The Kia Soul is back on Australia’s new car scene this week, bringing an evolution of its familiar looks, a significant quality boost, and a number of new features.
There’s now only one Si trim grade, compared to three levels and dozens of options when the original model landed back in 2009. And, at $23,990, the cost of entry is around $4000 higher.
That new price makes the Soul a more expensive proposition than a number of its small hatch and crossover rivals.
But, as before, Kia is focused on unique styling and niche volumes: it expects to sell no more than 400 units each year, targeting buyers shopping “with their head and their heart”.
And in consolidating the line-up, Kia has focused on a ‘one size fits all’ formula that means more features in the Soul than before (although still no satellite navigation), and in a more premium package.
It’s also a more stylish package. In evolving the look of the original model, Kia's intent is clear: it wants to make a style icon of the funky Soul.
That’s not easy, of course, especially in a market with such fickle tastes. And while the Fiat 500, VW Beetle and the MINI Cooper can call on a decades-old legacy, Kia’s Soul is starting from scratch.
So, for now, here’s the new second-generation Soul. It’s no reinvention of the colour wheel, but clearly an improvement on its funky but toy-like predecessor.
The new model draws on the look of the powerful (and powerfully styled) Track'ster concept, and while the Soul lacks the muscles of its progenitor, the influence is clear.
2014’s Soul retains the boxy van-like styling and height of the original, while adding new curves designed to bring the Soul a little more in-line with its less audacious siblings; the Cerato and Cee'd hatch models.
The glasshouse of the new Soul is nearly identical to the outgoing model, but more obvious elements drawn from the Track'ster include new front and rear lights, along with the bumpers at both ends.
For 2014, Kia Australia is offering just one engine option, its 2.0 litre ‘Nu’ MPI petrol engine.
The multi-point fuel-injected engine produces a reasonable 113kW and 191Nm, the latter available at 4700rpm.
It's an upgrade of the same unit that powered the outgoing model, but with less power - that version offered 122kW and 200Nm. Why the dip? A re-tune, specifically to help meet Euro V emissions regulations.
Two transmissions are on offer, one a six-speed manual and the other a six-speed auto. (Kia reckons nine out of every 10 Soul buyers will opt for the auto.)
Fuel consumption is rated at 7.6 l/100km with the manual, and climbing significantly to 8.4 l/100km with the auto.
The manual claims a 0-100km/h time of 10.4 seconds, while the auto undercuts the row-your-own option slightly with a 10.2 second time.
Suspension in the new Soul is by MacPherson struts up front and a coupled torsion-beam arrangement at the rear.
That setup is largely identical to the previous model, but with a handful of small tweaks to improve handling, shock absorption and noise/vibration/harshness.
Ride and handling is also improved through the addition of four bushings to the front subframe (compared to zero on the current model).
The stabilizer bar has been moved rearward on the McPherson strut front suspension, while the steering box has been moved forward for better balance and handling.
Other dynamics tweaks include upgraded shock absorbers on the torsion-bar rear suspension, set vertically and made longer for more suspension travel and improved comfort.
And, like all Kia models, the new Soul has been put through a localised tuning program to make it better suited to Australian road conditions and buyer tastes.
Those characteristics are also improved through a greater use of high-tensile steel in the Soul’s construction, improving rigidity by 28 percent. Improved insulation has also been used throughout.
Kia’s FlexSteer is also featured in the new Soul, offering three settings for steering weight and feel: Normal, Comfort and Sport modes.
The braking package includes 280x23mm ventilated discs up front and 262x10mm solid discs at the rear.
Features & Dimensions
Standard kit with the 2014 Soul includes 17x6.5 inch alloy wheels, a space-saver spare, cruise control, tilt/reach adjustable steering wheel, steering-mounted controls, Bluetooth/USB/aux connectivity, six speakers and tinted glass.
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.
In its ‘Si’ model configuration, there’s no satellite navigation, and cloth is the only seat-trim option.
Higher quality materials are used throughout the cabin however, with new soft-touch materials on the instrument panel, centre console and door panels.
The new Soul is also noteably larger than the old Soul, riding on a 20.3mm longer wheelbase (up now to 2570mm), while width has grown by 15.24mm to 1800mm.
There’s more space inside, with 6mm more head-room and 7mm more shoulder-room, while leg room grows 4mm.
Hip-points are slightly slower, dropping 12mm at the front and 18mm at the rear - a change that Kia says will improve entry and exit.
Rear storage has grown four percent 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.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- 2014 Kia Soul Si - Manual $23,990
- 2014 Kia Soul Si - Automatic $25,990