Bottom line: The 2014 Kia Soul is one of the best-priced, best-equipped small wagons available in the U.S. auto market. I hereby predict that it will sell as well as its predecessor. It has several worthy competitors — the Nissan Versa hatchback, Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Sonic among them.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Good marks in all three. “Good” means it will please most ordinary drivers — people who want to get where they have to go safely, reliably, within the bounds of the law.
Body style/layout: This is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive, tall-bodied but compact wagon with four side doors and a rear hatch. It is offered in three trim levels — base, Plus (+ in Kia marketing parlance), and Exclaim (! according to Kia marketers).
Engines/transmissions: Two of each are available. The base gets a 1.6-liter, 16-valve, in-line four-cylinder gasoline engine with variable valve timing (130 horsepower, 118 pound-feet of torque). That engine is linked to a standard six-speed manual transmission. The Plus and Exclaim get a 2-liter version of that gasoline engine (164 horsepower, 151 pound-feet of torque) mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Capacities: Seating is for five people. Cargo capacity is 24.2 cubic feet with rear seats up and 61.3 cubic feet with those seats down. The fuel tank holds 14.2 gallons of gasoline (regular grade is recommended).
Mileage: My real-world mileage was 21 miles per gallon in congested city traffic and 30 on the highway.
Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front, solid rear); four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; electronic brake-force distribution; stability and traction control; driver and passenger head-restraint whiplash-protection systems; and front and rear head air bags.
Price: The non-optioned price of the 2014 Kia Soul Exclaim with 18-inch wheels is $20,500, with a dealer’s invoice price of $19,521. Price as tested is $27,310, including $6,015 in options (onboard navigation, high-definition rear backup camera, premium sound system, panoramic glass roof and other items) and a $795 factory-to-dealer transportation charge. Dealer’s price as tested is $25,777.
Note: Kia is pushing hard to keep the Soul on its bestseller list. You have bargaining room on this one.