In one of its most succinct and relevant observations to date, the newly revised Road & Track, in discussing Fiat’s 500 Abarth convertible, suggests sticking with Fiat’s coupe iteration and, in so doing, keeping your “cheap fun cheap”. And that, Dear Readers, would be exactly what we’d suggest in considering Kia’s redesigned Soul. The 2014 platform, architecture and interior represent a significant upgrade, but when building our own we’d have a strong preference for keeping our cheap fun cheap. And if spec’d closer to $15K than our heavily-optioned test example’s $24K there’s a lot of cheap (and soulful) fun to be had.
The changes wrought to the 2014 Soul have been well documented, both at CarBuzzard and within the greater blogosphere. While retaining what Kia describes as its ‘iconic’ design language, the new Soul is slightly trimmer and significantly more athletic. With an enhanced body structure, suspension (actually capable of suspending) and a dramatically improved interior boasting better materials and enhanced ergonomics, the adage that it’s tough to improve on the original is absolutely blown up. To be sure, the design team at Mini may have improved on the original (after 30+ years, how could you not?), but the folks at Scion – taking their original xB to (at best) a Gentleman’s C – certainly didn’t.
To the Kia design team’s everlasting credit, you almost need to park the newest Soul next to its predecessor (Old Soul?) to distinguish between the two. The newest Soul is slightly less organic, enjoys a more aggressive stance (no version of the 2014 Soul – not even the base – looks to be under-tired) and its sheetmetal is a tad less organic; however, you know immediately both sprang from the same work womb.
In this, Kia’s strategy is well removed from Scion’s. When considering the newest xB you wonder why Toyota didn’t come up with a different alphanumeric combo for their sophomore effort. We’d have suggested bX…
With improvements across the board, our sweet spot in the Soul family is Kia’s entry-level offering, offering a 1.6 liter direct injection four coupled to a 6-speed manual transmission. Admittedly, the base variant’s 130 horsepower is well short of the 2.0 liter’s 164, but the smaller engine puts less weight over the Soul’s front end, and a manual will almost always offer more immediacy when coupled to a small displacement four than will an automatic.
Inside, you won’t confuse the 2nd gen’s interior with that of Audi’s new A3, but neither will you confuse it with some of the cheaper, poorly executed interior treatments we often see at this price point. The more upscale look remains highly functional, and with fold-down rear seats you’ll enjoy over sixty cubic feet of stowage space. Enough, in short, to throw in the original Mini!
It is when we – as consumers – start stuffing in expensive add-ons that the Soul’s value equation gets a tad disrupted. Our build-your-own Soul enjoys a base price of $14,700 before, of course, options and transportation. Online we added but floor mats and a cargo tray plus, of course, a destination fee of $795. The final window was just under $15,700. Finance everything but the sales tax, and you can keep sixty monthlies comfortably under $300/month. And unlike $300/month leases, you’ll own your Soul at the end of five years, and enjoy another five years of remaining (powertrain) warranty.
Of course, even at $15K there’s competition; we’ll mention a few of the more logical choices…