Car ReviewsFirst Drive

2014 Kia Soul Review

Paul Murrell’s 2014 Kia Soul review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.

IN A NUTSHELL If people could only overlook its boxy styling, the Kia Soul ticks every box and adds great value into the equation. Why aren’t we all driving one?

PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS The new Kia Soul shows how fast Kia is developing as a brand. The quality, fit and finish are top notch, it rides very well indeed and the boxy shape makes it ideal for young families, empty nesters, small business owners, almost everyone.

IT MAY NOT LOOK DIFFERENT, but line the new Kia Soul up against its predecessor, and you can see it’s bigger, and picks up on some of the Track’ster concept car design elements (trapezoidal lower air intake, widely spaced fog lights, floating body colour insert on the tailgate). Local input has also resulted in a car that rides better, handles better and is more suited to Australian conditions.

The most controversial feature of the Soul is undoubtedly the styling. I know it’s a personal preference, but the Kia Soul has a look that’s hard to for me to love. The new design is more masculine (so they tell us) and more SUV-like.

More masculine looks should help the Kia Soul have a greater appeal

The front intake is lower and larger, the wheel arches more prominent (and now cover 17-inch wheels), roof rails and mud guards are standard. The front is smoother (squint and you can see hints of Range Rover) and the distinctive rear (including the “backpack-style” tailgate) give the Soul its own character. It is longer (20mm), wider (15mm), lower (41mm) and the tailgate is 62mm wider.

The Soul can be had with either a six-speed auto or six-speed manual and the previous 1.6-litre variant has been dropped. In fact, there’s only one model, the Si, fitted with a 113kW/191Nm two-litre motor. We didn’t get to drive the manual (most buyers will opt for the auto anyway) but the new Kia is a capable performer under most circumstances.

On the open road, the gearbox can be inclined to slip down a few cogs when faced with an incline (the Bulli Pass south of Sydney quickly revealed that trait) as an inevitable consequence of a high top gear ratio, but mostly it goes about its job unfussed and unnoticed. It changes down to maintain a set cruise speed on downhill runs too. Sport mode provides the option of clutchless manual gear changes.

The Kia runs the same suspension has the previous generation but it's been tweaked to offer improved ride and handling

While the fully independent MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam axle rear suspension are carried over from the previous model, both have been further developed to improve handling, shock absorbance and minimise NVH (noise, vibration, harshness). Throw in an increase in torsional rigidity of 28% and you get a highly impressive all-round package: the Soul rides as well and as quietly as vehicles costing twice as much. The three-mode FlexSteer is retained, and switching between the modes makes a noticeable difference to steering feel.

Inside the Soul is where most people will see a huge improvement. Dare we say it, the Soul is approaching VW standards of fit and finish. The circular theme may be a little overdone for some people, but there will be few complaints about the overall design, graphics, upholstery (with attractive contrast stitching) and liberal use of soft touch materials on the instrument panel, centre console and door panels with black gloss and satin highlights.

The quality interior shows how far Kia has come in just a few short years

The seats are comfortable and well bolstered and the steering wheel is adjustable for height and reach. Standard equipment includes tyre pressure monitoring, cruise control, reversing camera, tinted glass, 60:40 split folding rear seats, rear parking sensors, six-speaker sound system with auxiliary and USB connectivity and air conditioning.

The new Soul has been given five stars by the US NHTSA and the company is confident it will score five stars in ANCAP testing. It comes standard with ESC, hill start assist and vehicle stability management. There are pre-tensioner seat belts up front and six airbags.

Our initial reaction to the price was that it was perhaps a little high, but after spending some time with the car and comparing the value, dollar-for-dollar, against some of the obvious competition, we revised our opinion. The manual Kia Soul is $23,990 with the auto adding another $2000 to the price. Premium paint is an additional $620. On almost every level it outscores the Holden Trax and Ford EcoSport and if you regularly carry a 10kg washing machine, the Kia is the only one you’ll fit it into. If only it looked more like a Range Rover Evoque, the Kia Soul would outsell everything in its class.

2014 Kia Soul

PRICE from $23,990 (plus ORC) WARRANTY five-year, unlimited kilometres SAFETY RATING not yet assessed ENGINE 2.0-litre DOHC four-cylinder petrol engine POWER/TORQUE 113kW/191Nm TRANSMISSION six-speed manual, optional six-speed aut BODY 4.14m (L); 1.8m (W); 1.62m (H) WEIGHT 1335kg (manual), 1405kg (auto) THIRST 8.4L/100km (combined)

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober