When the Kia Soul first came out in 2010, I was fairly ambivalent about their boxy little Tonka Toy. It was an efficient use of interior space and a ho-hum performing little econobox. But for 2014 the Soul has been re-done and greatly improved. And model I tested was the Soul !. (the exclamation point after Soul is designated as the “Exclaim” trim level – the most upscale model they offer.)
The Soul + (called the “Plus” trim level sits in the middle above the Base model) And this 2014 Exclaim model has endeared itself to me for several reasons.
The sheet metal has been reworked to give the Soul a bit more butch appearance, than the other boxy offerings, such as the Nissan Cube or the discontinued Honda Element. The restyled vertical LED taillight treatment is striking and makes the Soul stand out in daylight or at night. The whole look is sleeker and more appealing.
But what really won me over was the improved suspension that gives an outstandingly comfortable ride on the highway or on broken pavement. The Soul doesn’t look aerodynamic, but it runs at 75 MPH quietly. There is no annoying wind noise, and, despite the short wheelbase, a luxury car ride.
And while it’s not intended to be a sports sedan, it handles corners much better than the previous model. It still leans over a bit too much, but it doesn’t have the top heavy feel that it used to. The 6-speed manumatic transmission shifts smoothly. Even when shifting gears yourself, each up-shift and downshift is quick and sure. Most cars in the economy category are programmed to shift slowly.
The performance form the 2.0 liter is more than adequate with 164hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. That is significantly better than the base model’s 1.6 liter engine that offers only 130 horses and 118 ft-lbs of torque.
ANIMATION Caption: "All Abroad The SOUL TRAIN!!"
Gas mileage is rated at 23 City and 31 Highway. I saw 33 mpg on the highway driving at about 70 miles an hour, and the 23mpg around town was spot on. The brakes are up to the task, and will bring the Soul down from speed quickly, and with good pedal feel.
The interior is what surprised me the most. It is well laid out with excellent materials, fit and finish.
Slot-Machine Animation Versus Other Box Cars
My test Exclaim model added the Sun and Sound Package for $2,600, which includes Climate Control, huge Panoramic Sunroof with power sunshade, adds a large 8” touch screen for all the major audio and connectivity controls, and with voice command Navigation System, and back up camera. There is also a 360-watt Infinity Audio System that just rocks out.
NEW SOUL vs PREVIOUS MODEL
A second option is what Kia calls “The Whole Shebang Package” and that gives you a heated steering wheel, leather heated and cooled front seats, and heated rear seats. It is unusual for a car in this class to offer cooled seats, and they were welcomed as the temperatures rose above 80 degrees when I had a three hour stint on a road trip.
The gentle fan blowing cool air up through the perforated leather seats keeps your clothing from sticking to your back and bottom on long trips. The package also included a Smart Key with push button start and immobilizer, so you never need to remove the key fob from your pocket or purse. And HID headlights are very effective at night. This package adds $2,500.
Those two option packages make the Soul a near luxury vehicle, and a pleasure to spend time in. Very soft touch materials grace the armrests on the doors and deep center console.
Good cupholders between the front seats and bottle holders in the doors are convenient. Nice sized glove box adds to the utility of the cabin. The split folding rear seats are comfortable, with generous leg and head room for 4 full sized adults.
And still there is plenty of cargo space in back for luggage. Also, the rear doors open wide, so getting small children into car seats will be easy. Fold down the rear seats and you can stow a mountain bike or surfboard in there. And it comes with a package shelf to hide the contents of the trunk from prying eyes.
The basic Kia Soul starts at $14,900, with the 1.6 liter engine, and the Plus model begins at $18,200 with the 2.0 liter engine. The Exclaim we tested starts at $20,300, and with the two packages came out to $25,400. For that price you get a lot of car, with a lot of amenities and versatility.
Kia aims this car at young hipsters, but anyone who is looking for a lot of room in a small package will appreciate the Soul.