Its funky-chunky urban looks remain, but the new 2014 Kia Soul is bigger and much more grown up
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This is the second generation Kia Soul, originally designed at Kia’s design centre in Irvine, California. It was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in 2008, with South Korean production commencing in 2009.
The new Kia Soul arrived in the UK in April with the media strap line of ‘totally transformed’. You would be forgiven if, at first glance, you missed the changes. While undeniably recognisable as a Kia Soul, the car is completely new from the rubber up.
The new Soul shares a platform with its Cee’d hatchback sibling – and that’s a very good thing. The Cee’d is the replacement for the ageing Cerato (Forte in some markets) and has been available in Europe for a few years. It was, until recently, the ‘reasonably priced car’ on BBC’s TopGear. The new chassis enables it to be bigger and feel more grown up than before. Overall length has increased by 20mm, width by 15mm and is lower by 10mm, making the new Soul a more aesthetic ‘fit’ to its chunky SUV inspired shape.
Things get better on the inside too with some evident steps upmarket. The dashboard has been completely redesigned, with new switchgear and recessed TFT dials completing the driver’s immediate view. The layout is simple and fuss-free and the overall build quality seems really good on top of an unexpectedly-generous kit list. Top grades get one of the best touch-screen navigation and DAB audio systems I’ve used in a long while and piano black trims complete the fresh and classy ambience.
The degree of steering wheel and seat adjustment is good and the thinner A-pillars afford better visibility than the previous car. That extra 20mm in the wheelbase has been put to good use in the rear row where two and a half grown-ups can sit comfortably. However, the rear seats don’t slide or do anything clever and there’s just the standard 60/40 split/fold setup. But boot space has increased significantly from 222 to 354 litres, aided by a wider tailgate and the handy underfloor storage, available in lieu of the long-lamented spare wheel.
The outgoing Soul had a firm and fidgety ride and the new car’s base setup is somewhat more compliant and forgiveable. On the road – and thanks largely due to the new chassis – the Soul has the same expertly-engineered driving manners and composed handling as the Cee’d. A 29 per cent increase in torsional rigidity compared to the outgoing Soul, coupled with upgraded sub-frame bushings contribute much to the better drive and greater refinement.
Kia’s recently-developed Flex Steer system offers a ‘Goldilocks’ button on the steering wheel to switch between Comfort (too light), Sport (too heavy) and Normal (just right) steering modes. Most buyers will notice little tangible difference in feedback or feel. That said, the Soul does turn in positively enough and in spite of the raised SUV stance, body control is decent and the six-speed manual gearbox has a nice short throw and a confident shift action as you push on.
The power plant under test was Kia’s tried and tested 1.6-litre CRDi four-cylinder diesel unit. In comparison with the 1.6 GDi petrol engine also available, it transforms the Soul’s driving characteristics to something altogether more eager and spirited. It offers 126hp and 260Nm or torque at 1,900-2,750rpm, reaching 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds and tops out at 112mph. On the road it’s a strong unit and performs very well. Fuel consumption at 56.6mpg (combined) and emissions at 132g/km CO2 are both reasonable, while not overly impressive.
The 2014 Kia Soul combines solid build quality, upgraded cabin materials, greater comfort, generous standard kit and much-improved driving manners – all at a reasonable price. While not perfect with adequate fuel economy and emissions from the strong 1.6-litre diesel engine, it remains funky, bold and brimming with character, making the 2014 Soul an all-round smarter proposition.
It has been bought bang up to date and is a now a far tougher rival for cars like the Nissan Juke and Suzuki SX4. The Kia Soul has been reignited for 2014 and is a likeable and justifiably alternative choice in a sea of urban bland.