2014 Kia Soul Has Android At Its Heart

A new infotainment system replaces an in-dash CD player, proving that Kia knows its target buyer.


First Impressions

From the looks of it, Kia’s successfully transplanted its youthful Soul into an attractive new body.

With Toyota skewing older, Honda lacking hotness and MINI going upscale, what’s a young car buyer to do? Well, Kia thinks they’ve cracked it. The 2014 Kia Soul is a refresh aimed directly at the market that’s more likely to spend money on their smartphone payments than an automobile.

First and foremost, Kia’s set to debut their new in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system. Based on Android, this new setup is designed to be flexible and grow with downloadable third-party apps. With an 8-inch capacitive touchscreen, the new Soul has Pandora, travel, road condition information, gas prices and Google Maps built-in. These features piggyback off the owner’s smartphone, making a second data connection and the associated fees unnecessary.

An optional 4.8-inch LCD in the instrument cluster displays turn-by-turn directions, helping keep drivers’ eyes on the road. Although it isn’t standard on the base model (only Bluetooth, SiriusXM and USB/AUX ports are), the new infotainment system comes along for the ride in both the Soul Plus and Exclaim trims. Absent is a CD player. Getting rid of it not only freed up space for a bigger screen in the center console, but it made a conscious statement that there's no room for James Taylor CDs on board. If you want to listen to Shower The People, you've got to do it from your phone.

Otherwise, the interior styling is all about the squircle, and nebulous shapes dominate. The Soul’s high roofline means plentiful headroom—something that MINI’s new Paceman and Nissan’s Juke eschew in the name of styling.

While the new Soul might look a lot like the old model on the outside, Kia’s done a lot of subtle work to freshen the design. It’s not retro-chic, but it’s not overly ‘Tron’ either. The proportions of the Soul’s exterior remain roughly the same, with a tall and boxy shape. Its four passenger doors enable friends to come along, while a wide hatch swallows plenty of cargo with ease.

Design details like the high-up taillights and tapering greenhouse evoke the first generation car but there’s something more refined and simultaneously more fun about this Soul. We were charmed by the optional off-center racing stripe and the bright, non-metallic colors on display. It’s nice to see Kia evolve the quality of this car without changing what it stands for.

The Base Soul comes with an upgraded 1.6-liter 4-cylinder putting out 130-horsepower while the Plus and Exclaim pack a more potent 2.0-liter four-banger rated at 160-horsepower. Fuel economy figures aren’t yet available for either engine option. Fans of row-your-own transmissions will be pleased to hear that this Soul still offers a stick shift version (albeit most buyers will likely opt for the six-speed automatic).

Though we only saw it on an auto show floor, we were impressed with the brief time we spent with this entry-level car, and we’ll put it through its paces when it hits the streets later this year. One thing is for certain—It’s a forward-looking evolution of an already popular vehicle in an important market segment.

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