The all-new 2014 Kia Soul! (Exclamation) does just that, an all-new model that is more fun to drive and substantial inside with the latest infotainment and connectivity capabilities. The wildly successful Soul gets its high marks from its unique style combining utility and comfort on short and long drives. Riding on a new chassis that is stiffer, longer and wider, the all-new 2014 Soul has grown up with losing its edge, allowing for more passenger and cargo room while reducing NVH levels. A flatter torque curve and significant suspension upgrades make the all-new Soul a more nimble and agile vehicle in congested urban environments.
Just a quick glance and I recognized the Soul with its new refined styling, the upright stance, squared shoulders and distinctive fender flares. Combining a longer 101.2 inch wheelbase, overall width that is increase to 70.9 inches and a reduced overall height of 63 inches, adds a more aggressive edge to the all-new Soul’s one-of-a-kind’ appearance. Likewise, the wraparound greenhouse, high-mounted, larger, vertical LED taillights and upright stance are all hallmark design elements.
The original concept Track’ster’ similarities are easy to spot. The large trapezoidal lower air intake is nearly a direct carryover from the concept, and the location of the optional foglamps-down low and pushed to the leading edge-mirror those found on the Track’ster. Kia’s signature grille is present, but it’s been reworked to more closely resemble the concept. Adding a touch of flare, the unique ‘floating’ body-color panel insert into the liftgate originated with the Track’ster’ as well. Subtle enhancements include a wider (by 2.4 inches) opening for the liftgate allowing Soul to accommodate more cargo and stuff and down below larger, round red reflectors.
I tested the Soul! Exclamation model that came fully loaded including the ‘whole shebang package’ that includes HID Low Beam headlights, push button start/stop located on the center console with Smart Key easy-opening front doors, full leather seat trim, heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, heated/leather-wrapped/tilt/telescopic steering wheel, Supervision Meter Cluster with 4.3 inch color LCD, and an engine immobilizer. Other options included in my test Soul included the Sun & Sound Package featuring automatic dual-zone climate control, panoramic sunroof with power sunshade, Kia’s navigation system with an eight-inch color screen, Sirius Satellite Radio with XM Nav Traffic and a monster Infinity sound system with color changing front door speakers. Kia has really infused the Soul ! with the latest automotive, infotainment and comfort features.
On the inside Track’ster’ cues are also in evidence. Kia designers played up the circular theme found inside the ‘Track’ster. Soft-to-the-touch high-quality materials include leather trimmed seats, aluminum trim pieces and black piano veneers on the dashboard, center console and door trim. Front and center is the instrument cluster with deeply recessed gauges. Along the door panels, sculpted circles incorporate the power windows and door locks. The center console features a round gear shift knob wrapped in leather, aluminum and topped with black piano veneer, plus the push-button start button which is exclusive to the Soul in the Kia lineup and taken from the Track’ster. The front door-mounted speakers mirror the circular, high-mounted ‘floating’ tweeters and utilize optional LED-string light technology to create ripple-effect, red-hued mood lighting. The steering wheel mounted controls are housed in Soul-exclusive circular groupings along the lower spoke with the buttons for the audio system and trip computer falling readily to the thumbs enabling me to keep my hands on the wheel at all times. Most prominent in the new instrument panel is the optional eight-inch touch screen-the largest ever offered on Soul. Also optional on the new Soul is UVO eServices, Kia’s second-generation infotainment and telematics system. UVO is optional and takes in-car connectivity and media interplay to the next level, integrating a number of other Kia firsts. Topping the list is the high-definition capacitive touch screen. Its wide viewing angle affords better visibility and allows me to scroll with the stroke of a finger. Living side-by-side for the first time in a Kia vehicle, the audio/video and optional navigation controls are viewable on the home screen. Combining the most accessed ancillary controls on a single screen helps reduce driver distraction and improves overall functionality and ease-of-use. Additionally, the optional larger Supervision Cluster/TFT LCD color screen found in the instrument binnacle now displays turn-by-turn directions from the navigation system, helping to keep eyes on the road. Another first is the integration of Pandora internet radio, the revolutionary online radio network that allows me to customize me listening experience. It no longer is needed to manage Pandora through my Smartphone. Instead, Pandora is preloaded into the headunit and accessible through the touch screen and Voice Command, displaying the artist, title and album cover art as well as allowing me to conveniently skip songs, or manage preferred stations. SiriusXM Data Services and Travel Link, the all-new Soul has access to travel information such as road conditions, weather and security alerts as well as sports scores, movie times, stock prices and fuel prices. With an upgraded interior with luxury touches, new technology and infotainment service, the all-new Soul is on the cutting edge along with much higher-priced and larger vehicles.
