Better ride, quieter cabin in 2014 Kia Soul

The Kia Soul has its share of detractors whose opinions are based entirely on the car’s eccentric appearance. Yet, many people see Soul as appealing enough to pay it the ultimate compliment: buying one. The number of people who have done so is significant enough to put the Soul in second place on Kia’s worldwide best-seller list (Optima is in first place). The U.S. is Soul’s biggest market.

Introduced in 2009, the Kia Soul is thoroughly redesigned and reengineered for 2014. Speaking at a media intro of the 2014 Soul in October, Orth Hedrick, executive director of product planning at Kia, said the company’s goal in creating the all-new Soul was to keep it funky but more refined, add appeal inside and out, and improve driving dynamics. He summed up the new version as “still playful, but more sophisticated.”

Acknowledging the challenge of updating Soul without tampering too much with the original’s unique looks, Hedrick accurately described its new exterior as “nuanced.”

Compared to the outgoing model, the 2014 Soul is a bit lower, wider and longer, with a 28.7-percent increase in torsional rigidity, better ride comfort and a roomier, quieter cabin. Engines have been retuned to boost low-end torque, with the specific intent of making Soul more at home during city driving than the previous model.

Soft-touch and generally higher-quality materials are now used throughout the interior, and cargo space has been increased to 24.4 cubic feet. Seven new exterior colors have been added to the lineup.

New available features for 2014 include UVO eServices, Kia’s second-generation infotainment and telematics system; an 8-inch touchscreen, the biggest ever for Soul; Pandora Internet radio; and a panoramic sunroof.

Three trim levels are offered: base, Plus and Exclaim. The base model is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine generating 130 horsepower and paired with a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment or a six-speed automatic as optional. Fuel economy ratings are 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway with either transmission.

Plus and Exclaim versions have a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 164 horsepower and a standard six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy ratings are 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway.

Base pricing, including a $795 destination charge, is $15,495 for the base model with a manual transmission and $17,495 with an automatic; $18,995 for the Plus trim level; and $21,095 for the Exclaim.

The 2014 Kia Soul is available now at local dealerships. An all-electric version, the first electric vehicle from Kia, will be introduced next year.

This is a preview of the 2014 Kia Soul based on an introductory event held by the manufacturer. Although the vehicle was driven during the event, automotive reviews that include driving impressions and other opinions are written only after a vehicle has been given a weeklong test-drive.

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