In a subcompact market swamped with contenders, the Kia Soul stands out thanks to its distinct, boxy style. For 2014, the Soul is revamped inside and out with more standard features and an all-new chassis – nearly 29 per cent stiffer than the last version – which creates a big improvement in its ride and handling.
Starting at $16,995 for the base LX model, the Soul comes well-equipped with fog lights, steering wheel mounted audio controls, power windows, doors, and locks, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, and a new FlexSteer system, which allows the driver to choose between comfort, normal, and sport driving settings. Two other trims are available: EX and SX. The most expensive Soul is the SX automatic transmission luxury model at $26,995, which is equipped with a panoramic roof, Xenon HID headlights, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, a navigation system and a premium Infinity audio system. Skip it. It’s too expensive.
The second-generation Soul is longer and wider than the last version. The height is slightly lower, but it retains its styling edge. With its boxy design, upright stance, and distinct fender flares, it stands out on the road. New features include a trapezoidal lower fascia, fog lamps, and a larger rear hatch. The square shape and high roof line result in a spacious cabin with excellent headroom for five passengers as well as a big cargo area with 532 litres of space, which is larger than some mid-sized sedans. The lift gate also opens 61 millimetres wider so it’s easier to load and unload items into the trunk.
Powering the base LX model is a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine which delivers 130 hp and 118 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is standard; a six-speed automatic is optional. The EX and SX trims get a more powerful engine – a 2.0-litre four-cylinder with 164 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque mated to a six-speed automatic transmission – the only tranny available.
In a parking lot at the new Toronto FC Kia Training Academy at Toronto’s Downsview Park, officials created a makeshift driving course to test the new Soul’s manoeuvrability alongside the outgoing 2013 Soul. The difference is significant; the 2014 Soul is quieter, more nimble and agile. The handling is pleasant and controlled for such a small vehicle, an improvement over the previous model, which wasn’t particularly fun to drive. It feels more secure and comfortable.
But the steering remains a bit lacklustre and numb. It doesn’t handle like a go-kart, but it’s not meant to. Its handles well and accelerates sufficiently enough to get up to speed.
Even the front seats have improved – the cushioning is thicker with better lateral and thigh support. Overall, the interior has gone more upscale with soft-touch materials and piano-black trim.
The Kia Soul is the perfect urban commuter car – its small size is ideal for squeezing into tight parking spots in Canada’s biggest city. The Soul EV, Kia’s first electric vehicle, will be available later this month.
2014 Kia Soul
Type: Five-door subcompact hatchback
Base price: $16,995
Engine: 1.6-litre DOHC GDI four-cylinder
Horsepower/torque: 130 hp/118 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.6 city/6.5 highway
Alternatives: Nissan Versa Note, Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, Chevy Sonic, Toyota Yaris, Fiat 500, Mini Cooper, Kia Rio5, Scion xB
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