2014 Kia Soul Keeps Me Smiling>

Driving the 2014 Kia Soul ! just makes me feel like singing a Pharrell Williams song – I’m “Happy!” to be in this little box of a vehicle and motor down the road.

Kia’s front-wheel-drive Soul has been greatly upgraded since first introduced in 2008. At that time the engine was puny (1.6-liter; 122 horsepower), it had a meager four-speed automatic transmission and, while definitely a cute little 5-door wagon it appeared to be propelled by the hamsters that promoted this machine.

Fast-forward to 2014 and the top-of-the-line Kia Soul ! Is now vested with a direct-injected inline 2-liter engine that produces 164 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 151 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm (redline at 6750). Mated to a true 6-speed shiftable automatic transmission, the 2014 Kia Soul ! gets onto freeways handily and matches traffic flow easily. There’s an active ECO system that helps drivers attain sustainable fuel mileage.
“This car gets better every time I drive it,” were my initial remarks about the Fathom Blue with black leather interior Soul. It’s not just the mechanical aspects that make me happy; the body has become a bit sleeker and the rear tail lamp treatments are quite pleasing to the eye. They also enable a differentiation between old and new Kia Soul models.

Kia offers three steering modes for its rack and pinion power system: normal, sport and comfort should suit most any driver; I chose the sport option and am happy with the on-center feel and the 34.8 foot turning circle. Suspension is traditional MacPherson strut and torsion beam rear with stabilizer bars at both ends of the vehicle. All-wheel disc rakes perform exceptionally – and this car was driven in cold and wet spring Midwest weather – this Kia behaved admirably in all situations.
As the lead vehicle for the Soul lineup, the ! model has every option Kia can fit. Starting from a base of $21,095 including freight fees, Kia adds two packages to this vehicle. The Sun & Sound package includes automatic climate control, a luscious and large panoramic sunroof with power sunshade and navigation with a crisp 8-inch screen and Sirius/SM traffic, a booming Infinity audio system and color-change speaker lights.

The Whole Shebang package has HID low-beam headlights, pushbutton start/stop, the leather seating trim, heated and ventilated front seats (three settings), heated rear outboard seats, heated steering wheel, a supervision meter cluster with 4.3-in color LCD and engine immobilizer. These options raise the price to $26,195 but there’s not an item here I’d skip!

During our wet, chilly week with the 2014 Kia Soul I in Indianapolis, weather offered an excuse to visit a friend who runs Audi’s customer racing programs in the USA. Despite the yucky weather, the Kia performed like it cost thousands more than it does. The trip was easy on my body and the Kia, with its exceptional lighting and great road manners performed beautifully.
Using regular unleaded, the Kia Soul ! is rated at 23/31/26 from its 14.2-gallon tank. I found 32-mpg over the road and about 28-29 around town in regular driving; the car had about 9000 miles on it at pick-up. I was intrigued by the cargo capacity – 24.2 cubic feet with all seats in place and 61.3 with rear seats down – there is a cargo cover included and a handy tray beneath the floor.

Base weight on the Kia Soul is 2879 pounds; figure another 2-300 pounds for all of the options fitted to this car, and it’s still a lightweight vehicle that feels agile and, let’s use that word again, happy!

I really like the support of the bucket seats and the seat heaters are very much appreciated during springtime storms. Never had a chance to check the cooling aspect of the seats. There are cup holders in all four doors and the rear seats are elevated to allow clear visibility for all. Handsome 10-spoke variegated rims mount on 235/45R 18-tires and Kia fits the niceties of a single pass for the wipers, light dips for turn signals and wonderful door buttons that open and close them when the key fob is on-hand.
I like the audio and phone controls (the latter easy to sync) on the left side of the fat leather-wrapped steering wheel and the excellent cruise control, trip computer and steering mode controls on the right. Soft touch plastics abound throughout the cabin and there are six airbags in the roof.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I really like the 2014 Kia Soul ! model. It’s an easy vehicle to live with, keeps me smiling and makes me happy to be driving – even in lousy weather. I’d recommend it in a heartbeat.

Words and Photos By Anne Proffit