Car Review: 2014 Kia Soul

Cold, rainy and dreary sounds like a reasonable weather forecast for October in the mid-western United States, at least by my experiences. I landed in Minneapolis prepared for the weather and ready to experience the latest in Kia’s product refreshes for the model year.

Kia had invited us to the product launch of the latest version of the trendy Kia Soul. Why Minneapolis? Kia wanted to highlight the youthful edge of the new Soul against the backdrop of the “Totally Transformed” city. Minnesota in the fall is a great testing ground for a new car.

It’s been an amazing few years for Kia. In 2008, the company had a market share of 1.9%, selling around 270,000 vehicles that year. They were virtually non-existent in the top 20 markets in the US, with no signature cars or trucks to raise them above the pack. Things were bad; something dramatic needed to be done to transform the company from an also-ran to a competitive force in the market.

The original Soul was launched as a 2010 (2009 in Asia) model, aimed at filling a gap in Kia’s model line that appealed to young aspiring drivers. Competing directly with other boxy subcompacts like the Scion xB and the Nissan Cube, the Soul etched out a respectable niche.

But the real story of the Soul begins with Michael Sprague, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Communications, approving the now-viral “Hamster” advertising campaign. The edgy feel and catchy music of the ad spots appealed to the youthful market Kia was courting in a way the competition never seemed to match.

Propelled by the successful marketing and other popular models such as the Optima, Kia has increased sales by 250% since 2008. The Soul was huge on Kia’s bottom line.

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