Thursday, May 29, 2014

Kia Soul reworked, but cool factor remains

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at

Sacramento, California – I recently spent a week in a 2014 Kia Soul ! … and yes, the exclamation point is part of the name of this specific trim level.

I say this up front, because I did not want you to think me daft, and this kind of model-naming strategy is really not all that unusual for a car that has been marketed on the airwaves with giant hamsters.

The big news for the 2014 Soul is that is has been extensively reworked, particularly in the design department.

The previous Soul was already pretty funky looking with its soulful box architecture.  The 2014 version has an angled roof, high-mounted taillights, flared fenders and a longer wheelbase.  The appearance all but shouts: Yeah, I drive to my own drummer.

Happily, the altering of the exterior skin also pays benefits inside, with additional cargo and passenger room.

Kia says the 2014 Soul’s chassis is about 30 percent stiffer than its predecessor, and I definitely noticed that.  My week in a 2012 Soul was memorable for significant sway in corners taken at relatively high speed.  That has been fixed, which is no easy task for a vehicle of this shape.

The 18-inch alloy wheels are nice, too.

A thoughtfully laid out dash remains attractive, fun and easy to use.  Everything is within easy reach of the driver’s seat.

The Soul ! comes with a 2-liter, four-cylinder engine with 164 horsepower.  It’s certainly no screamer but handles most conditions rather well.  The 130-horsepower engine on the base version probably won’t be enough for most folks.

The starting price on the tester was just a shade more than $20,000, a most-reasonable number in my view.  Alas, my ride was dressed up with another $5,000 in extras, which included a panoramic sunroof with power shade, an eight-inch navigation screen, heated seats/steering wheel, leather seat trim and, omigosh, color-changing audio speaker lights.

Gotta have that last one, right?

Fuel mileage is good at 23 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

The Soul remains a cool-looking vehicle aimed at folks who want a cool ride that won’t drain their bank accounts.  Kia has put a lot of thought and work into styling, perks and special features that accentuate the Soul’s hip factor.

In the final analysis, they’ve done a good job of producing a feel-good car.

Overall grade: A solid “B.”

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