By on February 21, 2014

red 2014 kia soul under snow cover

Winter can be stern and humorless. Into the frozen fray trundled a visitor from California. I told the 2014 Kia Soul that it was out of place. Then a whole bunch of snow fell. The Soul’s chipper personality replied “no worries, brah.” With only all-season tires, I was worried, though. Without winter tires, any-wheel drive may be inadequate, proper equipment really does matter. The California license plate peeked out as if to say “Let’s crush some dendrites.”

Turns out the Kia Soul is more than just a whimsical set of wheels. See, whimsy is a tricky thing. It’s a subset of humor, and humor requires a deft touch. The joke is funny when it bends. Go too far, though, and it breaks. Nobody laughs when the funny breaks.

The Kia Soul has been a practical personality box since 2009, and it’s all-new for 2014. You might have to look closely to spot the changes, and that’s good. The original Soul was charming and stretched the gags just enough. In contrast, the Scion xB, this segment’s pioneer, had already lost the plot by 2009.

The example of the xB’s second-generation Thorazine shuffle hung ominously over the 2014 Kia Soul. Would Kia mess up its cheeky little hedgehog-inspired dumpling?

 

2014-kia-soul-001_550

If styling permanence works for the Porsche 911, why can’t it work for the Kia Soul? In fact, it works quite well. It’s hard to be unhappy with so much style for so little money. The base Soul will run you $14,900. I was driving the Exclaim trim, and it turns out the price of my totally-loaded Soul was $27,000. At that price, there’s lots of alternatives, but nothing is quite like the Kia Soul.

Like MINI or the Volkswagen Beetle or even the Jeep Wrangler, the 2014 Soul hews tight to the look established by its predecessor. Park them next to each other, though, and the 2014 Soul instantly makes the original look old. The styling of the new Soul is further refined and smoothed out. Kia makes it sound like there’s a bunch of the Track’ster concept in the new car, but it’s mostly just details like the lower fascia, grille and floating body-color panel in the tailgate. The 2014 Soul looks mostly like the 2009 Soul, though it sits on its wider, longer wheelbase with more visual authority. The stoplights are the easiest tell, if you’re a car-spotter.

2014-kia-soul-010_550

We are in a new age of “Lower! Longer! Wider!” but the dimensional growth is welcome in the 2014 Soul. The back gate is wider, which leads to a larger cargo area. There’s more legroom for both front and rear seats, more front headroom, a lower hip point and reduced step-in height, adding up to a Soul that’s friendlier and more useful. The 2014 Soul turned out to be surprisingly excellent in the snow, even on the all-season tires the standard 18” alloys it wears, so it’s not useless outside of Cali.

Think of the Soul as the 2000s version of the Honda Civic Wagovan or Nissan Stanza Wagon. It’s usefully boxy, economical, easy to get in and out of and easy to drive. For something on a small 101.2” wheelbase, the 24.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat is impressively large. Fold that second row down and there’s 61.3 cubic feet of room.

Being loaded up with features that used to be luxury car stuff probably didn’t hurt my impression, either. I sat on ventilated leather. Everyone had seat heaters, front and rear. Automatic HID projector headlights burrowed through the swirl of the storm, and I was directed by the navigation system. Above my head, a giant panoramic moonroof gave me an underside view of the glacier on the roof, the Infinity audio system was plenty entertaining, though the pulsing Hamster-Nightclub interior lights were doused quickly. The top-spec infotainment system was easy to use, and the rest of the ergonomics in the Soul are good because they don’t try to be cutesy. The dash speakers that look like coasters are a little weird, though.

2014-kia-soul-012_550

Even without the list of equipment that’s longer than a Dickens story, the Soul would be a pleaser. The base engine for the Soul is a 1.6 liter DOHC direct-injected four cylinder with a healthy-for-its-size 130 hp and a slightly disappointing 118 lb-ft of torque. It’s probably nice enough, like listening to the neighbor kid’s well-practiced rendition of Sing, Sing, Sing, but the Plus and Exclaim get a 2.0 liter that’s Benny Goodman backed by Gene Krupa, instead. (Hey, you carped about my Led Zeppelin reference…) That’s an exaggeration, but the 2.0 liter has 164 hp, 151 lb-ft, and a high 11.5:1 compression ratio. It’s a snappy little number, for sure.

What kinda harshes the buzz is the fact that the only way to get a six-speed manual is to go with the small engine. The six-speed automatic that’s paired with the 2.0 liter is a pretty decent consolation prize, though. It’s well matched to the engine and shifts well, though it exhibits some of the pulsating wonkiness under hard acceleration that’s an apparent trademark behavior of this Hyundai design.

The Soul is perhaps the most vivid example of Kia’s learning curve. Kias used to look great on paper, with lots of features and equipment for less money than the competition, but you could always count on them being short on integration. In less than a decade, that’s been completely reversed. The 2014 Soul drives like a car designed, assembled, and tuned by people who actually spoke to each other.

2014-kia-soul-009_550

The last piece of the puzzle was suspension tuning, and Kia has figured out how to make the seemingly-dowdy combo of MacPherson struts in the front and a torsion-beam rear axle ride with compliance and yet handle with some spirit, too. Other style-boxes can’t pull that off. The xB is hopelessly uninteresting to drive, and the Nissan Cube is as soft as nursing home pudding. It’s like Kia looked at what they had, realized that the first-generation VW GTI managed to do pretty damn well with the same basic parts, and got inspired.

