When Kia first brought out the boxy, goofy Soul, it wasn’t expected to make a big splash. The quirky styling was more of a statement, but it turned into a big seller for Kia. Building on the original Soul’s success, this completed revised second generation has added some twists to the familiar exterior and stepped it up a notch in terms of what you get inside.
Pricing: 2014 Kia Soul
Base price (SX Luxury trim): $27,195
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $28,960
The revised Kia Soul’s exterior has been given even more character. While it remains recognizable as a Soul, Kia has reworked the front end and especially the rear end to dramatic effect, adding to the vehicle’s aggressive stance. The Xenon HID headlight pods look great, and are complemented with LED driving lights. The tail light treatment with its LED light bars, as well as the rear fascia’s contrasting glossy black trim, can’t be missed, and they are certainly a statement. I’d say the new rear end is my least favorite part of the Soul’s styling exercise.
While the fun, boxy styling isn’t for everyone, it certainly has endeared itself to many, and the side profile doesn’t go overboard in my opinion. I don’t think they’re going to win over anyone looking for a conservative, blend-in-with-the-rest vehicle, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the demographic Kia set out to conquer with the Soul.
My review sample in a somewhat mustardy yellow sure got a lot of looks. While the Soul is available in some less hey-look-at-me colours, it seems that many of them do sell in the more shouty tones. Speaking of shouty, the 18-inch rims wearing meaty 235/45-sized rubber are hard to miss too, and they look fantastic.
Once you get inside this funky ride, you’ll find that the interior styling isn’t nearly as quirky as the outside of the Soul. A surprisingly conservative and spacious cabin greets you, crafted out of tons of nicely textured soft-touch plastics and even some stitched leather-like fabrics. The materials are nice for this vehicle class. Fit and finish seems to be excellent. A hint of the circular styling theme can be found, but mostly around the speaker grille treatment – there are interesting round tweeter pods on the corners of the dash and a large circular centre speaker on top of the dash. Otherwise, shapes and styling are typical Kia.
Entry is keyless, and the ignition is push-start. The heated and cooled leather seats (power adjustable for the driver) were very comfortable, though they don’t offer a lot of bolstering support.
The crisp gauges are separated by an excellent driver information screen. You control it with buttons on a great little heated steering wheel. It also has controls for the cruise, media system and the phone.
Front and centre sits a fairly large 8-inch touch screen, which manages your excellent Infinity sound system, the phone function and navigation, as well as the back-up camera feed. The screen is sharp and bright, and I enjoyed the simple, well laid out user interface. Voice recognition was exemplary, and of note, this is the first Kia I’ve reviewed that did not have problems hanging on to the satellite radio signal. Underneath the screen is a simple automatic climate control system.
There is a massive panoramic sunroof overhead, complete with a powered sunshade. The external mirrors can be set to fold in automatically when you turn off the vehicle – a nice touch.
The top edge of the rear door opening drops down a bit, so you need a be a bit wary of that as you’re getting into the back, otherwise you can whack your head. I point this out because I did this. Twice. The rear seating area has three seats, each with a headrest and seatbelt. The two outboard positions are very comfortable (and heated!) and offer good leg and foot room, as well as a decent amount of head room for me, at 5’10” tall.
Our three kids were snug, width-wise, but there was enough room for everyone. You’ll find two sets of LATCH anchors for the little ones’ seats. There’s not a lot going on back there in terms of comfort or convenience – one mesh map pocket and a middle seatback that folds down to become an armrest. No charging outlets, no air vents.
There is a very handy rubberized drop-in bin at the front of the centre console, complete with two 12V plugs and the auxiliary and USB connections for the stereo. You can also drop your stuff into the decent sized bin under the armrest, or the massive glove compartment.
The Soul’s cargo capacity is a pleasant surprise. While it looks to be tiny from the outside, the trunk actually offers 532 litres of space. You can fold the rear seats down in a 60/40 split. While they don’t fold quite flat, it’s close enough and the capacity jumps to a very useful 1402 litres. In addition, you’ll find a significant amount of under-floor storage, organized by a foam tray. There is a removable parcel shelf/cover, which helps conceal your cargo, and a 12V plug to power or charge your stuff. A pretty sweet detail – one of the LED trunk lights is actually a removable flashlight which could be very handy in an emergency situation. A thoughtful touch.
Under the Hood
Here lurks Kia’s direct injection 2.0-litre 4-cylinder. It’s a decent engine, but nothing special. It puts out 164 horsepower at 6200 RPM and 151 lb.ft of torque at 4000 RPM, enough to motivate this 3100 pound crossover around town. The only transmission in this trim is a 6-speed automatic transmission and I was surprised to find that the Soul is only offered in a front-wheel drive configuration.
Fuel economy is good, not great. Kia rates it at 8.8 L/100 km (27 US mpg) in the city and 6.5 L/100 km (36 US mpg) on the highway. We ended up averaging 9.7 L/100 km (24 US mpg) during our week with it. Lots of slower city commuting, a half-dozen sprints down the freeway and one quick highway drive. The Soul has a 54 litre tank.
The Soul feels torquey off the line, and for normal urban driving, it’s great. If you’re making a run for it, the engine runs out of steam as the RPMs build up, and it feels as though it would benefit from a few extra ponies. Not only that, but the engine gets quite buzzy and coarse as the RPMs climb, and the noise level becomes very noticeable. I think the 2.4-litre 4-cylinder that you’ll find the top-line Hyundai Tucson would be a great fit here. Again, around the city, it’s perfectly fine and 0-60 runs aren’t really why people are going to buy the Soul in the first place.
When it comes to passing on the highway, it does have enough power, but it takes a second or two to downshift and then another second to two to build up the momentum. Though the transmission is a bit slow to kick down, it makes up for it with exemplary smoothness. It can be shifted manually, but there’s really no advantage to doing that.
The Soul’s suspension is well done. I found the ride to be quite comfortable. It remains sporty and firm but never got out of sorts, even over bigger hits and potholes. The vehicle’s handling is good too. It’s taller stance makes for a bit of body lean, but it takes to corners well and had crisper turn-in than I expected for a vehicle like this. As found in other Kias, there is a somewhat gimmicky steering mode button, allowing you to choose from Comfort, Normal and Sport. The electronic steering remains quite numb in any of these modes – it really only changes the steering effort required.
If you really like (or can get over) the unique exterior styling, the Soul has plenty to offer. It comes fully-loaded for less than $30,000. In this trim, you end up with a ton of equipment and luxurious touches. Inside, the Soul is just a smart, well-designed vehicle. It’s comfortable and offers plenty of room for passengers and cargo, and its road manners are a good mix of easy driving and sporty agility.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was quite high. While she was horrified by the review car’s colour, she felt that the Soul was very easy to drive and park, and was surprised at the size of the trunk and the nice interior. She felt that a more conservative colour like white or black would tone the whole thing down, visually speaking.
While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, the Kia Soul has a lot going for it, and I think it’s a great choice for entry level buyers (you can get into one for way under $20,000) as well as those who are looking for a style all their own and plenty of good stuff inside. Also, it doesn’t have a lot of direct competition, as the Nissan Cube and Honda Element are toast and Scion’s xB never really showed up to compete in the first place.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Kia Canada.
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