By Ann M. Job
The animated and dapper hamsters in Kia’s television ads aren’t the only ones who ride comfortably in Kia’s newly revamped Soul five-door hatchback.
People of nearly all sizes and budgets can find the five-passenger, 2014 Soul to be a satisfying small car. For 2014, it has a more responsive engine, more rigid body, ritzier passenger compartment and greater interior room than its predecessor.
Buyers just have to like riding in an expressively “mod” box.
Starting retail price for the 2014 Soul is affordable at less than $16,000.
With fold-down rear seats, the Soul has as much cargo space — 61.3 cubic feet — as a small sport utility vehicle.
Gasoline mileage can be better than that of an SUV. The test Soul with automatic averaged 26 miles per gallon in combined city/highway driving without fuss.
Best of all, the 2014 model is the first Soul to earn five out of five stars in U.S. government crash tests in both frontal and side crash tests. Previous model year Souls got only four stars in frontal crash tests.
No wonder the Soul far outsells its major competition — the boxy Scion xB and Nissan Cube. Specifically, 118,079 Souls were sold in the United States in calendar 2013, up 2 percent from the previous year. In comparison, Scion xB sales last year fell to 17,849 and Cube sales fell to 5,461.
The Soul is competitively priced. Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $15,695 for a base, 2014 Soul with 130-horsepower four cylinder and six-speed manual transmission. The lowest starting retail price for a 2014 Soul with automatic is $1,800 more, or $17,495.
There is a larger, more powerful four cylinder, too. Starting MSRP for a 2014 Soul Plus model with this 164-horsepower direct injection powerplant is $18,995. The only transmission with the uplevel engine is a six-speed automatic.
All Souls come standard with heated outside mirrors, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, two 12-volt power connections, sunglasses holder with dual maplights above the front seats, air conditioning, tilt and telescoping steering wheel and power windows and door locks.
In comparison, the 2014 Scion xB has a starting retail price, including destination charge, of $17,725 with 158-horsepower four cylinder and five-speed manual transmission and $18,675 with four-speed automatic.
The base 2014 Nissan Cube S starts at $17,570 with 122-horsepower four cylinder and six-speed manual.