Monday, July 28, 2014

Car Smart: New Kia Soul offers spirited ride, features

The 2014 Kia Soul 2.0 L is a five-seat wagon with an oddball shape and quirky angular front windows. It looks like anything but a luxury automobile. However, it’s equipped like a car twice its cost, boasting some features seen only in high-end models.


Heated and ventilated seats in this “urban hatchback” keep you the right temperature year-round. The ventilated seats work so well you can even go easy on the air conditioning on a hot day.

The Soul’s navigation system has a substantial 8-inch display, but its two-dimensional display will not show a third dimension until a destination is entered.

Also driven by the big touch screen display is the Infinity sound system, which cranks deep rich bass to its eight speakers including a center dash speaker and sub-woofer. The speakers also glow with the music for some mood lighting.

Controls for the audio system are mounted on the leather-wrapped steering wheel as well as on the touch screen.

The Soul has a power panoramic roof with a power sunshade which helps give an open feel to this small car with big features.

Sleek 18” alloy wheels complement its textured front grille and smart- looking headlights.

Kia also equips this car with a backup camera that is among the best. It provides clear detail of the area behind your bumper as you back in and out of those tight parking spots the 13-foot-7-inch Soul can squeeze into.

Rounding out the Soul’s nice features is a 6-speed automatic with manual overriding paddle shifters commanding a spirited 2.0-liter inline-4,164 -horsepower engine.

The Soul sips gas, getting 23 mpg in the city. It is responsive and fun to drive around the city, but the city is where the luxury similarities are left.

While the Soul gets 31 mpg on the highway, I found the 10-way adjustable driver’s seats uncomfortable for longer drives. I’d like to see the headrest re-engineered so it is more adjustable and not pushed as far forward as the testers.

Its rigid chassis and tight suspension keep a snug connection to the road, but at higher speeds this car gets bounced around by bumps in the road, possibly because it is so lightweight.

Kia equips this car with a horn that nobody can possibly respect. This is not to suggest that smaller cars should have foghorns, but when other drivers hear such a wimpy sound, it barely gets their attention.

The hands-free phone performance is a major shortcoming, especially these days given the need for full concentration on the road and laws in most other states requiring hands-free cellphone use.

Essentially, the Soul is a well-equipped inexpensive compact wagon that is better for city driving than cruising on the highway in spite of the great mileage it gets.

2014 Kia Soul 2.0 L
•MSRP: $17,695
•As tested: $21,295
•MPG: 23 city, 31 highway