I’d still have preferred to try the Soul in the snow on winter tires, but on its 18” alloys and surprisingly wide 235/45 Kumho Nexens it cut through like a champ. I’m also a little surprised that there’s not an all-wheel drive version of the Soul, because I think it would sell like moonshine in a dry county. I’d have an alternative to the Subaru Forester to recommend to people, and  that’s something I dearly desire. On the other hand, there’s a new Soul EV, which I can’t wait to get my hands on.

The Soul is aptly named. It’s a boxy little car with a bunch of personality. In this time of bland-but-pretty, rare is the car that both stands out for its styling and delivers some fun for everyone at a price normal people can swing. Get down with your bad self, Kia.

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107 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2014 Kia Soul !...”


  • avatar
    bikemobile

    No observed mpgs?!?

  • avatar

    If Hyundai can keep the cost down, the SOUL EV might actually be something to look forward to.

  • avatar
    Toad

    Compact size four door hatchbacks were one of the few (only?) good ideas to come out of the automotive world in the 1970′s. Fuel efficient, lots of space, room for 5, at a reasonable price point. It’s nice to see them slowly make a comeback, and the Soul is leading the charge.

  • avatar
    JD23

    Hopefully, Kia/Hyundai has managed to properly tune a suspension, as indicated in this review. I had an Elantra rental a few months ago and the suspension was far too underdamped; on the bumpy roads in this area, it felt like sailing a boat with a constant nausea-inducing oscillation in the ride.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Drive slower.

      This car is the single sub-CUV refuge for older people like me with screaming lower backs, hips and knees. It is the new Element. The last thing we want are tuned, heavily damped suspensions.

      We primarily want a seat level with our butts when standing at the door and a roof tall enough that we don’t smash our temples into it upon entering. Secondarily we want a cushy ride that absorbs potholes and, in the North, frost-heaved expansion joints.

      And poorer/cheapskate types want that without spending for a CUV. The Soul is the best compromise out there for all this.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        So what you really want is a tall Cadillac Sixty Special.

        I feel Citroens, with their magic carpet softy suspension, would sell well to your sort of buyer these days – if only they weren’t so French.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          Experiencing a hydropneumatic suspension is at the top of my bucket list.

          To actually be able to have one in an affordable and reliable car, I’d kill for.

          And if killing wasn’t enough I guess I’d actually fork over the money to buy one.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You and me both. I have dreams of C6.

            http://www.swotti.com/tmp/swotti/cacheY2L0CM9LBIBJNG==QXV0B21VDGLVBI1DYXJZ/imgcitroen%20c61.jpg

            It’s everything I desire. :’(

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Tracking applications of hydropneumatic systems is a brand new obsession of mine. It really seems to be the Holy Grail for smooth ride and variable height in snow country.

            Me want so bad!

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        People like you must have influenced my Forester XT’s factory suspension tuning. Far too soft, rolly, and wobbly. It’s not confidence inspiring at any speed faster than grandma speed.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          Leave earlier, drive slower, enjoy the cush.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            That’s OK, thanks.

            As someone who is paid by the hour and chronically short on time, I’m going to drive as fast as is compatible with safety and reasonably close adherence to the law. I want a car that gives me confidence at those speeds.

            My G8 does very well in that respect (a little too well; it encourages too much lawbreaking). The Forester, not as much. The Hyundais and Kias I’ve driven (which don’t include the Soul): awful.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        I tried recommending the Soul to someone with mounting arthritis discomfort for this reason. Based on the ’11 I had as a rental, I thought it would be an easy car to live with – inexpensive, pleasant interior for the price, good visibility, easy to get in and out of, etc.

        Unfortunately for KIA, she didn’t take the car seriously; likely due to the hamster marketing. They basically have a car that would be great for older demographics that don’t drive many miles, yet they market it to the young. I know everyone is young in their own head, but KIA takes that marketing just a bit too far.

        • 0 avatar
          Signal11

          They do have a car for older demographics. The majority of people I see driving KIA Souls around in American suburbs seem to older folks. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone in the 20-something demographic driving these things around in the South, ever.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          I agree that marketing the Soul as the ride of choice for urban incarcerati is a sad commentary on Kia’s grasp of this vehicle’s true appeal.

          But I can tell you that simply seeing one in a showroom and moseying over to it makes an arthritic body sigh in delight. Like Signal11 says, take a peek at the actual owners of those on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The Elantra is an older model; the new Kia Forte has gotten top notch reviews for its ride, not only better than the Corolla, but the Civic as well (Automobile Mag did a recent review comparing the Soul to the Corolla and found the “box” to have a better ride than the Corolla).

      The Kia Cadenza has a better ride than the Avalon as does the Optima over the Camry.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        @bd2

        Good to hear. The second biggest complaint I had about my 2010 Forte EX (aside from it’s poor reliability) was it’s harsh, harsh ride.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          100% of KIAs and 90% of Hyundais SUCK.

          Seriously, they are cheap cars, with ripoff styling cues, having non-competitive suspension designs no matter what the model or pride point.

          At least 5 years ago, they could be had for 25% less than similarly sized and spec’d competitors from other manufacturers, but now that this isn’t even true anymore, one would have to be seriously misguided, under-informed, and/or a KIA or Hyundai employee to buy any of them.

          • 0 avatar
            SC5door

            100% false.

            What did the Soul rip off? What did the Optima rip off?