In addition to all of this technology, I and my passengers enjoy a larger and significantly quieter cabin with incremental increases in front legroom-42.9 inches, rear legroom-39.1 inches, front headroom-39.6 inches and front seat shoulder room 55.5 inches. The all-new Soul also offers a 0.5 inch lower hip point and step-in-height that’s reduced 0.2 inches, allowing for even easier ingress and egress. Overall cargo capacity is increased by half cubic foot to 24.2. liberal use of expansion foam (replacing the previously used block foam) thoroughly fills body cavities, reducing outside wind and road noise. A reinforced isolation pad in the cargo area and poly-urethane-layered carpet helps reduce overall interior noise levels by approximately 3 decibels.
Standard equipment inside include A/C, power windows/door locks with express up/down in front, USB and auxiliary input jacks, Bluetooth wireless technology, center console with dual cupholders/armrest and storage bin, 60/40 split folding rear seat with pull-down armrest with dual cupholders, remote keyless entry, cruise control, variable-speed wipers/washers, rear wiper/washer, trip computer, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power-remote/heated/power folding outside mirrors, cargo cover, floor mats front/middle/rear with under floor storage, dual map lights, grab handles above each seat, storage slots in each door, deep glove box, and dual-mounted vanity mirrors.
The chassis and mechanicals have also been improved and revised starting with an all-new chassis that is nearly 29% stiffer than before. The Soul’s stout skeleton provides the base for a vehicle that places a premium on driving dynamics with a fun-to-drive attitude. Engineers put their efforts in strengthening the body at key connection points along the cowl, upper and lower B-pillars, cross members, and the C-pillars. An impressive 66% of the chassis utilizes either Ultra High Strength Steel (31%). The A-pillar is 0.8 inches narrower, allowing for improved outward visibility, but through the use of Ultra High Strength Steel, it’s lighter and stronger than ever. The application of structural adhesive around the door openings and along the roof also helps improve torsional rigidity. Significant attention has also been focused on improving the all-new Soul’s ride and handling through heavily revised front and rear suspension setups. The front subframe utilizes four bushings (none used before) helps reduce ride harshness and impact boom over rough pavement. The stabilizer bar has been moved rearward on the MacPherson strut front suspension that also utilizes coil springs, while the electric-power assisted rack & pinion steering box has moved forward, lending better balance and subsequently improved handling. Relocating the steering box has also resulted in a better on-center feel. The new one-piece steering gear housing is stronger than the two-piece unit used before thus improving steering response to my inputs and reducing impacts felt through the wheel. Standard on all Soul models is a new Flex Steer system-which allows me to select from three distinct steering settings-Comfort, Normal and Sport. I really felt a different in steering effort when I used each setting on the road. The shock absorbers on the torsion beam rear suspension have been turned vertically-they were positioned at an angle before-and lengthened. This new arrangement allows for more suspension travel, improving ride comfort and control when turning on curving roads.
Power to move the all-new Soul! comes from a 2.0 liter, inline four-cylinder DOHC engine that features GDI (gasoline direct injection) for the first time and has been tuned to provide more low-end torque. Power is rated 164hp at 6,200rpm and 151lb.ft. of torque at 4,000rpm. The engine is mated to a smooth shifting six-speed automatic with sequential shifting. I used the sequential shifting several times for quicker acceleration entering fast moving highways but usually kept it is automatic which changed gears pretty quickly as I push on the throttle.
Quickly and safety slowing the all-new Soul down from speed are large, four-wheel, power-assisted steel disc brakes. Up front are 11-inch vented discs and 10.3-inch solid discs in the rear. Each disc is clamped with single-piston calipers. Standard ABS, BA, traction control, electronic stability control and electronic stability management helped to keep me in control of my direction during severe braking times, when taking a curve a little too fast and when braking on wet or slick pavement. My test Soul! rode on large 18X7.5 inch alloy wheels wrapped with 235/45R18inch Khumo performance tires for excellent grip and a smooth, quiet ride.
Standard safety equipment include dual front advanced airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, Hill-Start Assist Control, tire pressure monitoring, 5-3-point safety belts with front pretensioners/load limiters, LATCH system for child seats, front/rear crumple zones and steel beams in each door.
The all-new 2014 Kia Soul! is totally transformed from its former self with many of the concept Track’ster design cues along with higher levels of comfort, versatility, convenience, luxury, a fun-to-drive attitude, infotainment and automotive high-technology under the skin that makes the all-new Soul! one of the most advanced five-door vehicles on the market for a base price of $20,300.00 and just $25,400.00 fully loaded.
COPYRIGHT: 2013: HARVEY SCHWARTZ