Kia's Newest Star: The 2014 Soul
When the Kia Soul came to market in 2010, the company was trying to reinvent itself to appeal to the children of baby boomers, aka Gen Y. At the time, Tom Loveless, VP of Sales for Kia Motors said, “This is the tip of a very big iceberg. It’s the direction Kia is going.”
And I wrote, “Could it be that, by next year, it will actually be cool to own a Kia?”
My prediction was spot on. Kia has certainly upped its cool factor, especially with the Soul, an urban hatchback that, like Gen Y, is not cut from the mold.
The ad campaign for Soul, which started out featuring hamsters on wheels, was different from the get-go. Over the years, Kia has grown the hamster theme to incorporate everything from rapping and hip-hop hamsters to this year’s edition, Lady Gaga.
Kia’s Soul, whose name is a play on “Seoul,” Korea’s capital and Kia’s hometown, has earned its weight in awards. The Soul has gathered a host of accolades including the winner of 2013 IIHS top safety pick, 2013 JD Power Initial Quality Study, two years in a row and number 8 out of 40 affordable small cars by US News.
The Soul was a good idea then and remains a good idea now. The 2014 model has upped the design, driving dynamics and technological features. It rides on a chassis that is stiffer, longer and wider, allowing for more passenger and cargo room.
On the outside, the square shape, straight posture, wraparound greenhouse, high taillights and standout fender flares distinguish the Soul from the field of other urban hatchbacks. Plus, it pops in new colors such as Solar Yellow, Kale Green and Inferno Red.
On the inside, the Soul uses the visual inspiration of droplets falling into a still pond. Tom Kearns, Chief Designer at the Kia California studio explained, “The design is organic, like the human body, and we feel it makes the interior that much more appealing to the driver and passengers.”
The circle theme and shape are repeated in the controls, speakers and tweeters. To bring it up a level, engineers installed soft touch materials on the instrument panel, center console and door panels and high-gloss piano black trim on the center console and dash.
UVO eServices, Kia’s second-generation infotainment touch screen, has a wide viewing angle that offers a scroll down feature. An available LCD color screen in the instrument binnacle displays turn-by-turn directions from the navigation system. With the addition of Pandora Internet radio and a three-month subscription to SiriusXM, the Soul is tricked out for great music.
When it comes to testing out the UVO I asked an expert, Judie Stanford, Editor in Chief of Gear Diary. She tests out all things new in technology from computers to smart phones. Stanford was all for the UVO: “The navigation system is intuitive and easy to use, and the addition of multiple charging ports and direct USB linking of the driver's phone to the UVO system makes Kia an easy choice for tech lovers.”
As for the drive, we all tested the 2.0 liter four-cylinder 164-horsepower model that puts out 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the hwy. (The 1.6-inline four-cylinder with 130 horsepower, 24/30 wasn’t available). The 2.0 liter Soul was quick, light and tight on turns—a sure boost up from its predecessor. It’s not just a personality car anymore…the Kia Soul, has some fire in its belly!
At a starting price of $14,700 to $20,300, the Soul holds its individual place in the world of small hatchbacks.
Michael Sprague executive VP of Kia Motors summed it up, "The Soul is still fun and funky and true to its roots. It embraces Gen Y’s passions with technology music and community. But bottom line, it’s a state of mind, not an age.”