The 2014 model year marks the first complete redesign since the 2010 Soul emerged as Kia's first exclusive model — not simply a version of an existing model from parent company Hyundai.
No mere refresh, the 2014 is on a new, slightly larger platform with engine and suspension upgrades along with exterior and interior changes. The Soul competes in image and price with the Nissan Cube and Scion xB and in size with subcompact SUVs like the Mini Countryman and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.
The Soul's wheelbase has grown nearly an inch to 101.2 inches, while the width increases about an inch. The height remains the same.
The Soul's small grille has been tweaked a bit; it's supplemented by a comparatively large trapezoidal air intake in the front bumper. What Kia calls a "floating body-color panel" inset into the liftgate is an odd element that interrupts the flow of the darkened rear window and its flanking gloss-black taillight bezels.
The Soul's interior dimensions have grown slightly, with 0.8 inch more legroom in front and 0.2 inch in the backseat. The front headroom and shoulder room increase 0.2 and 0.3 inch, respectively. Cargo room bumps up half a cubic foot overall to 24.2 cubic feet while the cargo area's opening has widened 2.4 inches.
Kia upgraded the interior quality with soft-touch materials and gloss-black console and dashboard trim. Intriguing flying-saucer speaker pods atop the dashboard complement the door-mounted speakers, which offer accent lighting that can pulse with the music on the stereo. The A-pillars are narrower by almost an inch for better forward visibility.
Standard features include power windows, heated side mirrors, a telescoping steering wheel, six-speaker stereo with USB input, Sirius satellite radio and Bluetooth phone and streaming-audio capability.
Options include a panoramic moonroof, navigation, a premium stereo, leather seats with ventilated front seats and seat heaters for all four outboard positions
An optional UVO multimedia system makes the 2014 Soul the first Kia to use an Android-based operating system, which will work with both Android and iPhone smartphones. The 8-inch touch-screen features videos on how to use the various applications from navigation to Pandora.
Under the Hood
A choice of two engines power the Soul. The base model has a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 130 horsepower and comes with a standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic transmission. The 1.6-liter engine in the current Soul produces 138 hp.
Move up to the Plus model and the engine is a 164-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The top trim level, called Exclaim, has the same engine but comes only with a six-speed automatic.
Another new feature, optional Flex Steer allows the driver to choose among Comfort, Normal and Sport settings, which vary the amount of power-steering assist.
Standard safety features include the required antilock brakes, electronic stability system with traction control and six airbags: frontal, front-seat-mounted side impact airbags and side curtains along the front and rear seats.
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