Kia: 2014 Soul SX 1.6 review

Kia: 2014 Soul SX 1.6 review

kia-soul-sx-1.6-2014-frontMinor acts of altruism are good for your soul, and so it was with great coincidence and pleasure that I was able to follow and help apprehend a drunk driver, maintaining a phone conversation with police traffic HQ using Kia’s Bluetooth connectivity.

kia-soul-sx-1.6-2014-front-interiorWhat you need in a civilian pursuit like this is a car so bland and boring that the person following you doesn’t notice otherwise they start doing even more stupid things to evade you. We’ll have a review on one of those next week (the Toyota Corolla). But in the meantime, let’s get back to something more distinctive: this Kia Soul.

Hands-free calling is really convenient and, of course, the only way talking on a phone while driving is illegal (unless in an emergency). When you’re having to take endless side streets to keep up with someone you don’t want to be balancing a phone between your ear and shoulder, or only have one hand on the wheel. The Kia’s sport steering option (part of the Flex Steer setting) speeds up the steering rack, making turning sharper so kia-soul-sx-1.6-2014-rear-seatsyou can follow the perpetrator.

Finally two of the cavalry arrived and then what I realised is that while you’re on the side of the road talking to the cop about the pursuit, every other driver driving past probably thinks that you’re the one that’s been pulled over.

If you want some happiness for your soul, should you drive a Kia Soul? It’s a compact SUV with distinctive styling. It’s not aggressive-looking like some manufacturers try to make their cars. It’s almost cute, but not in a comical way (even though Kia advertised the original Soul with animated hamsters in the USA). It is built to be a practical rounded box, giving excellent interior room for its exterior dimensions (4.14m long by 1.8m wide).

kia-soul-sx-1.6-2014-sideSpeed is not the Soul’s forte; it takes more of a Zen-like approach to gaining momentum. With only 91kW overtaking has to be planned, but this does help improve the fuel economy. 8.2l/100km isn’t the best economy in the world, but the Kia’s sharp price ($33,490) for this mid-range Soul means you’ll need to do tens of thousands of kilometres for it to matter against some of its more frugal competitors.

Kia’s getting into the habit of delivering features that aren’t kia-soul-sx-1.6-2014-rear-quarterfound on cars twice the price. Three-stage heated and ventilated seats are on example, and the driver’s seat is 8-way electrically adjustable. You get both front and rear parking sensors as well as a reversing camera. There are three steering modes: comfort, normal and sport. Despite the chassis being about 30% stiffer than the previous model the Kia isn’t particularly sport-focused. The ride itself never quite feels completely sorted, although it does seem to change directions well, albeit with a bit of body roll evident from the higher seating position.

Outside you get LED daytime running lights, LED rear tail lights and the wing mirrors are heated and fold in electronically. Roof kia-soul-sx-1.6-2014-rearrails add to the SUV image. The Soul is only front-wheel drive so don’t expect it to cope with much of the rough stuff. If you’re heading on a family trip you’ll find a large cabin area, but an average sized boot; rear legroom is not bad and the boot only consumes 354 litres with the back seats up. The cargo blind isn’t connected to the tailgate with strings, so you’ll need to remember to put it back down again manually – something that should have been a simple addition.

Six airbags, ABS, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist and electronic stability program are all included and contribute towards the Soul’s 5-star crash rating. Those airbags will burst through a revised and altogether more luxurious dashboard than before. Interior fit and finish has been improved and is excellent for a car this price. The redesigned steering wheel has kia-soul-sx-1.6-2014-side-badgeall the buttons and dials you need for phone integration, audio and cruise control.

When you pack in all this kit there has to be a compromise, it’s usually the engine, and the Soul is no exception. It can sound a strained when you need it to get up and boogie (and especially on steeper hills where you are left wanting for a good dollop more horsepower), and wind noise can make itself known. This is a shame because the gearbox seems really good. It changes quickly in automatic and, even when you’re using it in sequential manual mode, there’s very little delay. One problem with the manual mode, though, is that the display shows you what gear the Kia thinks you should be in to drive ‘economically’ rather than what gear you are in because you’ve deliberately chosen that because you want a little more control.

It’s an improvement on the first iteration of the soul. The most obvious change to the design is the tailgate, but overall it has been tidied up and looks more coherent. There aren’t a lot of Kia Souls on the road, so you are guaranteed a little exclusivity. As an around-town car it’s excellent; if you are making longer rural trips in hilly areas, the engine noise and lacklustre fuel economy might frustrate you.

Price: Base model $29,990, SX 1.6 $33,490, SX 2.0 $35,490.

Pros

  • Manoeuvrable with excellent forward visibility
  • Much improved entertainment system
  • Sensible price with good warranty

Cons

  • Engine power and refinement is low
  • Fuel economy takes a hit on anything that’s not flat


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