Kia Soul: A Funky Good Buy
This is a vehicle with some definite funk. Pardon the pun, but if you're looking for a vehicle with a little out-of-box appeal, the Kia Soul is certainly worth a look.
Looks are what first comes to mind with the Soul, a four-door hatchback with an iconic boxy shape. It was introduced in 2009 as Kia decided to jump on the boxy-style bandwagon that included the Nissan Cube and the Scion xB.
This class of vehicles was characterized by its unique styling that was looking to attract youthful car buyers who wanted something "different" and could get it at a reasonable price.
Now five years later, the Cube and xB are reportedly headed toward extinction, much like the Honda Element, the original boxy vehicle, a compact crossover that stopped being produced after 2011.
Despite the lack of success overall, the Soul marches forward, arriving in 2014 with a pretty smart redesign. The new Soul is a little larger, with a wheelbase adding close to an inch and its width and height increased marginally as well.
Even though its distinctive square shape remains, the exterior changes include a smoothing out of its previous sharp corners and more angular side rear windows. There's also a new front and rear suspension design that makes the Soul a more pleasing car to drive.
On the inside, the 2014 Soul is more refined, thanks in part to upgrading its material and ditching the hard black plastic. The sound quality has also been upgraded and the overall cabin setup makes more sense. Trunk space has increased to 19 cubic feet and stretches to 61 with the 60/40-split rear seatbacks folded down.
One thing that hasn't changed with the redesign: the Soul clearly retained its funky appearance. The Soul remains a good buy as well, starting at approximately $14,900. But note that a fully-loaded Soul, which was driven here for a week, can leap to a little over $26,000.
Although not particularly powerful, especially the base model (1.6-liter, four-cylinder with 130 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque), the test-driven model featured a more powerful engine that's in the other two trims - the Soul Plus (+) and Soul Exclaim (!).
Those two models feature a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder that produces 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. This version of the Soul has been clocked at 8.7 seconds when traveling from 0-60 mph, which is about average for the small wagon or hatchback class with similar engines.
The 2.0 Soul is fun commuter car and can do fine on longer trips where freeway driving and passing situations are prevalent. This is not a sporty ride, but it has been improved and the braking is nice and firm.
Fans of the Soul will like the new improvements and have no reason not to purchase another one. For newcomers, it remains a somewhat "hip" vehicle that also provides a solid, comfortable ride.
2014 Kia Soul
- Performance: 1.6-liter, four-cylinder, 130 horsepower; 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, 164 horsepower
- Mileage estimate: 30-31 mpg; 23-24 mpg
- Estimated price: $14,900 to $20,500
- Warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles; drivetrain: 10years/100,000 miles; roadside assistance: 5 years/60,000; corrosion: 5 years/100,000