2014 Kia Soul SX Review

2014 Kia Soul SX - a superb multi-purpose vehicle that's bargain-priced

2014 Kia Soul SX – a superb multi-purpose vehicle that’s bargain-priced

 

Bottom Line: Funky, loaded with an impressive array of features and amazingly spacious, the Kia Soul is a superb multi-purpose vehicle, and is bargain-priced to boot.

Style

There’s no question the 2014 Kia Soul has polarizing sheetmetal. Boxy to be sure, observers will either love the Soul’s style or love to hate it. Kia has to be applauded for its design courage in bringing the Soul to market. It’s tall, upright body maximizes interior space, yet Kia’s designers have penned a hip look that ought to appeal to the so-called ‘millenials’ and a broader audience. To my eye, the Soul is funky and ‘urban.’

Car stylists, like other industrial designers, will tell you a prime design objective for a car’s look is to ‘communicate’ its purpose, and the Soul’s appearance tells you it’s versatile, economical and ‘groovy.’ (Gawd, I’m dating myself. ‘Groovy?’)

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Interior

Slip into the cabin and the style plain ‘works.’ OK, the interior has a GameBoy/Nintendo/boombox design influence, but it’s not offensive. Chrome trim accentuates the pair of dash-mounted ‘tower’ speakers anchoring the ends of the dashboard, the audio/backup camera/GPS display is large and easy to decipher, and the 8-in. touch-screen has easy-to-use, large labels for radio stations.

Our top of the line SX version came fully equipped, with leather seating surfaces; the front seats are heated AND ventilated, and Ingrid and I both remarked on how comfortable the front seats are. And let’s give a big shout-out to Kia for spec-ing the Soul with heated steering! (It’s taken Porsche a number of years to even OFFER heated steering on some models, and if you want it, you pay an arm and leg, plus your first born child for the privilege of giving the company another wheelbarrow full of cash.) Second row (split 60-40) seats offer good legroom for adults. And the panoramic sunroof is spectacular, covering about 80-percent of the roof. Eighteen-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels pushed out to the four corners of the car give this stylish package a nice, hunkered down appearance.

The main instrument cluster is straight forward. Learning how to use the driver information display is quick and intuitive. It scrolls between car info/compass/audio/maintenance/settings

2014 Kia Soul's easy-to-read main instrument cluster

2014 Kia Soul’s easy-to-read main instrument cluster

Kia Soul's keyless ignition is easy to access, located on the console

Kia Soul’s keyless ignition is easy to access, located on the console

Value packed

One of the secrets to Kia’s automotive success is the value they build into their vehicles. Build quality and interior materials are easily on par with the main competition such as Toyota or Honda, but the Soul SX is loaded with a delectable list of features. The keyless entry and start/stop is superb. Merely walk up to the Soul with the key fob in your pocket and the car ‘senses’ your presence, automatically unfolding the side mirrors ready for driving. Press the button on the door handle and the car unlocks. Slip behind the wheel, reach down and press the start/stop button mounted on the console (not on the dash, hidden by the steering wheel like some cars) to start the vehicle. It’s all easy peasy.

The front windows are express up/down, automatic climate control, electric sunshade cover, fog lights, one-touch 3-blink lane change turn signals, 6-speaker Premium Infinity audio, satellite radio, and even a cooled glove box are all standard on the SX.

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Second row is roomy enough for adults and features heated seats

Second row is roomy enough for adults and features heated seats

On the road

Driving the 2014 Kia Soul SX holds no surprises. For its designated mission, the Soul’s suspension delivers a very good ride, even with the SX-specific 18-in. wheels and low profile tires. In city driving, it is quieter than others of its ilk. ‘Wagons’ like the Soul don’t have the separate trunk that sedans have, which tends to be quieter. (The separate trunk found on sedans helps isolate rear suspension noise from the cabin, generally making them quieter than wagons.)

The Soul’s steering provides decent feedback, and the 164-horsepower 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine is a good workhorse, providing adequate power, and is very smooth at high rpm. The six-speed automatic is responsive and unobtrusive.

From the driver’s seat, outward vision is good, and one sits high and can easily see the leading edges of the hood, a good thing when maneuvering in tight quarters. The standard backup camera provides an excellent view through the sharp, 8-in. display.

My criticisms of the Soul’s on-road dynamics are minor. Tall and boxy means the vehicle’s centre-of-gravity is high, so spirited cornering results in noticeable body roll. Drive the Kia as it was intended to be used, and all is well. Also, the brakes are overboosted and offer little feedback. As long as you drive the Soul like a good wagon instead of a Volkswagen GTI or Subaru WRX, you’ll be happy.

I’ll comment on the Kia Soul’s fuel economy with this caveat. We ran only one tank of fuel through the car in city driving, so we can’t be sure our fuel economy calculations are accurate. The Soul was supposedly delivered with a ‘full’ fuel tank, but we can’t be certain it was fully topped up. We’d want to run a few more tanks of fuel through the car to be certain, but our single fill up returned a disappointing 12.9 L/100 km in city only driving. I expect the Soul will do much better, but we’d have to test the car for a longer period to be certain.

Top of the line SX Soul comes with 6-speaker premium Infinity audio system.  Design seems slightly Nintendo-influenced, but it works

Top of the line SX Soul comes with 6-speaker premium Infinity audio system. Design seems slightly Nintendo-influenced, but it works

Conclusion

I really didn’t expect to like the 2014 Kia Soul SX, but I was very pleasantly surprised. In fact, I’m impressed. Look at the MSRP of $27,195 (plus AC tax and freight) and the 2014 Kia Soul SX is a real bargain. It’s spectacularly well-equipped with features, is impressively roomy, and it drives well.   The Kia Soul can be recommended to anybody looking for a compact, versatile, roomy hauler that promises good fuel efficiency. It’s definitely affordable, and there really isn’t anything else in its class as an alternative.  (The long discontinued – and missed – Honda Element was most similar to the Kia Soul, and it even came with all-wheel-drive.)

If you ski, snowboard, or mountain bike, the Soul can easily haul your stuff and would be an excellent choice.  I’d also recommend the Soul for small business operators who need an affordable multi-purpose vehicle to use for light deliveries and hauling the family.

Highly recommended.

Specs

MSRP/Price as-tested $27,195 (plus $100 AC tax, $1,665 freight)
Engine 2.0-litre DOHC inline 4-cylinder
Power 164 horsepower @ 6200 rpm; 151 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Tires/Wheels P235/45R18
Fuel Economy Rating (L/100km) 6.5/8.8 (city/hwy); 12.9 observed (city)

 

 

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