Full 2014 Kia Soul Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Kia Soul is redesigned.
Introduced four years ago, the Soul is one of Kia's best-selling models. We've always liked this small, box-shaped wagon's unique styling and generous level of equipment. The 2014 Kia Soul represents the car's first major redesign. Although it's not a radical change from the original, there are just enough improvements to make the Soul a compelling proposition for budget-minded buyers looking for an alternative to mainstream sedans and hatchbacks.
One of a handful of negatives on the previous Kia Soul was the bumpy ride on models with 18-inch wheels and tires. Although Kia is still offering 16-, 17- and 18-inch wheels on this small wagon, various suspension changes result in a much more livable ride in normal driving. Although the base 1.6-liter engine's power ratings are down this year, the more powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that most Soul buyers choose is significantly revised. It still makes 164 horsepower, but this engine now delivers more thrust at low rpm, helping the Soul feel peppier during city driving.
There are changes to the Soul's interior as well. The quality of interior materials is better this time around, and while passenger room is similar to last year, Kia has carved out more cargo capacity, which now tops out at a crossover-like 61 cubic feet. Optional equipment closely follows last year's Soul, but new items include a panoramic sunroof and an upgraded Uvo eServices package that includes streaming Internet radio capability for smartphone users.
On the whole, the 2014 Kia Soul is more appealing than your average entry-level sedan or hatchback, and it will certainly meet most consumers' daily-driving requirements. Depending on your needs, though, it's worthwhile to shop around a bit in this segment. The Honda Fit, for example, is a better bet if you haul bulky items (due to its reconfigurable rear seats), while the 2014 Ford Fiesta's sharper handling will appeal to enthusiast-minded drivers.
Other fine choices include the 2014 Chevy Sonic and the original box-shaped wagon, the Scion xB. Or, if you're really serious about fuel economy, you might prefer the Toyota Prius C. Although the 2014 Kia Soul doesn't have significant advantages over these rivals, it's a well-rounded car that's worth considering if space, style and affordability are high on your priority list.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Kia Soul is a four-door hatchback with seating for five. It's available in three trim levels: base, + and ! (also known as Plus and Exclaim).
The base model's standard equipment includes 16-inch steel wheels, hill-start assist, rear privacy glass, full power accessories, power-heated side mirrors, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, cloth upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel (with audio controls), a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The Soul+ adds a more powerful engine, 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, cruise control, front seat center console storage with an armrest and a fold-down rear-seat armrest (optional on the base).
There are several optional trim packages to choose from on the Soul+. The Uvo eServices package adds automatic headlights and the Uvo infotainment interface with voice control, Bluetooth audio connectivity, streaming Internet radio capability and a rearview camera (roadside assistance and maintenance reminders will be added to Uvo later in the 2014 model year). You can buy the Audio package in combination with the Uvo package and you'll get automatic climate control; a navigation system with an 8-inch touchscreen display, HD radio and an upgraded Infinity Audio system; speaker lights; and piano-black and satin-metallic interior accents. If you buy the Uvo and Audio packages, you can also order the Primo package, which adds a panoramic sunroof (eliminating the Soul's standard roof rack mounting points), foglights, keyless ignition, leather upholstery, a 10-way power driver seat, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats and a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Finally, the Eco package adds fuel-saving features like an automatic stop-start system and low-rolling-resistance 16-inch tires; note that it's not available in combination with any of the above option packages.
The top-of-the-line Soul! builds upon the + model's standard equipment, adding 18-inch wheels, body-colored bumpers, LED daytime running lights, upgraded headlights, foglights, power-folding side mirrors, the 10-way power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a cooled glovebox and all the items in the Uvo eServices package as standard. The optional Sun and Sound package provides the panoramic sunroof, automatic climate control, navigation system, upgraded Infinity Audio system and speaker lights. If that's not enough, you can order The Whole Shabang package in combination with the Sun and Sound package; it adds xenon headlights (low-beams only), keyless ignition, an upgraded instrument panel, leather upholstery, heated/ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2014 Kia Soul is offered with two different engines. The base Soul gets a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 130 hp and 118 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard (including a hill-start assist function) and a six-speed automatic is optional.
Soul+ and ! models have a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that puts out a healthy 164 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is the only available transmission.
Standard safety equipment for all 2014 Kia Soul models includes four-wheel antilock disc brakes, hill-start assist, stability control, traction control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. A rearview camera is optional on the Soul+ and standard on the Soul! model.
Interior Design and Special Features
With its modern look and expressive styling details, the 2014 Kia Soul's cabin offers a nice balance between form and function. Quality materials and a useful amount of acoustic insulation make the interior feel more refined than you might expect for a car in this price range, while keeping things relatively quiet during highway travel.
Gauges and controls are logically located and intuitive to use, and using the Uvo interface to control your smartphone is a snap. In addition to upgrading the sound quality, the optional Infinity audio system includes illuminated trim rings for the speakers that flash to the beat of your music. It's a little gimmicky, but we have a feeling some Soul buyers will find it kind of fun.
One of the benefits of the Soul's boxy design is abundant head- and legroom, even in the backseat. Behind the rear seatbacks you'll find 19 cubic feet of cargo room, which grows to 61 cubic feet with both sections of the 60/40-split rear seatbacks folded down. This is greater than most competitors, but those who need maximum schlepping capacity should consider the Scion xB as it offers a cavernous 70-cubic-foot cargo hold.
With respectable power on tap from the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and smooth shifts from the six-speed automatic, the 2014 Kia Soul is enjoyable around town and confident when merging onto a freeway. We've yet to drive the 1.6-liter base Soul, but we think most buyers will be happier with the gutsier 2.0-liter.
Although the Soul doesn't feel especially sporty, it handles better than you might expect. The steering has a reassuring weightiness to its effort level at highway speeds, and it feels precise when you're driving around turns. The brake pedal has a reassuringly firm feel, too. Still, the best part about driving the 2014 Soul is its smooth ride. Even with the Soul! model's handsome 18-inch cast aluminum alloy wheels, this box-shaped wagon rides tolerably over bumps and ruts.