New York: 2014 Kia Soul
Kia created the original Soul during a different time in the company’s evolution. It was before they hired Peter Schreyer to head their design function, and therefore when Kia was a design also-ran. The original Soul, while cute and funky, was really little more thank Kia’s take on the Honda Element, first-generation Scion xB, and Nissan Cube. A funny thing happened, though: the Soul is Kia’s third-best seller, and completely destroyed the xB and Element in sales for 2012. So, now that it’s time to refresh the Soul, Kia had to tread carefully. Meet the 2014 Soul, which looks a lot like the 2013 model.
It’s fascinating to me just how risk-averse automakers are when re-doing their bread-and-butter cars. You see this with the BMW 3 Series, Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra, Toyota Camry, and Honda Accord. Kia sold 115,778 Souls last year (selling their Soul? Har har.) and doesn’t want to mess with the formula that buyers embraced.
So, it looks a lot like the old Soul despite being all-new. The chassis underpinning the Soul is all-new, and is stiffer, longer, and wider. The wheelbase is up 0.8 inches and the track width is up 0.6 inches. The face is slightly different, and the “floating” color panel on the rear liftgate draws its inspiration from Kia’s well-regarded Track’ster concept from last year, as does the Soul’s overall design.
Inside, the 2014 Soul’s all-new interior boasts s0ft-touch materials, improved seats, applications of piano black plastic, and a circular design motif on the dash. There are circles on the door panels, gearshift surround, instrument panel, center stack, armrest, and more – again, playing up on the themes established by the Track’ster concept.
Catering to the Soul’s younger target buyer demographic, the Soul boasts a new generation of Kia’s Uvo infotainment system, now boasting a capacitive touchscreen for better responses to touch inputs (as long as you’re not wearing gloves, of course). Uvo int the Soul is now Android based, and is compatible with iPhone and Android smartphones.
Engine choices begin with the base 1.6 liter 130-horsepower four cylinder, which produces 118 lb-ft of torque. The Soul + (Plus) and Soul ! (Exclaim) models (mid- and high-end models) get the 2.0 liter four, now with direct injection. That engine is rated at 164 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are available with automatics or manuals (all six-speed units) but the top Exclaim model is only available with the automatic. If you want the bigger engine and want to shift for yourself, you’ll need a Plus.
Pricing has not yet been announced. The new Soul goes on sale in the third quarter of 2013.