Written by James Hamel
Overview (Overall Score after Eight Categories: A-Minus)
The 2014 Kia Soul was totally redesigned from the floor to its squared off roof and despite featuring a roomier, higher quality interior, improved ride and better engines pricing is still very reasonable. Prices range from $14,900 for the base model all the way to $20,300 which is the starting point for the top of the line "!" trim. Add all options to a 2014 Kia Soul ! and the MSRP will creep up to $26,100 but keep in mind that you will be getting a lavishly equipped car with leather seats, in-dash navigation with very advanced graphics and on demand traffic information, an amazing Infinity premium audio system, a panoramic sunroof, HID (High Intensity Discharge) headlamps, push button start, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear bench seat with heated steering wheel, automatic climate control and pretty much every available gadget and gizmo available with your average luxury car. The 2014 Kia Soul truly is a whole new Hamster carrying case.
If you have been living under a rock and have never heard of the Kia Soul or the ridiculously successful hamsters that have been at the core of this model's marketing success, perhaps you should turn on a TV once in a while or go outside at least once a year. Sunshine is good for you. For the rest of you, you no doubt have seen plenty of handsomely boxy Kia Soul roaming the streets of your town. You no doubt also have seen the Soul on either TV or Youtube with the dancing hamsters which never speak in Kia's ads for the car but rather rock out to Lady GaGa, Mozart or house music. Not only did this ad campaign truly turn Kia into a household name in record time but it also stands as one of the most watched series of ads for any car in history.
Funny thing is, the 2014 Kia Soul is a vastly improved automobile in comparison to its competent and stylish predecessor that did have a couple of notable flaws. For starters, the Soul debuted with a pair of ancient 4-cylinder engines and a 4-speed automatic which is something you can currently only find in a Corolla. Kia did, however, fix that issue in the mid-life of the last Soul model by adding a smooth six-speed automatic and updated engines that were much smoother and peppier. They also upgraded the interior by offering leather seats, push button start, navigation and more luxury features. But none of this compares to the broad scope of available offerings with the 2014 Kia Soul. Not only can you specify it to any price you like, it also comes with 15 different exterior color options—and yes, that lime green "Alien" paint job returns for this iteration of the fancier and more appealing 2014 Kia Soul
What We Loved about the 2014 Kia Soul
What We Didn't Love about the 2014 Kia Soul
- The Exterior Styling
- The Upscale Interior Feel, Available Gizmos and Gadgets as well as Build Quality
- The Broad Array of Pricing can Meet any Budget
- The Engine Can Get Buzzy When Pushed Hard to the Redline
- Suspension is a bit harsh when Hitting Potholes
- Why did Kia Suddenly Make the Hamsters in the Soul Ads Skinny? They Should Be Chunky!
Exterior View (10 out of 10)
Sure, it looks like a box but the Soul manages what has eluded car designers from brands ranging from Nissan to Scion all the way down to Mini (the Countryman) and Fiat (the awkward 500L). If you want to buy a new 2014 compact five door hatch then the only one that doesn't have some awkward or downright hideous angles. The 2014 Kia Soul looks more grown up as the last generation but it's just as fun, with a squat and purposeful stance that no other brand has seemed to master. When designing a car, that's a box. Shouldn't be that hard but we are sure Scion and Nissan would say it's darn difficult.
Interior Comfort, Quality and Overall Ease of Use (9 out of 10)
We road tested the 2014 Kia Soul with a auto journalist colleague who was 6 foot 4 and weighed 250 so I wasn't sure my being 6 feet and 220 meant we would be squished elbow to elbow for the whole drive. Much to our surprise there was plenty of space separating driver and passenger and my colleague also managed to fit himself into the Soul's 24.2 cubic foot cargo hold that expands to over 61 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat. The rear seat is also roomy enough and the interior of the Soul, most especially the ! model boasts top notch plastics for the price as well as unique speaker tops alongside the dash and various other sites of design interest.
We will discuss all of the gadgets we were amazed by in the next section but rest assured, the 2014 Kia Soul is not only a great, stylish, well built, utilitarian and decently fun to drive compact car for college kids or first time new car buyers but it would also suit empty nesters or small families who like road trips as the level of newfound refinement inside the Soul at cruising speeds is exemplary.
We first noticed it when the Soul just glided over what may have been the largest pothole in Minnesota—although we worried this pothole could have popped a tire, it sent no shuddering or body rattles through this Kia's now much stronger steel safety cage. Inside the 2014 Kia Soul it's not only very upscale in feel, it also feels a lot like a very safe and well protected home away from home for you and your passengers. Even if they are hamsters.
Technology (9 out of 10)
You name it, you can probably get it with the 2014 Kia Soul. And since you can get Kia's cutting edge UVO system, you can enjoy features like automatic vehicle system diagnostic testing that alert you to potential service issues, a 911 alert system should you have an accident, servicing reminders and an ability to schedule appointments at the dealer via your smartphone, a parking lot minder system which can locate your Kia if you lose it in a parking lot by sending its location to your smartphone, an-indepth trip monitoring system that not only evaluates efficiency but also how safely you were driving. Yikes. Even worse for teenagers is the ability of parents to check if the Kia was out past the set curfew time, if it went over the speed limit or if your kids traveled out of your predetermined GeoFence. Yes, to a Teen the UVO system is akin to a Narc but it may save their lives or yours. At the very least it will help you find your Kia again after forgetting which lot it's in at Disneyland.
