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Kia Delivers a New Soul

By Sue Mead, November 9th, 2013

How do you re-invent an icon that's as successful as the Kia Soul? The task for Kia when developing the second-generation 2014 Soul was to stay true to the original design elements and let the stylists give it a fresh take inside and out, and charge its engineers with improving the driving dynamics.

Manufacturer photo: The all-new Soul displays its own individuality through a blend of funky, fun-to-drive characteristics and premium upgrades intended to set it apart from the pack
Manufacturer photo: The all-new Soul displays its own individuality through a blend of funky, fun-to-drive characteristics and premium upgrades intended to set it apart from the pack

We just drove the new 2014 Soul in Minneapolis, chosen by Kia for this introduction because it is one of the "nicest cities in America and the third-best city for Gen Y," which is one important segment of Soul's buyers. After a full day of motoring the updated model in both urban traffic and rural roadways we say: Mission accomplished, Kia.

The base model starts at $14,700, followed $18,200 for the Soul Plus and $20,300 for the Soul Exclaim. It competes with compact and midsize cars and crossovers including the Scion xB, Nissan Cube, Nissan Juke, MINI Countryman, Ford Focus and Fiat 500 L, among others. Kia says an electric Soul model will also be available next year.

strong>There are two 4-cylinder engine options: a 1.6-liter with 130 horsepower and 118 lb.-ft. of torque (slightly less than before) and a 2.0-liter that delivers 164 horsepower and 151 lb.-ft. of torque, which is up over the previous generation model. A six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic are available on the smaller engine, while the bigger engine comes with an auto transmission only.

Our tester was the Soul Plus model with the larger engine and the automatic transmission. The compact's new platform and powertrain upgrades bring improved handling and performance. Noteworthy are the improved ride with better steering response, the upgraded suspension that aids better in tracking, better braking and greater stability. During our day-long test drive, we experienced more tire and wind noise than anticipated, but the cabin is still fairly quiet. What is alluring is the overall package, price and frisky styling.

Manufacturer photo: The all-new Soul displays its own individuality through a blend of funky, fun-to-drive characteristics and premium upgrades intended to set it apart from the pack

At a quick glance, the all-new second-generation Soul looks a lot the same as the original, but the newest Soul is lower, longer and wider, with a freshened and more "wheel-centric" look outside. The new-gen Soul is even more upscale, with improved comfort, cargo-carrying room and added advanced technology inside.

The 2014 Kia Soul keeps its young and playful look, but its new platform is 28.7-percent stiffer and built with more high-strength steel. Soul keeps its upright and boxy, square shape with an angled roofline and side glass, but designers have rounded out the corners slightly. Up front is a new trapezoidal lower fascia with foglamps, which is a design cue that is replicated at the back end with reflectors on the rear bumper.

Inside, we took notice of updated materials throughout the cabin and improved seat comfort. Kia calls the Soul's interior working a "mobile gadget lab." There is a larger, clearer LDC display, Kia's new Android-based navigation system with an 8-inch touchscreen, and available Infinity audio, rear camera and a carry-over from the original Soul of door-trim speaker lights that pulse to the beat of music. Touch surfaces have been made more plush and there is new switchgear for audio and cruise control on the steering wheel that is more heavily weighted.

When the Soul was first introduced in 2009 Kia expected to up to 50,000 units annually. But the Soul, portrayed as a funky, urban runabout, has been wildly popular resulting in sales of 115,000. It is the second best-selling model in Kia's portfolio, followed by the Optima.

Specifications

Base price $18,200 (as tested: $18,995)
Curb weight 2,837 lbs.
Displacement 2.0-liter
Epa mileage rating 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 14.2 gal.
Horsepower (net) 164 at 6200 rpm
Motor type 16-valve DOHC 4-cyl. w/GDI
Overall length 163.0 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 151 at 4000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger FWD compact hatch
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