            Gimme a break. Any review shown that all the brand new models coming out have updated suspensions, example being the Forte from having a terrible suspension to one of the best rides on the market.

            Sounds like a completely biased un-informed opinion that you try to pass off as a fact.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            If the new Kia Forte suspension is literally 3x better than the last gen, color me surprised & glad. I haven’t driven it, and will admit that. I hole that you’re correct as I feel that more competition is always a good thing.

            What I do know based on personal experience, driving Kias and Hyundais either as rentals or on test drives, it being driven in them, is nearly every one had a horrible suspension, with two exceptions, which were:

            1. The current generation Sonata, which I found taught but not harsh, and, perhaps surprisingly,

            2. The last gen Sonata, or at least a new 2009 that I rented, which I actually found to be smooth and quiet, so much so, that I found it be superior the current gen, the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Altima etc. I do not know if this was an exception, but it was a low trim 4 banger, and I was shocked at how well that car drove over rough pavement compared to the competition.

            Here are the Kia and Hyundai models I drove or drove in that I found to have absolutely ridiculously poor suspensions:

            1. Current & last generation Genesis Sedan – which had a schizophrenic, harsh, loud suspension.

            2. Current gen Kia Sportage – which was just harsh all around.

            3. Kia Optima, current gen, see 2 above.

            4. Kia Soul, last gen, with a noisy, harsh, buzzy ride.

            5. Hyundai Tucson – perhaps the worst riding new vehicle I’ve test driven in at least a decade.

            6. Hyundai Users -At least it wasn’t harsh, but it was comical as to how the suspension dealt with even smooth, yet undulating pavement, which felt like the equivalent of riding a dolphin over waves, and the car actually moved laterally, which was a unique experience.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Hyundai Users above was supposed to be Azera above.

            Wouldn’t let me scroll to & edit that on my tablet for whatever reason.

          • 0 avatar
            JD23

            “6. Hyundai Users -At least it wasn’t harsh, but it was comical as to how the suspension dealt with even smooth, yet undulating pavement, which felt like the equivalent of riding a dolphin over waves, and the car actually moved laterally, which was a unique experience.”

            That sounds almost exactly like my experience with the Elantra. I had a Chevy Aveo rental (thanks State Farm!) when my car was at the body shop; although it was an epic piece of junk, its ride was far more agreeable when the pavement was not perfectly smooth and flat.

        • 0 avatar
          tankinbeans

          Tuffjuff, that was part of my experience. My only complaint reliabilitywise, with my 2011 LX, was that there was an intermittent issue with 4th gear – it would stop midshift and not let me progress any further.

          I would have to go back into third and try again, which usually worked, but I gave up after it did it 8 times in a row. I brought it in at every oil change to mention it and they alluded to the problem being me. Then they would proceed to talk about how they got the car to react via some convoluted procedure that made so little sense that I’m positive I wasn’t doing in. Being told that it’s not the car, but me, got old.

          I traded out of that in favor of a 2013 Focus SE and haven’t regretted it since.

      • 0 avatar
        JD23

        Hopefully, that is indeed the case. Although I prefer firm suspensions, I don’t expect that in a car like the Elantra; however, competitors like the Fiesta manage to offer a much more balanced suspension for a similar price. Aside from the poor suspension tuning, the Elantra was a decent car for the money.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Love the pictures! It’s nice to see a car in its element (pun intended), not just perched by a sunny California beach.

    The Soul is what the xB2 should have been; my xB1 was excellent but a little harsh.

    I will probably test-drive the Soul EV as a possible replacement for the Leaf next year, but that’s a long way off.

  • avatar
    teasers

    I grew up in a house hold that had literally put food on the table, and a roof over my head because of Ford. My grandfather owned a company that sold shop supplies to dealerships, and for whatever reason he always had more success with the domestics. Everyone in the family worked for him, and our nightly prayers usually ended with something to the effect of thank you for Ford, may they sell another million F-150s.

    Growing up meant driving domestics. When my first truck was a used Chevy, I got the stink eye from a few people, but got by because “At least its american made”

    All this is to say, at the age of 28, grandfather passed, family business sold, I bought my wife the families first import, an old honda Accord. And we really like it.

    All this is to say, after being so emotionally invested in domestics for so long, its hard to read a review like this impartially. I wanted this to be a bad car.

    Reviews like this at least partially change my mind, and maybe if they hold up in quality I will be looking for one of these for my wife in a few years.

    I will probably still be driving a domestic, out of some deep down fear of my grandfathers ghost.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      @teasers

      +1

      I am really interested to hear about the quality of this thing. I had horrible experiences with my 2010 Forte EX being in and out of the shop constantly, but in Kia’s defense this was also the first vehicle that “new Kia” (you know, when they started getting good) made so I almost have to give them somewhat of a pass on that.

      The Soul is deceptively huge; the outside dimensions are fairly compact, but my 6’5 self was very impressed by the size of things on the inside. This feels like the Honda Element done right, to me, and it’s also cheaper than the Element was, if I’m not mistaken.

      • 0 avatar
        Cowgirl

        Look at Consumer Reports and you will see that 2010 Soul is Much Better Reliability, very good for a new model. 2011 & 2013 better than average & 2012 is just average. 2014 us still in testing. See link below.
        JD Powers also have reliability ratings.

        http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/models/used/kia/soul/overview.htm
        http://autos.jdpower.com/content/buying-guide/sWbrluu/top-rated-2013-hatchbacks-initial-quality.htm

        Most reviews for the 2014 have been good and often the quality of the interior is mentioned with the soft padded plastic & leather dash. No much cheap plastics as found commonly in other Japanese cars & Mini Countryman.

