Over the past few months you may have seen a large number of them on the roads. They’re boxy, cute, economical and spacious. Yes, Kia’s Soul hatchback possesses all these attributes and then some. The funky looking Soul has been redesigned for 2014 and in its four-year existence, has been one of Kia’s best selling models.
Offered in base, Soul + and top-line Soul! - that was tested. The latter comes with 18-inch wheels and a 2.0L, 164-hp (151 lb/ft of torque) four-cylinder engine. The base model comes standard with 16-inch wheels and a 1.6L, 130-hp (118 lb/ft of torque) four- cylinder. Most buyers will likely opt for the larger 2.0L engine that is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with Eco system that goes into sleep mode to conserve fuel when idling at a stoplight. The 2.0L combination carries EPA mileage estimates of 23 city, 31-highway.
Performance wise, the 2.0L engine has lots of spunk from a standing stop to highway passing maneuvers. On steep hills with two adults aboard, the transmission will quickly downshift to maintain its speed. But it’s still energetic and in fact has been 0-60 tested at 8.7 seconds.
Upon slipping into the spacious cockpit, you’ll notice quality materials like perforated, leather seats, the fronts of which are heated and cooled as is the glove box, and a leather wrapped steering wheel. All operating controls are easy to use and logically placed without any complicated mouse controls. The entire vertical stack and instrumentation cluster represents sensible function and refinement for a car of this class. And this includes a large 6.75x3.75-inch LCD screen for audio, GPS nav and rearview camera functions.
The back seat offers ample leg and headroom and crossover type step-in height for easy ingress/egress. Kia thankfully used low profile rear seat headrests that allow an unobstructed view rearward.
One item that could be done without was the huge 45x29-inch sunroof that comes standard with the Sun & Sound Package ($2,600). I’m of the opinion that a large sunroof like this weakens the cars’ overall structure, even though manufacturer’s will disagree. Glass is not stronger than steel when it comes to roof strength.
Despite its size, the Soul has an amazing amount of cargo space. With the back seats up there’s 19 cubic feet of space, or more understandably, it measures 26 inches deep, 39.5 wide and 30.5 high. Fold the 60/40 seat backs and the size grows to 61 cubic feet or 54 inches of depth. Only Toyota’s similar sized Scion’s xB has more at 70-cubic feet. There’s also a convenient cargo underfloor compartment to stow small items out of sight.
Handling wise, and although it looks boxy, the Soul feels planted on sharp turns taken at speed. Its steering has decent road feel and Soul is easy to park. Its ride is on the firm side as its shod with 18-inch Kumho tires, a size not often used on a car in this class.
Overall, Soul is fun to drive. And with the Solar Yellow paint job on my test car, it grabbed a lot of eyes during the week we were privileged to test it.
Soul is also attractively priced until you start adding options. Unfortunately, Kia packages preferred items in their Sun & Sound package that includes the sunroof and such niceties as automatic climate control. To get leather seating, heated/ventilated seats, heated outboard rear seats, heated steering wheel and HID low beam headlights you have to take the “Whole Shabang” package ($2,500) that adds such non-essentials as push button start, speaker lights and more. Together, the two optional packages and delivery ($795) takes Soul’s base price from $20,600 to $28,195. But this also includes a long list of standard goodies like fog lights, satellite radio, tire pressure monitoring, heated power folding outside mirrors, Bluetooth wireless, auto-on/off headlights and many more.
The Soul received a top five star overall government safety rating, plus five for frontal impact and side impact. The Institute for Highway Safety also awarded it their highest “Good” rating.
Lastly, Kia’s generous 10/100K Limited Powertrain Warranty, 5/60K Limited Basic Warranty and 5/60K Roadside Assistance, adds to the attractiveness of buying a Soul. To check one out stop by Keystone Kia on Lehigh Street in Allentown.