Soul’s short wheelbase gives it an excellent turning circle: 34.8 feet. It easily slips into parking spots on the street, and with the optional rearview camera, is quite maneuverable through crowded parking lots.
Its lowered chassis gives the crossover a more solid feel on the highway. The MacPherson front and torsion beam rear suspension did a good job of absorbing bumps along our drive route, although we didn’t travel over any particularly rough roads.
Four-wheel disc brakes provide firm, linear stopping power on both wet and dry roads.
I found the optional navigation system intuitive to program and operate. The new eight-inch split screen enables drivers to display maps on one side and audio programming on the other.
Engineers added more insulation around the instrument panel and in the floor to minimize wind and engine noise intrusion to the interior. I did notice a fair amount of tire noise on the highway. I’m not sure if this had to do with the highway surfaces we were driving on or the tires themselves.
Although technically a five-passenger car, the Soul is best suited for four adults due to its compact dimensions. Keyless entry and start on both test cars enables the driver to enter the vehicle and fire the ignition without removing the key fob from his pocket. Both the power driver’s seat and manual front passenger seat are easy to adjust and provide ample lumbar support for longer road trips.
The additional length on the 2014 model adds some legroom for front-row occupants. Legroom in the second row is adequate but not plentiful. Headroom is pretty good, due to the car’s flat roof and there is plenty of hip room with two occupants in each row.
Peter Schreyer who heads up Kia’s Orange County design studio crafted the steering wheel. It is a nice diameter for drivers of all sizes, with logically arranged audio, information and Bluetooth controls. The telescoping function enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag.
The thin film transistor display on the Exclaim model shows redundant navigation commands that are less distracting to follow than the center stack display.
Styling for all three interiors is much improved over the former model. Designers used the theme of a sonic ring to create very attractive vent and speaker modules in the corners of the instrument panel, a nice looking center stack display and door panels. The ambient, audio-sensitive lighting from the first-generation Soul is available on the new model.
Second-row seats fold flat, extending the cargo floor for bicycles and other large cargo. Flip-up attachments on both Plus and Exclaim models make it easy to add a cargo rack up top.
The Kia Soul comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring and hill start assist.
Kia’s ten-year/100,000 mile factory warranty covers all repairs due to manufacturing. The 2014 Kia Soul is rolling out to dealerships nationwide.
Like: A versatile, well-built compact crossover with solid performance, a stylish functional interior and a high level of standard safety and convenience features.
Dislike: Significant tire noise at higher speeds.
Models: Soul Plus, Soul Exclaim
Base pricing: $18,200 (Plus); $20,300 (Exclaim)
As tested: $24,010 (Plus); $26,195 (Exclaim)
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
One response to “2014 Kia Soul”
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