Kia Soul con­tin­ues its groovy ways for 2014

The Colonial - - OPINION - By Christoper Jack­son

21st Cen­tury Me­dia News

Ser­vice t’s not hard to ar­gue that the Soul was the spark that ig­nited Kia’s me­te­oric rise to­ward the top of the mar­ket. It hit just as the econ­omy de­clined, and its sta­tus as an “af­ford­able halo car” made it an in­stant hit among buy­ers who were look­ing for a spe­cial yet eco­nom­i­cal ride. Kia also main­tained the at­ti­tude that set the Soul apart, in­cor­po­rat­ing it into the rest of the prod­uct lineup. The Soul con­tin­ued as the halo car, but all things need to be re­newed, and now it’s time to bring Kia’s happy Eox uS Wo GDWH.

The tricky part in up­dat­ing an in­stantly iconic ve­hi­cle is keep­ing the cool stuff while still chang­ing and up­grad­ing. For 2014, Kia has kept the Soul’s gen­eral look the same while up­dat­ing ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing. The Soul was a fancy, hip-look­ing ride with a fairly or­di­nary ride, so the all-new ver­sion aims to ad­dress the driv­ing dy­nam­ics and com­fort.

Of course, things have changed since the Soul was in­tro­duced in 2008, thanks in part to the Soul it­self. Pre­mium compacts and more stylish en­try-level cars have raised the bar for the seg­ment, and the Soul’s orig­i­nal com­peti­tors from Scion and Nis­san are go­ing away soon. New com­peti­tors have arisen to take their place: the MINI Coun­try­man, the Nis­san Juke and the )LDW 500/. 7KH oULJLQDO “Eox cars,” the Nis­san Cube and WKH 6FLoQ xB, DUH JoLQJ DwDy soon, and there’s much more blend­ing of the crossover and com­pact mar­kets than be­fore. The Soul’s even creep­ing into com­pe­ti­tion with the Honda Civic and Fit, and the Nis­san Versa. It’s a pretty crowded world out there.

So, Kia’s at­ti­tude leader has gone from com­ing out of the blue to fac­ing down half of the com­pact mar­ket. The new Soul is poised to con­quer, with a wider, some­what sportier stance that’s bor­rowed from Kia’s Track’ster con­cept car from 2012. The ba­sic sil­hou­ette is the same, and the Soul still uses a blacked-out A-pil­lar to cre­ate a unique wrap­around green­house. The ver­ti­cal tail­lights also are fa­mil­iar styling cues, and avail­able with LED light­ing. The Eoxy VWyOLQJ KDV SLFNHG uS some sub­tlety as well. Kia has added curves to cre­ate “light lines” along the sides of the car, adding vis­ual in­ter­est at night. Up front, LED el­e­ments around the head­lights spell out the car’s name, and there are fender badges, in keep­ing with the lat­est au­to­mo­tive fash­ion. On the top of the car, the sun­roof gives a black­out ef­fect to the roof that stops at the C-pil­lar, so the Soul looks strik­ing from above too. The pal­ette in­cludes seven new col­ors.

Step­ping in­side, the Soul is a study in con­trast, as the square HxWHULoU JLYHV wDy Wo DQ LQWHrior dom­i­nated by cir­cles. The door pan­els, vents, in­stru­ment panel and center con­sole all bor­row the Track’ster’s styling, with dis­tinc­tive rounded styling el­e­ments. Par­tic­u­larly cool are the pil­lar-like vent/ speaker com­bos that an­chor the in­te­rior’s cor­ners. If those cor­ners seem far­ther away, it’s be­cause they are; the Soul is slightly longer and wider, and though the roof is lower, and the hip point of the seats has been dropped to keep head­room gen­er­ous. Cargo room has been im­proved. The Soul’s touch­point mateULDOV KDYH EHHQ VLJQL­fiFDQWOy up­graded as well. Kia has gone to great lengths to keep the Soul from feel­ing cheap in­side, with a choice of three dif­fer­ent in­te­rior themes, a 10-way power driver’s seat, heated and cooled front seats and a 4.3-inch dis­play screen in the in­stru­ment panel. Kia’s LQMHFWHG HxSDQVLoQ IoDP LQWo the Soul’s pil­lars and added in­su­la­tion be­hind the dash. It’s quiet on the road, and com­fort­able where the pre­vi­ous Soul was coarse.

New ameni­ties in­clude a nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem with an 8-inch touch­screen that uses ca­pac­i­tive scrolling. It’s wide enough for side-by-side au­dio and nav­i­ga­tion dis­play, and in­cludes a 10-speaker, 350watt au­dio sys­tem. Of course, the Soul’s sig­na­ture LED light rings around the door speak­ers are present. A panoramic sun­roof is avail­able.

The looks in­side and out are enough to main­tain the Soul’s icon sta­tus, but the up­graded hard­ware ce­ments it. The new plat­form is stiffer and stronger, and though the sus­pen­sion lay­out still uses MacPher­son struts and a twist-beam rear DxOH, UHVSoQVLYHQHVV DQG han­dling are dra­mat­i­cally imSUoYHG. 7KH VWHHULQJ Eox JHDU has been moved for­ward, to im­prove sta­bil­ity un­der brak­ing. At the rear, twin-tube shock ab­sorbers pro­vide a smoother ride. Pre­vi­ously, the Soul was no­table for look­ing sportier than it felt; now the sus­pen­sion has caught up to the styling, and tossing the Soul into a cor­ner is not a panLF-LQGuFLQJ HxHUFLVH.

The Soul’s stan­dard en­gine is a 1.6 liter di­rect-in­jec­tion four-cylin­der pro­duc­ing 130 horse­power. Up­grade to the 2.0 liter di­rect-in­jec­tion four and the Soul pro­vides 164 horse­power. Both en­gines are all-alu­minum, with stan­dard vari­able valve tim­ing. The base en­gine is avail­able with a VLx-VSHHG PDQuDO oU DuWoPDWLF trans­mis­sion, while the 2.0 is DuWoPDWLF-oQOy. 7KH DuWoEox LV D VPooWK JHDUEox, SuWWLQJ the power to the road with FoQ­fiGHQFH. )uHO HFoQoPy LV in the 30s. The Soul will be WKH EDVLV IoU .LD’V fiUVW HOHFWULF ve­hi­cle.

The sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Soul GoHV HxDFWOy wKDW LW’V VuS­posed to do: It keeps what’s cool about the pre­vi­ous car and ad­dresses all of its short­FoPLQJV. 6KoUW oI D VLJQL­f­i­cantly more pow­er­ful ver­sion, it’s hard to think of a trick that Kia has missed. Pric­ing for the 2014 Soul starts at $14,700, and a fully loaded, top of the OLQH 6ouO (xFODLP VWDUWV DW $20,300. That’s rea­son­able, but en­sures that the Soul still un­der­cuts the price of its com­pe­ti­tion by $3,000 or more.

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