2014 Kia Soul Exclaim HD Video Review
The original Kia Soul was the automotive equivalent of Wayfarer sunglasses. Its hip-to-be-square shape helped to turn the once struggling Korean brand into a significant competitor. I’ve never actually seen a hamster drive one, but they should know there is an all-new model.
When the first generation was wheeled out, many dismissed it as a blatant rip-off of Scion’s xB. Maybe, but Soul went on to outsell Toyota’s box six to one. Hard to argue with that. And when something is that popular, you just don’t mess with it much.
Full disclosure, my wife drives a top ‘o the line 2012 Exclaim model. In two years it has been completely trouble free. She loves the style and utility but not the rough ride.
So at the press launch in Minneapolis, I snagged the equivalent- a fully loaded Exclaim with its low profile tires. I then searched the streets of the Twin Cities until I found the roughest railroad tracks around. True to Kia’s claim, the second generation’s all new structure and suspension system provides a significantly better driving experience on bad roads. The ride quality is still firm on Exclaim models, but dentists will see fewer loose fillings on Soul owners.
Soul is quick and nimble as a mouse in urban attack mode. It squirrels into tight parking spots. Fuel economy is still low for a small car, city rated at 24 miles-per-gallon. On the open road, it’s up by three MPG to 31.The outgoing car had steering as numb as Muzak. That’s also improved. Drivers can change up the steering weight, the wheel is heated in my tester.
At highway speeds Soul is more planted now, much more relaxing to drive. It’s noticeably quieter, and for a boxy shape, there’s surprisingly little wind noise.
There are two engines. All but the base model get a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 164 horsepower. It’s direct-injected now with an improved power band. A manual transmission is available in the base car, all others get an automatic. Both gear boxes have six-speeds. My suggestion? Save up for a few extra months and go with the 2.0-liter motor.
Inside, both hard and soft materials get a premium look. It’s a nicely done space, especially with the available panoramic sunroof. There are luxury cars at twice the price of Soul that don’t offer the amenities found in this box. Highlights include heated and cooled leather seats with better bolstering, lighted speaker surrounds (which look better at night), and an iPad-like touch screen user interface. Side air vents and speaker tweeters are integrated. The 350-watt Infinity sound system rocks.
Soul has always had a fairly roomy back seat for it’s smaller size. That’s the beauty of the box shape. The second generation adds some accoutrements. Seats are heated now and there’s a folding armrest to park elbows. There’s only one pocket and no charging port though. Two passengers will be very comfortable, and with a flat floor three will be okay.
Kia says the trunk opening is now two and a half inched wider now for easier loading though I never saw that as a problem. There’s a place to stash small stuff under the load floor. Under that space is a place for a spare, if there was one. Kia only includes a repair kit. The security cover keeps your stuff out of site. It won’t be much though, the cargo area is tall but shallow (I’ll guestimate a five in the T.P. Trunk Test, the same as the outgoing car). Drop the seats and there’s a huge square space that’s very useful.
Soul is all about the iconic design and the overall shape is very familiar. The size is within an inch or so of the first generation in all dimensions. The roofline, vaguely reminiscent of the In-N-Out burger logo- it’s a west coast thing- is largely untouched. Overall, there are fewer lines and creases on the body and the tiger nose offers no airflow to the engine. It’s just a black plastic insert.
The concept of the Soul was always a wild boar with a backpack (seriously) and it definitely looks like it’s wearing a bag now since the rear end gets a floating panel (the biggest change to the design). That element is repeated on the interior door armrests. Circles are a big deal inside and out too, tying the car together.
Along with the slightly sleeker look, Kia seems to have muted the color pallet. The signature Alien green is now muted a whisker. Other hues seem more mature. It all part of evolving the car I suppose.
So what’s it going to cost? A base car starts at $15,500. The fully loaded Exclaim I drove for a full day is $26,200. That’s a skosh more expensive now. Considering the refinement and sophistication leap, it remains a very good value. The design isn’t for everyone but thank goodness Kia kept the fun in funky. All grown up, the second-generation Soul manages to keep it.