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2014 Kia Soul Plus: A Spunky And Stylish Multi-PurposeVehicle

Highlight: The Soul EV will become the first electric vehicle for the brand.

 Test vehicle’s MSRP: $24,010 (Base Model starts at $15,695)

Seating Capacity: 5

Standard Safety Features: airbags (front, mounted side, full length); ABS; electronic brake distribution; stability control; front and rear crumple zones; hill start assist system; a traction control system; a vehicle stability management system; and a tire pressure monitoring system

 Standard Equipment: 16-inch wheels; 6-speed manual; a rear tinted privacy glass; cloth seats; an outside temperature display; steering wheel mounted audio controls; and a manually operated tilt/telescopic steering wheel

 Suspension System:

Front: McPherson

Rear: Torsion beam, gas-filled shock absorbers

 Standard Audio: a 6-speaker AM/FM audio with XM satellite

 Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles

Powertrain Warranty: 10 years or 100,000 miles

iPod Connectivity: Available

Bluetooth Compatibility: Available

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder/130-horsepower

Recommended Fuel: Regular

 Standard Fuel Mileage: 23-city/31-hwy

Other Trim Level (s):

Base

Exclaim

What’s New: Riding on a longer and wider wheelbase, the second-generation Soul has been redesigned for the 2014 model year.

 Pros: The popular Soul has been refined for the 2014 model year, improving upon the entire driving experience. With its upgraded interior trim and quiet cabin, the Soul continues to remain a nimble vehicle that provides great visibility due to its height. Those seeking a Soul have the option of selecting from a manual or an automatic transmission. Price conscious buyers have three trim levels to select from. For buyers seeking a well-equipped model, we recommend that they step up to the mid-level Soul Plus.

 The mid trim Soul Plus, which we reviewed, starts out at $18,200. The Soul Plus is outfitted with a center rear armrest, a cargo cover, a remote keyless entry system, 17-inch wheels and a peppier 2.0-liter engine, which pushes out 164 horses. To enhance the ownership experience, Kia added on $5,000 in options to our compact crossover. Some of the features included an oversized panoramic roof, a high-end Infinity sound system with a limited subscription to satellite radio, a mood setting front speaker system, fog lights, an automatic climate control system, leather seats, a power driver’s seat, ventilated (and heated front seats, heated rear seats, a rear camera, an automatic headlight system, a push-button keyless starter and the brand’s UVO infotainment system.

 Buyers opting for the larger 18-inch wheels and LED lights should move up to the top of the line Exclaim trim, which starts out a $20,300. The Exclaim also adds power folding outside mirrors, a rear view camera and automatic headlights. Ironically, both the rear view camera and the automatic headlights were options on our review vehicle. We were able to shave approximately $2,000 off the window sticker by sticking to the mid trim Soul Plus.

 Furthermore, Kia has also managed to keep the vehicle fresh, offering special edition variations of the vehicle. The Red Zone Soul, which was released during the first quarter of 2014, is decked-out with an all-white exterior, which feature accents, skirts and a special interior treatment package. Expect more specialty models of the Soul.

 Cons: We only had two concerns with the Soul. One is that a cassette player is not an available feature. The other is that the Soul allows the driver to change the steering characteristics from Normal to Sport to Economy. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to determine any distinct steering characteristics.

 The Verdict: The Soul’s fresh design appeals to almost every demographic. The boxy Soul was what many assumed to be the brand’s answer to the quirky Nissan Cube and the Scion xB. The Soul, unlike the competition, has been a sales success. In fact, the Soul is the second best-selling vehicle in the Kia family so far this year. More importantly, the Kia Soul recently received five out five stars from the industry respected JD Power Initial Quality Survey. This is a high honor for a brand that wasn’t known for its quality a few years ago. The Soul being a multi-purpose vehicle is great for the beach, for cruising around the city or for a night out on the town. This all- around vehicle captures the spirit and soul, no pun intended, of what an econo box is capable of evolving into, which has been the shortcoming of its competitors.

 Competition: Nissan Cube and Scion xB

 

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Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and editor of a car-buying website for women and minorities. To learn more about his popular car-buying workshop and/or to price a new-vehicle, drive on over to www.JeffCars.com. Follow him at twitter/JeffCars.

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