        Kia Turbos are quite trouble prone that has lowered Kia reliability rating but the Soul has a standard GDI engine. Often with a major redesign there are problems with reliability but even the 1st edition of the Soul is rated MUCH better than average.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          That Consumer Reports link appears to be behind their pay wall.

          The information you cited is one of the main reasons I don’t care for consumer reports when it comes to reliability. Why would mechanically identical cars (2010-2013 Soul) have different reliability ratings? Did Kia change parts for the 2012 that dropped its reliability rating? If they did, Consumer Reports should point that out. Is this level of detail included in the report that we can’t see?

      • 0 avatar
        tmport

        I have a 2006 Kia Spectra5 (the predecessor of the Forte), and I’ve been really happy with its reliability. The only things I’ve had to do with it are change the tires (after 50,000 miles) and the brakes (pads and rotors). The brakes wore out a bit quicker than I was happy with–around 30-35k miles–especially since I am rather light on my brake use. Other than that, it’s been great–just routine fuel changes.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Good work on this review. You’re progressing quickly!

    Though the Soul is not something I’d consider, I can see why people do. With a much higher level of refinement, and all that equipment in there (rear seat heat surprises me), it’s a lot more appealing. To me $27k sounds too high for a little Korean hatch (maybe if it had AWD), but that’s why I steer clear of new vehicles. With AWD, it really would be like a direct descendant of those old Civic 4WDs, and the Stanza Prairie, etc. It occurs to me they could, upon adding AWD, jack it up and do an Allroad-type/Citroen Cactus package. I think those would move too.

    There are two new Soul’s which park in the garage at work – both owners chose the same meh olive green color. I noticed them though, because of the floating panel in the rear. It’s a nice style touch.

    That nav screen looks very high quality!

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      A quick online check shows the average Kia Soul “+” trim level going out the door at under $18k; at that price the car is an excellent value. At $27k, even loaded up, not so much.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I’d agree there’s a big difference in shopper expectation at 18k versus 27k.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Yep. A great value at any price under about $22k. For $27k I’d rather have a compact CUV with more refinement.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The loaded version of a cheap car is never a “good deal”. But if you want THAT particular car with all the toys, that is what it costs.

        For that matter, the loaded version of a 3-series is a royal shafting too, price-wise.

        • 0 avatar
          tankinbeans

          I have a friend who has a 2011 Jetta 2.5 SE(a $23,000ish car with $13,000 bones – and they show) and it feels heavy and lose in all the wrong places. It’s been in and out of the shop for any number of things, but he insists it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

          It’s so good, in fact, that we have an agreement that any time it’s in the shop, generally once every couple months, he uses my 16 year old Blazer and fills it with gas.

    • 0 avatar
      Atum

      People calling 27 grand too high are crazy.

      My mom’s RAV4 Limited has the four-cylinder, FWD, no Entune, no third row, no DVD system, didn’t have a backup camera (installed after purchase), no special body accessories, a six year old design, and a smallish interior. Sticker price: 30 grand.

      Yeah, considering this Soul is modern, packs more options, more interior room, and much better fuel economy, the fact it, and a lot of the similar competition, are below the price stickered for that RAV4 is appalling (in a good way).

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      I actually saw a Soul with the words “Allroad Edition” in a decal on the hood the other day. I didn’t see any obvious mods to justify the irreverent use of the holy Audi name, however. Googling that name brought no confirmation, so I guess it’s just an aftermarket decal you can buy?

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I just drove a rental one of these (1.6, 6A) through a 6 inch snowfall last week, my impressions:

    First off, how dare you compare this to a Civic Wagon. The Kia had a much less usefully shaped cargo space than my old 1990 Wagon, let alone something like a Honda Fit. I’d call the Soul remarkably space inefficient overall. There is a huge well of space being lost to a foam ‘booster’ with a fake floor on top, to make the floor level when the seats fold flat. It’s got nothing on Honda’s magic seat, or even the old Civic’s tumble forward seat bottoms.

    Very strong vibrations from the drivetrain when standing in drive, reminiscent of a poorly adjusted idle speed or worn transmission mounts. Popping the car in neutral when sitting at idle makes this vibration disappear.

    Very coarse engine at certain rpms: 2750rpm-4000rpm when accelerating.

    Acceleration is actually pretty decent when it drops a gear, gets up to highway speeds quick.

    A very odd thing: the brakes are incredibly sensitive, they don’t feel linear at all. I had test driven another Soul back in 2012 and had noticed the same thing. Could be a matter of habit, but I don’t normally get in a new/rental car and have problems with brake modulation.

    Suspension manages to be simultaneously loose, with a lot of hobby-horse back and forth motion of expansion joints, while not being that compliant either. The car feels tall (because it is) and sways and leans a fair amount. I thought my 2012 Civic was pretty sloppy, this is notably worse. My 1990 Wagon was a go cart compared to either of these, and even my dad’s 07 Fit. Of course the old Wagon would knock your kidneys loose over bumps.

    Excellent visibility forward and to the sides, I like the upright windshield. Directly out back the view is good, but near the D pillar it is nonexistent.

    Interior is pretty impressive in terms of materials and design, very cohesive. My single complaint is that the steering wheel had molding flash all around the outside of the rim, no excuse for that. Good noise insulation compared to all of my Hondas, a bit of wind noise above 70mph, but it’s a big upright box, what can you do?

