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2014 Kia Soul adds refinement, technology, and elbow room

The hamster car grows up

Published: August 19, 2013 12:30 PM

Kia’s funky Soul has grown up for 2014. The new model is not only about a smidge bigger all around, but it’s also a lot more refined. We recently had the chance to sample an early example at our test track (for a fee), and we found the new car much more pleasant than the old version, while still retaining its mod personality.

The boxlike styling looks quite familiar, with some visual refinements, such as LED headlamp accents and tail lights. The new model gained an inch in length, width, and wheelbase. These slight changes give the redesigned Soul a more spacious backseat and more room all around for drivers and passengers. Kia claims an increase of almost 29 percent in body stiffness, which should go a long way toward improving the ride and handling. (We liked the handling of the old car, but found the ride pretty stiff.) On initial drives, the new one felt smoother, sounded much quieter, and still had good steering and handling.

Two four-cylinder engines will be offered: 130-hp, 1.6-liter and 164-hp, 2.0-liter. You can get the base engine with a choice of a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The uplevel engine is matched with the automatic. In the outgoing Soul, this combination returned 26 mpg overall in our tests.

Perhaps the more significant news for small-car buyers is all the new high-tech equipment that’s available. Kia’s updated UVO infotainment system uses the Android platform, with a high-definition touch screen that users can swipe to scroll.  For the first time in a Kia, the system can display audio and navigation controls side-by-side. Aiding navigation, turn-by-turn directions appear in the instrument cluster, as with some upscale cars. Live traffic and weather streams are provided via a three-month subscription to Sirius/XM satellite radio. The new system also integrates Pandora Internet radio, so users can control playback using the Soul’s center screen or voice controls. A backup camera is available on midtrim Plus models.

Replacing the trim formerly known as ! with the pronounceable name Exclaim, top models are available with front and rear heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and dual-zone automatic climate control.

The previous 2013 Soul, along with the newly redesigned 2014 Kia Forte, just rated Poor in the latest round of small-offset front crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. We hope Kia has also addressed these safety issues with this latest model.

Check out the video for more first impressions.

Eric Evarts

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