Car Review: 2014 Kia Soul

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The new 2014 Kia Soul is a testament for just how far small utility vehicles have progressed in today’s market. We drove a solar yellow Soul for a week and discovered that this is not only a fun car, but refined beyond what we expected. The 2014 Kia Soul’s all-new take on design, driving dynamics and desirable features totally transform one of Kia Motors America’s best-selling cars into an urban utility vehicle that is as comfortable in the city as it is on the open highway.

EXTERIOR

When the wild Track’ster concept made its debut in 2012, Soul enthusiasts and pundits alike urged Kia to turn the aggressively fun fantasy into reality. With 18 months from design freeze to production, the stage was set for the all-new Soul, and many of the concept’s dramatic design cues can be found in the production vehicle. The upright stance, squared shoulders and distinctive fender flares are instantly recognizable as Soul. Combining a longer 101.2-inch wheelbase (up 0.8 inches), overall width that’s broadened to 70.9 inches (increased by 0.6 inches) and a reduced overall height of 63.0 inches (decreased by 0.4 inches) adds a more aggressive edge to the all-new Soul’s appearance. Likewise, the wraparound greenhouse, high-mounted tail lights and upright stance are all hallmark design elements. Premium touches such as available LED front positioning lights and rear LED halo lights help connect Soul to siblings within the Kia lineup that share similar design cues, such as the 2014 Sorento CUV and 2014 Forte sedan.

Exterior 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 available fog lights – down low and pushed to the leading edges – 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 flair, the unique “floating” body-color panel inset into the lift gate originated with the Track’ster as well. Subtle enhancements include a wider (by 2.4 inches over the previous Soul) opening for the lift gate, allowing Soul to swallow more stuff. There is a smooth feel to the skin of the 2014 Kia Soul that exudes confidence and appeals to the eyes. The Soul Exclaim as tested adds to the Plus, with standard features like 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 235/45R-18 tires, fog lights, body-color bumper “tusks,” projector head lights, front LED positioning lights and rear LED halo lights.

INTERIOR

Our test model was equipped with extra options from head to toe, and we appreciated them more and more as the week moved on. Overall, the design paid particular attention to instilling a more premium look and feel to the 2014 Soul’s interior. Liberal applications of soft-touch materials are found on the instrument panel, center console and door panels. Details such as our media car’s leather trimmed seating with improved lateral and thigh support, and the use of high-gloss piano-black trim pieces on the center console and dash, elevate the Soul’s interior to new levels of sophistication. The panoramic sunroof with a power sunshade was spectacular, navigation with a whopping 8-inch screen was bright and clear, and the Infinity audio system was spot on with a strong bass!

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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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