    Quite possibly the easiest car to get in and out of, perfect ‘chair’ seating position, although I found the seats themselves to be lacking lumbar support and cushion width (I’m not a fat guy by any stretch). This provides for a higher up sensation when going down the road, kind of a mini-SUV, instills a bit of that sensation of safety that people like. I can see why this is so popular with older folks.

    Lastly, regarding snow performance. It was pretty adequate on the stock all seasons, the only somewhat bad thing is that unsettled suspension could negatively affect traction when hitting bumps on the slick interstate, like hitting an expansion joint right before an iced over-overpass.

    Overall it’s a decent little car, but lacks the neat packaging and refined engines and driving dynamics that this Honda-phile is used to.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Forgot to mention:

      Display was showing 26.5 mpg average with cruise set to 72mph. Not exactly setting the world on fire there, blame the blocky shape and upright windshield.

    • 0 avatar
      Cowgirl

      You test drove the cheap base model, not the 2.0 engine. No vibrations from the relatively quiet 2.0, smooth auto tranny. And pretty peppy even with ECO on it has sufficient power. Brakes are not overly sensitive, if anything there is a good deal of play so smooth stops are easy to do. Perhaps what you test drove was brand new. Glad you notice thech better quality interior than the CRV that had leather-I was quite disappointed. With all the good reviews I thought that was the car for me-but felt cheap like a Toyota interior. Honda did a great job with maximizing Fit’s interior, with the flat seats. Too bad they did not put in the Civic or accord engine as the Fit is grossly underpowered and NOISY-was so shocked at the wind noise as had a great aerodynamic windshield. Fit interior on par with entry vehicles like the Hyundai Accent. For 15K guess it would be ok in a flat area, but not in a hilly area. Hondas in out family have been very reliable which does help with the blah and plain rather cheap interior. Other than ACs going out at around 60K, as well as the master brake cyllinder, been pretty good.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    Yeah the fuel mileage on this is pretty disappointing, especially the highway. Come on, a Ford Mustang does just as well! It’s a nifty concept, but I think there are ultimately better options out there. My sister looked at one and ended up getting a Honda Fit instead. better gas mileage and a more useful interior.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      No. Soul is better option, save for fuel economy. Fit interior can’t even come close to 2014 Soul. And I sit on in the interior, this is where I live. Fit has 1990 interior

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        @slavuta – She didn’t like the Fit’s interior quality better – actually that’s her main complaint about the car, that it feels so cheap inside. The Fit’s interior was “better” in terms of it’s space and versatility in packaging.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          My friend, I’ve been to every seat and trunk (not mentioning the hood) of every car just a week ago. Fit doesn’t even touch the Soul. Soul has 5 inches more leg room in the rear, 10 more cubic feet passenger volume and 4 more cubic feet in the trunk. If in Soul engineers would move the rear seat 5 inches forward to match Fit’s rear leg misery, its trunk would be 10c.f. larger.
          Fit is just smaller, period. You can compare how well it manages the space vs Fiesta, Mazda2, but Soul is “next floor in the building”, if you understand what I mean. I will only give to Fit that it now has very decent front seats because 3 years ago it had horrible ones. Your sis made mistake. Soul is just more joy.

          • 0 avatar
            tjh8402

            @slavuta. She originally wanted a minivan but ruled that out due to the poor mileage. The Fit has nearly as much cargo room as the Soul (20 vs 24 cubic ft seats up and 57 vs 61 seats folded). Very important to her was not just the total volume of the cargo area, but its height. The flip up seat cushions in the middle satisfy that requirement, and although I’m not certain, I believe that the Fit’s rear cargo area is also taller. I’m not sure if the Soul’s front passenger seat will do the fold flat with the rear seats trick to give a long cargo area like the Fit’s do either. Rear seat legroom was not a huge concern of hers; she cared more about cargo carrying versatility. Either way, she looked at, drove, and played around with the Soul and the Fit, bought the Fit, and is very happy with it so it was hardly a mistake on her part.

        • 0 avatar
          tuffjuff

          I’d take even this lowly Kia over the ugly as a devil’s face Honda Fit.

          I don’t think I’ve seen a car as over-hyped and under-delivered as the Fit since…. the early 2000′s Honda Civic.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            When I test drove 2011 Fit, was I glad the drive was over!! Although Corolla S 5mt test drive lasted only 300 yards. Fit in contrast made the whole 5 miles.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      I’ve recently ridden in a Fit and a Soul and I could live with the Soul. I wouldn’t like to, really, but I could. Not the Fit, too cramped. The mileage is ok, personally, I really couldn’t care less if I spent 10 bucks a week more to drive something I like better.

      My friend’s oldest daughter just bought a Soul after driving her younger sister’s 2012. Her dogs fit nicely in the back, they didn’t fit in the Fit she had previously (It was ok, but was wrecked, and she didn’t want another one).

  • avatar
    Jellodyne

    Hilarious set of exterior photos. When I saw the new Soul’s taillights I immediately understood what they were trying to do with the previous car’s back end. But of course the new one looks exactly like the old one when everything’s covered with snow.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    Odd GPS display. Looks like aviation.
    Set as destination option would place the origin near Westerly State airfield in RI.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Not sure why everyone’s focused on AWD for this car. Fact is, weight is your biggest enemy when driving in snow. Lots of light (under 3000 lbs.) cars do fine in the snow with all-seasons, up to whatever their ground clearance is, without AWD.

