The styling of this funky looking little crossover is polarizing. Some like the block-of-ice shape and others simply don't. Styling aside, the Soul has a lot of fans starting with automotive writers in Canada. AJAC, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, voted the Soul Best New Family Car (under $30,000) for 2014. It has been redesigned for this model year but it’s more an evolutionary refresh and that’s why it resembles the previous model. Kia has strengthened the body and made it a little larger in every dimension. Styling changes are minimal beginning with the headlight pods. They are slimmer and now incorporate the turn signals. The door panels have been smoothed out. The glass area appears the same while the butt end of the Soul gets reshaped taillights and a new hatch design.
The shape of the Soul is certainly practical. With a squared off roof you gain a lot of interior space height-wise. Cargo capacity is a big part of what the Kia Soul is all about. If you have an active lifestyle this little rig will carry almost all your toys. Both on top, like bikes and canoes (small canoes of course) and perhaps camping gear and people inside.
Stylists have done a very good job inside with top quality materials and much better fit and finish. I like the design of the instrument panel and the way various shapes come together such as the speaker and air vent clusters. The design team paid particular attention to instilling a more premium look and feel to the 2014 Soul interior. Soft-touch materials are found on the instrument panel, centre console and door panels. Details such as available leather trimmed seating with improved cushioning, lateral and thigh support elevate the Soul’s interior to a new level of sophistication. The use of glossy piano-black trim pieces on the centre console, doors and instrument disappoints me. I would rather see real wood or brushed aluminum, something less dreary.
Gauges in front of the driver are easy to read while switches and controls are well laid out. The steering-wheel mounted controls are housed in circular groupings along the lower spokes with the buttons for the audio system and trip computer falling readily to the thumbs, enabling the driver’s hands to remain on the wheel at all times. As for the seats, the leather covered seats in my test SX are very comfortable.
The Kia Soul is still available with a choice of two power plants. Both have direct fuel injection which makes for a little more power and improved fuel consumption. Base models come with a 1.6L four-cylinder that puts out 130 hp. The 2.0L engine in more luxurious models produces 164 hp. The revised 2.0L does feel a little more powerful and makes for fun driving around town. EnerGuide reports the Kia with the larger engine as achieving 8.8L/100km in the city, (that’s 32 mpg for those of you accustomed to the old scale). I managed 8.4L/100km tooling around St. Albert and Edmonton. Highway driving was limited to a few short runs on the Henday. My Kia’s engine was linked to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The engine is what I expected of a Kia; smooth, quiet, fuel efficient with none of the annoying buzz at full throttle when passing on the highway.
Engineers did a lot of work improving the Soul's ride and handling through heavily revised front and rear suspension setups. The front sub-frame now utilizes four bushings to reduce ride harshness and impact booms over rough pavement. The stabilizer bar has moved rearward on the McPherson strut front suspension, while the steering box has moved forward, lending better balance and subsequently improved handling according to Kia. Standard across the Soul line is a new FlexSteer™ system, which allows the driver to select from three distinct steering settings: Comfort, Normal and Sport.
An entry level LX Kia starts around $16,995. My test SX Luxury priced out at $27,195 before the AC tax and shipping. The colour by the way is Solar Yellow. I like the colour, it’s cheery and makes it easy to find the Soul in a crowded parking lot.
Garry Melnyk is a St. Albert resident and lifelong car buff who has written about new cars and trucks for radio and print publications since the seventies.