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Mike Stevens | Feb, 15 2014 | 2 Comments

2014 KIA SOUL REVIEW

What’s Hot: That funky look has matured, cabin is vastly improved.
What’s Not: 2.0 litre engine not as punchy as the old.
X-FACTOR: There could be enough soul here to win the young hearts its predecessor couldn’t sway.

Vehicle Style: Small five-door hatch
Price: $23,990 manual, $25,990 auto (plus on-roads)

Engine/trans: 113kW/191Nm 2.0 4cyl petrol | 6sp man & auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.6 l/100km manual, 8.4 l/100km auto

 

OVERVIEW

Kia is back with a brand-new Soul. And with this one, the goal is the same: build a funky image with a hip new icon.

The last Soul was hip, but didn't quite connect with the young buyers Kia had in its sights.

In fact, rather unexpectedly, its high hip point (speaking of "hip") meant that older buyers seeking easy entry and exit found a companion in the Soul.

(TMR Managing Editor, Tim O’Brien, for example: he bought one the day after his 121st birthday.)

Certainly, while not strong in this market, the Soul has done well on global markets (last year winning more than 100,000 sales in the US alone).

In Australia, there were only 1700 sales over the first generation's life. But short supply and niche positioning meant Kia was expecting little else. (Same again with this new model.)

It’s hardly surprising then that Kia has elected to give the Soul’s look a massage rather than a makeover. So now it’s back with a smoother look, a vastly improved cabin, and a host of new technologies.

 

THE INTERIOR

  • Tilt/reach adjustable steering wheel with audio/cruise/phone controls
  • Bluetooth/USB/aux connectivity, six-speaker audio
  • Hardy cloth seats, leather-like trim to the steering wheel
  • Improved passenger and storage space

More than anywhere else on or under the new Soul, its cabin is the standout 'feature'.

It’s in here where it is clear that Kia found plenty of room for improvement. This is a hugely improved cabin.

The old model focused on tricks - mood lighting, bright contrasting colours and quirky patterns - but the new Soul keeps it simple on that front.

The ‘Playskool’ feel is gone, and, like the new Cerato range, the 2014 Soul also gets vastly better materials.

There’s a soft-touch dash with a wrapped-and-stitched binnacle hood, soft door trims, and a number of glossy highlights.

Buttons and switches in the dash, doors and sporty new steering wheel have a more premium feel, and the silver-ringed tweeters add to the upmarket vibe.

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Is it comfortable? It is, and practical to boot.

The seats are wrapped in a hardy black cloth with a denim-like texture, and the front perches offer good under-thigh support and bolstering for most body sizes.

There’s a high SUV-like seating position (a little lower than the Nissan Juke though), and the steering wheel is both reach and tilt adjustable.

The Soul’s boxy design ensures plenty of interior space, with ample leg, head and shoulder space in both rows.

Three tall adults can fit in the rear, though shoulder room is a little tight; kids however will have nothing to complain about. The rear also gets air-conditioning vents, although they’re positioned beneath the front seats.

The large exterior mirrors boost rear visibility, and that two-box shape removes the guesswork from navigating through tight spots.

The new Soul is larger and more spacious than its predecessor. There’s a 20.3mm stretch in the wheelbase, and width has grown by just over 15mm.

There’s more head, shoulder and leg room inside, and hip points - a huge selling point for the old model - have dropped by 12mm at the front and 18mm at the rear for even easier entry and exit.

Rear storage has grown to 238 litres with the rear seats upright, but lay the seats flat and you get 878 litres to the window or 1251 to the roof.

 

ON THE ROAD

  • 2.0 litre ‘Nu’ multi-port injected petrol engine
    - 113kW @ 6200rpm, 191Nm @ 4700rpm
  • Transmissions: six-speed automatic (tested here), six-speed manual
  • Fuel consumption claimed: 8.4 l/100km auto, 7.6 l/100km manual
  • Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear

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Kia expects the automatic model to dominate sales of the new Soul, with nine-out-of-10 buyers likely to opt for the six-speed auto.

(We found the manual a surprising treat however, with well-spaced gears, easy shifting and an equally well-behaved clutch.)

The new Soul’s 2.0 litre ‘Nu’ multi-port injected petrol engine is familiar, but in this new 2014 model, the hunt for Euro V emissions compliance has made it a little less powerful - down from 122kW/200Nm to 113kW and 191Nm.

Combined with the heavier kerb weight of the new Soul’s larger body - up from around 1330kg to 1405kg in the 2014 auto - there’s a small but noticeable impact on performance under load.

The six-speed auto however - an upgrade of the same unit added to the old Soul range in 2011 - is well-mapped to the engine and manages to keep the right gear underfoot.

That said, there’s a little less giddy-up in this heavier and less-powerful Soul. A little more planning is needed for confident overtaking and when loaded up.

Things below however are much improved thanks to the new platform.

With a raft of small refinements to the MacPherson front and torsion beam rear (including a stronger new front subframe and new longer shocks at the rear), the new Soul feels the more sophisticated as a result.

There’s also a greater use of high-tensile steel and a 29 percent improvement in torsional rigidity.

The changes, along with Kia’s localised suspension tuning, result in a vastly improved ride.

It’s still firm, but now more compliant: where the old model transferred much of the road’s imperfections into the cabin, this new model does a better job of isolating bumps and ruts.

Handling again is improved, but the Soul is a tall unit and no amount of refinement is going to transform it into a sports car.

There’s plenty of body roll if you throw it into a corner, but the new electric steering works pretty well (and with more feel and precision than the old model).

Braking is firm and easy, with a workout through the winding hills of Sydney’s Royal National Park giving the Soul’s 280x23 ventilated and 262x10 solid discs little cause for concern.

Noise, vibration and harshness is also greatly improved for 2014, adding to the feel of refinement in the well-built interior.

Engine, wind and road noise are reasonably-well attenuated, although you’ll still get an unwelcome ‘hello, here I am’ from the engine when under heavy load.

 

SAFETY

ANCAP rating: The new Soul has not been tested by ANCAP, although a top 5-Star rating was awarded in the US.

Safety features: Safety features include ESC with ABS and BAS, Hill Start Assist Control, Vehicle Stability Management, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, MDPS steering with FlexSteer, six airbags (front, side and curtain), reversing camera and rear parking sensors.

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

The new Soul is a good unit, we like it a lot. Importantly, it maintains the funkified fun look of the first model.

But, while the Soul offers a new level of refinement, inside and out, there's a debit.

Available in just one model grade, it misses out on some key options that some buyers will be looking for: satellite navigation, leather trim and bigger wheels among them.

However, the combination of practicality and look-at-me styling remains the Soul’s major drawcard, and the new model's refined ride and handling makes it a more compelling package.

We think it's got a bit more going for it than Nissan's equally funky Juke - it's bigger inside and better finished - and it's also better buying than the similarly shaped but considerably dearer Skoda Yeti.

If you're shopping in that 'boxy' crossover market, we’d recommend a look at the Soul.

 

Pricing (excludes on-road costs)

  • 2014 Kia Soul Si - Manual $23,990
  • 2014 Kia Soul Si - Automatic $25,990

 
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