    For a car like this, if you want more traction, the money is better spent on a set of true snows, than on AWD. That will help you turn and stop, which AWD will not.

    Regarding the suspension: it seems that with short wheelbase cars, you have two choices, firm and rather punishing (e.g. MINI) or a little soft and rolly.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I’m not sure how much weight matters for snow traction. I’ve had a sub-3000 pound FWD car that was absolutely awful in the snow. It was handicapped by all-season tires, though they were all-seasons that tirerack surveys implied had some minimal competence in the snow.

      This discussion of AWD vs FWD or RWD and the impact of snow has surfaced repeatedly recently. I think we can all agree that you should always use snow tires if you have to drive in snow, and if you put snow tires on an AWD car, you are in even better shape. It might be overkill, but it is better.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I think there’s a sweet spot for car weight in snow. Too light and little weight over the rear wheels in a fwd car and changing lanes through built up slush gets scary as the rear of the car gets thrown around. Too much weight and all that mass becomes a liability when braking. My 4000lb MPV on skinny 215 series snow tires sliced right through built up slush, and I basically didn’t have to use 4wd, ever. My dad’s Fit gets a bit squirrely, even with snow tires, it ‘floats’ rather than slices.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    So I guess Winston that this is the most fun you’ve ever had involving such a “cold soul”?

    Badum, tssssssss…

  • avatar
    slavuta

    When I came back from the car show, one car I was impressed with was Kia Soul. It is easy to get impressed by Lexus or BMW. But I don’t even go to see these cars at the show until I see all the cars which are regular folk cars.

    Soul is well designed on the inside and out. It is cute, hot, sexy, you name it. It has wonderful passenger capacity and room. The 2014 gets some of the best seats you will find. The dash is more than adequate. For those who needs it, the options are plentiful. I personally have no need for leather, sunroof, power seats, etc.

    Everyone who drove 2013 says, it is day and night vs 2014, there is just so much improvement in the ride quality.

    Looks like Soul is the car I could enjoy driving every day. And I understand that it will not handle like Mazda3 that I currently drive. But Soul has its charms.

    Without driving it, the only Cons I see is fuel efficiency is not up to modern standard, and the fact that only 1.6L comes with manual transmission. This is big for me as I haven’t driven automatic car since 1994. In case of fuel numbers I can close my eyes on it since car is fairly cheap and I could pay more for more efficient car but at the 10 year finish line would come to the same amount of money spent. But manual tranny is different.

    The funny observation about Soul is that it is probably designed for youthful people but in real world half of them are driven by retirees.

    The author of this post mentioned VWs in a few occasions regarding the Soul. Well, it is not hard to understand why – Kia’s main designer is ex-Audi/VW employee (if he is still there). So, it is natural that Kias resemble Audis a bit.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “Best seats you can find”
      -Negatory. Too small, zero lumbar support.

      “improvement in the ride quality”
      -How can you know this when you go on to state:
      “Without driving it, ”

      Sorry but this reads like some sort of poorly written Eastern European promotional material for Kia.

      It’s a big box with a disproportionately small trunk. Having a ‘fake floor’ to level out the surface when the seats are folded flat is just lazy engineering.

      This is what separates Kia from something like the Fit. It has a decent overall look and features, but it’s missing a few key pieces. And fuel economy and interior packaging is a pretty big piece to miss. Something as simple as decent brake feel and competent suspension tuning is another issue, ones that you would not have noticed by just sitting in it. Not to mention serious vibrations at idle.

      Different people have different priorities, and the Soul is selling very well despite the shortcomings I found with the one I drove.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        There is no perfect car – all of them have shortcomings. Fit and Soul are different class. There is no reason to compare. Soul is Mini, Juke, Cube, whatever else is out there. Fit is just an econo box, which not even producing mileage Mazda6 produces. I just posted my observations. For me, Soul has nices seats than other cars in its monetary vicinity. I mentioned that I didn’t drive it. Nothing will be as drivable after Mazda3 anyway. Why would I worry about the trunk? I buy car to enjoy my ride to work. 99.9% of the time my trunk is empty. If you need space buy something else.

        The fuel economy is big concern because today it is behind. Now, with Mazda doing ICE magic other manufacturers will head that way and in 5 years your Soul will be 15mpg behind. But you keep your car 10 years, especially if it is Kia. This is a concern.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I don’t get the fuel economy grousing about this car. It is a fairly large, tall, square box on wheels. So it has the aerodynamics of a garden shed. Of course it gets worse fuel economy than the average sedan! But it does not do worse than similarly sized CUV, which are its real competition.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I like the garden shed quip. I also agree it does no worse than a small CUV, but those get mediocre at best mileage compared to cars of the same footprint. Hopefully KIA will tweak the recipe in future versions for better fuel economy..

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Considering that the Kia with a little 1.6L engine gets the same fuel economy on the highway as a 2013 Rav4 AWD, which is significantly roomier and has a much more powerful engine, I’d say that is a problem. One of poor design or engineering. My bet is that the aerodynamics just aren’t there. Most CUVs have steeply raked windshields these days, the Soul’s is bolt upright, that makes a big difference.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            @krhodes1
            Allow myself to disagree with you. cx5, Cr-v, Rav-4, Forester, all are larger and get better mileage. Old xB was bigger and older and got 28mpg combined

            @gtemnykh
            I bet ya, it is not only aerodynamics. hyundai/Kia are still not the masters of the engines like Honda and Mazda these days. Remember, they have some issues with stated mileage on the other cars. They still lagging in engine refinement department.