We were also very big fans of Kia's new in-dash navigation system which boasted cutting edge graphics, an 8-inch high resolution screen, the ability to do split screen information with the map on one side and whatever else sharing the other half. Truly it is the best unit we have yet seen in a Kia although we have a few weeks before we drive the K-900 luxury sedan. Lastly, if you enjoy music even a tiny bit we can't recommend the Infinity audio system upgrade any more highly as it passed a very difficult audio test we perform on all new cars (a test that has been failed by some Mercedes and Lexus hi-fi units which did not pass) as 70% of new car audio systems fail this top secret audio torture test. The 2014 Kia Soul, however, passed with flying colors.
Fuel Economy (8 out of 10)
EPA Fuel economy figures for the 2014 Kia Soul with the 2.0 liter 164 horsepower/151 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder are 26 city/31 highway. We did not have a chance to drive the base model's much less powerful engine at Kia's press launch and one can assume they had good reason. So we recommend the 2.0 liter engine option thanks to its low RPM power, efficiency and how well it operates with the six-speed automatic gearbox. Over our drive around Minnesota and Wisconsisn we averaged 27 miles per gallon.
Predicted Reliability and Initial Quality Ratings (10 out of 10)
Wow, according to the J.D. Power Initial Quality and projected reliability survey the 2014 Kia Soul gets full five points in every category from overall quality to body and interior quality. The only areas it lost a point were with owner experienced fuel economy (27 mpg is okay but not great) and powertrain quality which we are sure reflects the Soul's 2.0 liter engine on occasion not emitting the most pleasant of noises. It offers plenty of pep around town but you need to get up an offramp and keep it at redline, you will have an unhappy sounding motor. Still, it's fast enough.
Safety (9 out of 10)
Kia performed a great deal of work on the 2014 Kia Soul to increase its steel safety frame's rigidity to help this relatively small car excel in potential crashes. The IIHS agrees that Kia did a bang up job (pardon the pun) and named it a "Top Safety Pick." Their only complaint was a lack of availability of safety features like collision warning and blind spot assistance which, quite frankly, is the reserve mainly of pricier models. At any rate, the 2014 Kia Soul showed a marked improvement over the last generation model in most all areas of the IIHS testing. So this is a perfect car for people to buy their kids or first time drivers.
Performance (8 out of 10)
Now while outright performance in the vein of $60,000 German Sports sedans is not really in the lexicon of the 2014 Kia Soul, this compact hatch is an agreeably nimble and agile handler of corners and curves so long as you don't mistake your Cul-Du-Sac for the Autobahn. The steering was a pleasant surprise and not all electric units provide this Kia's level of realistic feel and feedback. Driving along the backroads of Minnesota and Wisconsin proved to be quite pleasurable as the Soul is at most times supremely refined yet can bust a move when it needs to. Again, you won't be getting in a drag race in a 2014 Kia Soul but why would you with air conditioned leather seats? They should chill out even the biggest hot head driver.
We did notice, however, when you floor the throttle in the 2014 Kia Soul that the 2.0 liter 164 horsepower/151 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder got a little loud, and buzzy at the top of its rev range in a manner you usually don't see in compact cars nowadays. However, the engines in the Scion xB and Nissan Cube are oddly much, much worse when it comes to not only feeling lethargic but also in the fact that when merging on the freeway their engines sound like the rubber bands holding them together are ready to come loose. So clearly, in this case the 2014 Kia Soul is still the class leader. Although we would personally love to see their 1.6 liter turbocharged 201 horsepower 4-cylinder debut in the Soul. That would be a utility van with the performance of a baby hot hatch. Just a thought Kia.
Pricing and Value for Money (10 out of 10)
Our tester model 2014 Kia Soul ! started out with a sticker price of $20,300 and this included the 2.0 liter engine, 6-speed automatic, handsome 17 inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, power everything, cruise, Bluetooth, Sirius XM radio, an AM/FM/MP3 player with 6-speakers, USB/i-Pod integration, tinted glass, and everything a person needs. But our tester added the $2,600 Sun and Sound Package which includes automatic climate control, a stellar in-dash navigation unit with 8-inch screen, an amazingly clear and expensive sounding Infinity ten-speaker audio system upgrade as well as Kia's traditional flashing speaker light surrounds that turn your Soul's interior into a bit of a trendy nightclub when you blast the music.
Add in another $2,500 for the aptly named Whole Shebang Package and buyers are treated to high quality leather seats, push button start, self-leveling HID (High Intensity Discharge) Headlamps, heated front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats to cool you down on hot days and an advanced LCD screen between the gauges in front of the driver that help keep your eyes on the road. Add in $500 for the Microsoft UVO connectivity system, a back-up camera and auto headlamps plus $115 for floormats and the 2014 Kia Soul maxes out at about $26,000 albeit with each and every feature you find in luxury cars. But always keep in mind you can survive with cloth seats and seats that don't air condition your backside. Thankfully, Kia offers the Soul to suit your needs and wants.
"The Final Numbers" and the Competition (73 points out of 80=91%)
This little Kia's final grade was really helped by the fact that it ranked so highly in crash test safety according to the NHTSA and that J.D. Power and Associates also gave the car top marks for quality in every major area. Just driving the 2014 Kia Soul you can feel that it is a solidly assembled automobile as the doors close with a solid thunk and it is so well insulated from road and wind noise. Also, interior quality is top notch for vehicles in this price class and if you want toys, well, the 2014 Kia Soul offers a plethora of options.
As for competition, we suppose you could call the Scion xB and Nissan Cube competitors but they lag behind the Cube in not only style but drivability, value for money, features, interior design and layout but also in perceived quality. Moving up the scale in price there is the Mini Countryman which, if equipped like for like with the Soul becomes an obvious money pit. The only model similarly priced that offers good performance, a smart interior layout and lots of available features is the 2014 Fiat 500L but we admit that it does look a little bit weird. Okay, a lot. The 2014 Kia Soul, however, just looks fabulous.