Originally, the boxy Kia Soul was an anti-car aimed at youth who wanted a funky ride. But a funny thing happened on the road to rebellion: Older folks have also found the Soul is a pretty nifty little car if you want to throw a bike in back or carry home bags of mulch. The Soul’s message: It’s hip to be square. Kia now calls the redesigned Soul an urban utility vehicle.
The 2014 Soul looks visually similar to the original but it has been smoothed and refined both inside and out. Engine and road noise are not intrusive, even at highway speeds. The all-new chassis has a fractionally longer wheelbase and is 29 percent stiffer, thanks to the expanded use of high-strength steel. The stiffer chassis yields a ride that is compliant without being harsh. The Soul is agile and pleasant, a nice daily commuter. It doesn’t handle like sports sedan and it wasn’t meant to.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
The Soul comes in four models. The base car, with a 1.6-liter engine and a manual transmission, starts at $14,900. The top model, marked by an ! but called the Exclaim, has a 2.0-liter engine and an automatic transmission. Its base price is $20,300. That is the model I drove.
With options such as a leather interior, a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, navigation, heated rear seats and a panoramic sunroof, the test car was $26,195. Some of those features aren’t found on cars costing twice as much.
Having a small footprint enables the Soul to zip through traffic and squirt into parking places with ease. Plus, it’s easy on gas and has one of the longest warranties. There’s nothing square about that.
Both engines are direct-injection, dual-overhead-cam four-cylinders. The base 1.6-liter engine has 130 horsepower and the choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The Soul + and Soul ! have a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine delivers a 164 horsepower.
The 2.0-liter engine was lively, especially from idle, and that makes it a perfect partner for city driving. The transmission always felt as if it is in the right gear, so quick acceleration is always at hand. That, too, is nice in traffic. Fuel economy is rated at 23 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway.
One of the biggest changes is found inside, where designers wanted to create a more premium look by adding soft-touch materials on the instrument panel, center console and door panels. High-gloss piano-black trim was handsome and elegant.
The instrument panel has a central, eight-inch touch screen with simple graphics. It is easy to use. An optional small LCD screen between the gauges can display turn-by-turn navigation instructions, something else that is usually found only on upscale cars.
A circular theme is found throughout the cabin and on the door panels. Stereo speakers in the doors mirror the “floating” tweeters on the instrument panel and they have LED-string lights that create ripple-effect, red-hued mood lighting. The steering-wheel mounted controls are housed in circular groupings along the lower spokes with the buttons for the audio system and trip computer.
The best part of a square silhouette is an interior that can comfortably hold four people, five in a pinch. Rear-seat legroom was not an issue, and the rear cargo space was big enough to be useful. The split-folding rear seat adds room for large items. The rear hatch lifts for easy loading.
The base price of the test car was $20,300. Options included the Sun and Sound package of automatic climate control, panoramic sunroof and navigation system. The Whole Shabang package includes keyless entry with push-button start, leather trim, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, high-intensity headlights and the 4.3-inch LCD screen in the gauge cluster. The sticker price was $26,195.
Five years or 60,000 miles with a 10-year,100,000-mile powertrain warranty.