2014 Kia Soul drive review
What Is It? The Kia Soul continues to dominate a segment that seems to be evaporating — the boxy, goofy crossoverish/wagon thingy that appeals to urban hipsters seeking equal measures irony and passenger volume. While Honda dropped its Element a year ago, Scion is dropping its bloated xB successor and the goofy Nissan Cube is stuttering along at the bottom of the charts, Kia is firing both barrels and all four cylinders with an all-new Kia Soul. While competitors’ sales barely registered, Kia broke the 100,000 mark in 2011 and sold 115,000 Souls last year. Soul sales accounted for a fifth of Kia’s U.S. volume in 2012. The Soul was the best-selling subcompact car in America last year, beating out more generic cars like Fiesta, Versa and Fit.
But five years into its model cycle, even with strong sales, it was time for a redo.
The 2014 Soul addresses some of the shortcomings of the first-generation model while actually making other shortcomings worse.
Output, for instance, goes down, while curb weight and price go up. But only a little. And while peak power and torque drop, that meaty, useable mid-range torque that carmakers tell us we really want goes up in both the 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter fours.
Many if not most buyers in this segment don’t care so much for performance anyway: They want connectivity and styling. Kia gives them that with a new android-based next-gen NAV system and a suite of UVO eServices, an 8-inch capacitive touch control audio/video display and a 10-speaker premium 350-watt Infinity audio system with the all-important pulsating LED speaker rings. Also available is a panoramic sun roof, xenon headlights, LED taillights, pushbutton start, a roof rack that plugs right into the roof, 10-way power driver’s seat and heated and ventilated front and rear seats.
What’s It Like To Drive? As we said, most buyers in this segment are not going to push this car hard in turns or even in a straight line. If they do, they’ll find it much more stable compared to the previous model, thanks to new bushings, repositioned stabilizer bars and new, more expensive twin-tube shock absorbers instead of the cheaper monotubes of yesteryear. The front subframe is stiffer, too. It’s still a front strut and rear torsion beam setup but it’s a little better sorted. Nonetheless, you won’t really want to push it very hard while driving your friends between clubs.
Both engines get direct injection for 2014. Changes to the cam profiles are mostly responsible for the increase in torque of five percent in the 1.6-liter and nine percent in the 2.0. Peak horsepower is 130 in the smaller engine and 164 in the2.0; peak torque is 118 and 151 lb ft, respectively.
With a curb weight of 2,879 pounds in our loaded big-block tester, we guesstimated a 0-60 time of more than 10 seconds using a handheld stopwatch and one eyeball on the speedo. Your results may vary.
Do I want One? The Soul is defying the segment trends, outselling its dying competition and much of the rest of the subcompact class. Price has a lot to do with that, starting at $15,549, a couple grand below the competition. A fully loaded Soul tops out at just over $26,000. It’s cool, connected and inexpensive, which is what the kids seem to want today. Their parents might want it, too.
2014 Kia Soul
On Sale: Oct. 1
Base Price: $15,495
Drivetrain: 1.6-liter I4;
Output: 130 hp, 118 lb ft; fwd, six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Curb Weight: 2,714 pounds
0-60: 10 seconds or so with the 2.0-liter (AW)
Fuel economy: +-30 mpg (mfg. est.; EPA numbers closer to launch)
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