      • 0 avatar
        Cowgirl

        The Soul has excellent lumbar support, I have a bad back & found the lumbar adjustment excellent. Obviously you never sat in a 2014 with power seat.

        They said that they HEARD of the improved ride quality-I hated the 2013 when I test drove it-harsh ride and noisy. I then tested the 2014 & it was much smoother & quieter. (better ride and quieter than the Mini Countryman as well, not to mention the Mini interior was not as good quality as the 2014 Soul). The Fit is grossly under powered with lots of wind noise and the interior is very cheap like the typical Honda or Toyota. The Fit is a cheap economy vehicle & feels like it, the Soul is not & feels more like an upscale little car. I think it has pep than my brother’s old MB 300D. heated seats and steering are great as is the moonroof, and excellent navigation…easy to understand voice commands and 8″ screen easy to see with a quick glance

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          Seat comfort is just your opinion. Everyone’s body will react differently to the same seat, to the extent that it is barely worth commenting on in a review.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I will say that the 2014 rental trim that I sat in had a physically small seat, I will agree that seat comfort is a very personal thing. I was happy to get back in my Civic, more room to move my legs around. The Civic’s lumbar support sticks out further into my lower back, dunno how else to describe it. To me, this is more comfortable than a flatter seatback, like the Soul. My “typically cheap” Civic has a steering wheel without a ridge of molding flash on it, take that for what it’s worth!

  • avatar
    LeeK

    As an owner of not one, but two Elements (great car for teenagers) I rented a Soul for a weeklong vacation trip to New Mexico and came away very impressed. Even in the high altitude of Santa Fe, it had a lot of pep and the interior space was really appreciated for hauling luggage. To hear that the gen2 is even better is very good news and when my kids need to replace the Elements, the Soul will be on the short list.

    Hamsters unite!

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Are the tires Kumhos or Nexens? Nexen is a brand, not a model of Kumhos.

    I’ve had Kumho all-seasons and Nexen summer tires on different cars in the past. I hated both of them.

    235/45/18 is nuts on a Kia Soul. For perspective, WRXs (at least the new one, but I think older ones too) use 235/45/17. A WRX is just a bit further up the performance food chain. Base Mustangs use narrower tires and smaller wheels at 225/60/17.

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    taking pictures of a car in the snow is fine.
    taking pictures of snow on a car is not.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    This is really beating a dead horse at this point, but I have to do it anyway. It drives me crazy that manuals are typically only offered on lower trim levels. If you have to limit them to one or two builds, I think it should be a well-equipped trim level.

    The only people still driving manuals do it because they like it, not to save money. Automatics have received higher EPA ratings for a few years now, and said automatic is often a no cost option. Furthermore, transmission choice has too much of an impact on the driving experience to compromise on just to save $1,000 on a purchase that is likely at least $17,000.

    Maybe manufacturers can make a better business case for manuals by making them the extra cost option? Has anyone looked into that? In keeping with the theory that the people still driving them simply prefer it, those people are probably willing to pay extra to get a decent one.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      When I test drove a super-base 2013 Soul with a 6spd stick, it did not have cruise control and it wasn’t even an option. That is just stupid. Also, despite the 6 gears, it was a bit too wound out on the highway, much like every other Asian subcompact to be fair. Highway driving is one place modern automatics almost always have the MPG edge on the stick shifts.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        Not on 2010-11 Mazda3. Consumer report and I observed higher mileage on stick. As a matter fact, Mazda3 manual had the highest MPG after Corolla manual. But Corolla manual is such a junk

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Likewise I can consistently eke out 40mpg per tank during my summer mixed driving in my 5spd 2012 Civic (45 mph suburban driving 9 miles each way during the week, 200 mile highway round trips at ~75 mph every weekend). But that is me driving carefully by anticipating traffic lights, and doing some short shifting and coasting to stops. On the highway, 70mph registers at right around 3000rpm on my tach. The 5spd auto Civics are at 2500 or less. In fact I’m pretty amazed that despite those high rpms it gets such great mileage. My father’s Fit is the same way except 70 mph is now 3500rpm, and yet it will get 41-42 mpg at that speed. Pretty amazing stuff.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            Friend of mine told me that when he drives his 2004 Camry 80-85mph he gets 38-40 mpg. I never drive over 75mph and I get 36mpg on 2011 Mazda3, no matter if I drive 55, 65, or 75. it has mpg limit :o)

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            @ slavuta – Is this measured with US gallons? Is your Camry-driving friend’s name Norm?

          • 0 avatar
            Nick_515

            slavuta and burgersandbeer:

            what you just said is so interesting. for the first time ever, i noticed something similar over a 300-mile trip in warm east coast weather today. i got MUCH better mileage going 80-85 then any other speed, including 75, 65, or 55. Audi 3.2 v6.

            i am so perplexed.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      I am with you that manuals on lower trim levels only is BS.

      Oddly enough, the only way to get the MT on the Verano was to get the Turbo… and I am pretty happy about that!

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Good point, I forgot about that car when I posted that comment. I’m not sure how it slipped my mind, since a Verano Turbo is on my test drive list when the time comes.

        Another thing Buick is doing right!

