Bring on the new generation of hamsters. If you’ve been near a TV recently, you probably recognized the newly styled Kia Soul from its commercial with some newly styled hamsters. Thinner, cooler, and more upscale. What a coincidence that Kia’s soulful mascots have hit the gym and visited a tailor to debut a more upscale and classier appearance for this new Soul. Does the new Soul transcend it’s quirky looks and cast it’s spell onto Soul lovers of old and new?
Well, to start the new 2014 Soul is bigger in just about every way. The only dimension that remains unchanged is that of it’s height. That’s great for anyone that might have found their old Soul a few sizes too small. Trading up to the new Soul will find comfortable room for four adults. Inside is a host of new features and technology. For the youthful, Kia still has you in mind with speakers that pulse colored accent lighting to the song of your choosing. For sheer entertainment purposes, the radio station remained on upbeat music all week. Our tester, as most do, came loaded with options. The Sun and Sound package was a popular addition with it’s panoramic roof, automatic climate control, and Infinity surround system. It also includes Kia’s excellent UVO-based navigation system. As we found with other Kia’s we’ve tested, like the new Kia Forte, it’s one of the best touch-based infotainment systems in its class. Then came The Whole Shabang Package. Interesting name, but it really does incorporate everything. Heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, leather, and push-button start. This is where Kia is captivating audiences from all over. Value is the name of the game and Kia is currently winning.
So what is the fun, relatively little, Latte Brown box like to drive? It’s about as you would expect for something that cataract patients might mistake for a Harvest Gold refrigerator. It’s not a speed demon, but the Soul managed to be engaging and it puts a smile on your face. The ride is firm but not uncomfortable; it sacrifices nothing in terms of driver comfort. The only issue lies with Kia’s FlexSteer system. None of the three modes; Comfort, Normal, Sport, have any organic feeling with options ranging from rubbery to more rubbery. Once you get used to the steering, you can explore the Soul’s handling characteristics. It rolls a bit in the corners, but you get used to it, and the Soul becomes something of a fling. The whole package is one of fun all done at safe speeds. While we have to admit it wasn’t very good in snowy conditions, a well-placed handbrake turn in an empty parking lot won’t leave you disappointed.
If you were to sample a Soul, ours would be the one to try. The “!” trim level (or Exclaim) is the top tier for the Soul, and ours was also mated to the Exclaim-exclusive 2.0L engine. 164 horsepower and 151 pound feet of torque are on tap from this mill. Again, to reiterate, not one of speed per-say, but one geared more towards fuel economy. Power runs through a 6-speed automatic transmission that could have used a little refinement. It works well on the highway, but downshifts roughly on hills and when accelerating to pass. We can’t help but think an 8 speed would be better in this instance, rather than the 6 speed that is the only automatic of choice throughout the trim range. The EPA rates the Soul at 23/31, where we averaged 24.5 on the week with mixed driving.
The new Kia Soul definitely has an appeal, but its one that is hard to put into words. Our week behind the wheel was something of an experience rather than an interaction The Soul has an attraction to it’s buyers that is difficult to understand. It’s in with the in-crowd so to speak, and it allows folks to have a practical car loaded with features for somewhat of a bargain. You don’t pick the Soul, the Soul picks you. And that means this bold new Soul has transcended its hip, hamster persona to arrive as a refined and appealing ride.
|2014 Kia Soul !
|Sun & Sound Package||$2,600|
|The Whole Shabang Package||$2,500|
|As Tested MSRP||$26,195|