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    My brother has the 2012 Kia Soul. We drove it to Boston and back around Christmas. There was some snow and ice around and it handled it quite well. But he also put a set of snow tyres on the front.

    He paid $15k for it and it seemed a much better vehicle than my mother Michigan built Focus to drive and the quality difference was chalk and cheese.

    Driving it was fun and lacking in power in 6th on hills, it’s FE was more than acceptable. I wouldn’t want the back seat on a long journey, sitting over the rear wheel on a short wheel base.

    I do think Kia has built a nice vehicle for the price. The newer one here appears to be even better. So it must be a very good vehicle.

    I like Kia and they have progressed in leaps and bounds over the past decade and I think they can only go forward.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Better than a 2012+ Focus? Or an earlier version?

      An aside, buying snow tires for just the front of the car has got to be one of the most monumentally terrible decisions a person can make.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @gtemnykh
        Yes, that’s my take on the vehicle. I liked it.

        The Kia is far more versatile. It offered far more utility than my mother’s Focus. The Kia is put together far better as well.

        I didn’t race the car, as 90% of the driving was on a divided road sitting on 65mph. The stereo is great for a cheap car, especially when attempting to cross the Washington Bridge, where it seems 2 dozen lanes converge into 3. What a $hit fight that was.

        All round it’s a great vehicle. I even liked the shift on the 6 spd manual.

        But the Focus is about a generation behind, at least the US Focus. I drove both.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @gtemnykh
        She bought the Focus 2012, but I think it’s a 2011 model.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          Does it look like this?
          http:// http://www.cars.com/ford/focus/2011/consumer-reviews

          Though I think the current Focus is a bit overrated, I don’t think you will find too many people agreeing with you that a 2012 Soul drives better than it.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Yeah that was my thought, the Focus is universally praised for driving very “German” on the highway. The Soul I rented, was anything but German lol

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            Yeah, I’ve rented both, and while the previous Soul had a cheap and cheerful appeal, the current Focus drives circles around it.

            I don’t see much in this review to suggest that has changed with the 2014 Soul.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @gtemnykh & burgersandbeer
            It’s a 2011.

            I do know that you don’t like hearing what I wrote. The front seat in the Kia was far more comfortable as well.

            The interior of the Kia was far superior in both quality and fit and finish.

            The secondary areas was better finished on the Kia as well.

            As for the back seat, I would rather the Focus.

            Handling, we didn’t drive down any drivers road. So, handling I would say the Focus would win. In heavy traffic the Kia is the winner.

            The Focus did have a substantial power advantage, even though it was an auto.

            As for FE, I didn’t check, but both were relatively economical.

            But, for overall ownership, I would have bought the Kia as a daily hack.

            It was also a couple thousand cheaper than the Focus.

            I consider the quality, utility and price advantage of the Kia outweighs the added power and possible handling of the Focus.

            I would only own one of these if I lived in an urban area.

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            Al from Oz, I have no personal attachment to the Focus, nor am I worried about your opinion of it. I was only trying to clarify which iteration of the Focus you drove, as you were not communicating that clearly.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @burgersandbeer
            I only drove these vehicles because it was easier than walking.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @gtemnykh
            I don’t know who wrote the Focus is ‘German’, but they sure as hell don’t know their $hit.

            The Focus experience was on par with a Camry experience. There was nothing European about the feel.

  • avatar
    vvk

    > 24.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat is impressively large

    Serious question here: how come that picture makes it look like it is half that size? I have also looked at this car in real life and feel like the hatch area is relatively small, maybe 12 ft3.

    My 1998 SAAB 900 had a 24 ft3 hatch and that one looked twice as big:

    http://images.gtcarlot.com/pictures/44666554.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Yeah I was surprised to hear that 24 cu ft figure, no way in hell. They must be measuring with that foam floor insert removed, and measuring all the way to the roof or something. I had just a few things to carry but ended up folding the seats forward in order to fit everything.

      One thing I forgot to mention that I really liked about the Soul is the decent amount of ground clearance it has, a solid 6 inches or so. For someone who goes hiking or camping, that can make a world of difference.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        That’s the problem I had with the Soul (when I was considering one) – very tall/shallow cargo area behind the rear seat. It would take some very careful stacking of perfectly-arranged luggage to use all of it, and a comical “over-stuffed closet exploding” scenario when you pop the hatch after a bumpy drive.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    That’s the difference between long and low, and tall and square.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Just as with the first-gen: an AMC designer called, and wants his Gremlin back!!

    Gorpy-looking, just as with the Juke, Rogue, new Santa Fe, et. al.

  • avatar
    firemachine69

    So he makes a slag at the coaster-shaped speakers, but doesn’t even bother with a picture? Waddajerk. :p

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    At or near base trim, this cutie-pie small MPV makes a case for itself.

    But 27k? That will buy you a Ford C-Max Hybrid SE with a couple options, and the Ford will be quieter, smoother, quicker, and get much better MPG than the Kia. Why would anyone buy the Rio-based Soul at that price point?

    Styling, maybe. Of all the small MPVs, only the Soul gets it just right, looking like a cardboard box styled by Tonka and painted in giggly colors like Metallic Kermit the Frog. FUN! The Cube is wacky too, but without that Tonka element to make it more acceptable to dudes. The Fiat 500L falls even further of the mark, more ungainly than cute. And the xB2 and C-Max are styled for adults, which is a mistake when styling a small MPV, which inherently is going to look like either a box or a potato…may as well make it a fun box or a fun potato!


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