Category Archives: Soul Articles

Kia Soul wins Golden Klaxon award in Russia

The new Kia Soul continues to be recognized for its iconic design and popularity – this time in Moscow, Russia, where the ceremony for the prestigious Golden Klaxon automotive award was held. Golden Klaxon is one of Russia’s top 3 automotive awards and highly influential among car owners. Of more than 130 automobile models taking part in the competition, Kia Soul came out on top in the best compact SUV category.

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We are thrilled that the improvements made to the second generation Soul – the more masculine styling touches, enhanced comfort, and most importantly, improved safety features – were so well received. Ever since its launch in the spring of 2014, the new Kia Soul has proved its popularity not only in terms of high sales, but also through wide recognition among professional automobile communities. Since the introduction of the first generation model, Kia Soul has won more than 50 different international awards, including the Red Dot Design Award and the prestigious iF Design Award.

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Roman Tarasov, chairman of the jury and test editor of the Klaxon newspaper, said that “the second generation Kia Soul is a great example of the growth of the compact SUV segment; having retained all the best features of its predecessor, it became more mature and comfortable, and now features noticeably improved handling characteristics.

Winning this award is another important step for Kia in providing high-quality vehicles and delivering on our sales and after-sales service promises to Russian customers. We are excited to continue on this exciting streak and can’t wait to see what’s to come!

2013 Kia Soul ranked highest in class for compact MPV in J.D. Power APEAL study

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Kia Motors has been one of the fastest growing automotive companies in the U.S. in recent years, and three of its vehicles – the 2013 Optima, Rio and Soul – recently ranked at or near the top of their respective segments within the J.D. Power 2013 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study. The Soul claimed the highest ranking in the “Compact Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV)” category for the second year in a row, while the Optima and Rio came in second in the “Midsize” and “Sub-Compact” car segments, respectively. The APEAL Study measures new-vehicle buyers’ satisfaction based on ratings of Design, Performance, Comfort, Features and Style.

“Kia’s rankings in the J.D. Power APEAL Study are a tribute to the tremendous strength of our model line,” said Michael Sprague, executive vice president of marketing and communications, Kia Motors America. “Kia has become an industry leader for design, quality, safety and user-friendly technology, and delivering all of these world-class attributes at a great value is central to our brand promise. Being recognized in the APEAL Study strongly reinforces to consumers that Kia is offering the right model mix with the right feature set.”

This years’ study emphasizes the importance of technology in todays’ cars. With a variety of features being offered in its base, Plus and Exclaim trim levels, the Kia Soul was awarded the highest ranking in the Compact MPV segment.

The 2013 APEAL Study ranks cars based on responses from over 83,000 purchasers and lessees who are surveyed after the first 90 days of ownership between February and May of 2013. The vehicles are evaluated across 77 attributes, including overall mechanical, performance and design quality.

2014 Kia Soul vs 2014 Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla is an undisputed heavyweight among small cars. It has a seemingly permanent place on the list of the Top Ten Bestselling Nameplates. It’s reliable, fuel-efficient, and affordable, and it’s been around forever—well, 48 years, anyway. During that time, Toyota has sold nearly 40 million Corollas.

But the small-car segment is changing. New players are arriving, and they want to take a bite out of the Corolla’s sales. Enter Kia and its quirky, boxy Soul.

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The Corolla and the Soul could not be more different. The Corolla is a traditional compact sedan. The Soul looks almost like a small crossover. But both cars have the same purpose, are competing for the same young and hip customers, and both were just redesigned for the 2014 model year. Why not pair them up to analyze different approaches to the small-car segment?
For our comparison, we selected a 2014 Corolla LE Plus, which cost $21,870, to face off against a very basic Soul, which cost $15,610. Though that’s a significant gap in price, $6260, it didn’t handicap the Kia. “You’re getting way more coolness than the price would indicate,” said deputy editor Joe DeMatio.

We tested the Soul and the Corolla as winter settled in around Automobile Magazine’s base in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Unlike some of our tests, which feature high-speed loops of the Nurburgring Nordschleife or exotic jaunts on the twisty roads in Southern France, we simply drove the Soul and the Corolla normally, the way typical compact car owners would use them. We did errands. We drove to work. We went shopping and out to eat. We dealt with cold and snow. It probably sounds a lot like you what you did in mid-December.

After several weeks, we reached a verdict: The Soul came out on top. We liked how it looked, and we liked how it drove. It felt newer, more innovative, and it had significantly more space. Even though the Soul was not a traditional compact sedan, that proved to be a strength, as we liked its unconventional approach.

“Being a hatchback, the Soul has much of the appeal of a crossover,” said associate web editor Jake Holmes.

These two cars paint a striking picture of the establishment (Toyota) versus the spunky up-and-comer, Kia. The Korean brand is trying to be a trendsetter, and that shows in the Soul. Conversely, the Corolla comes off as staid and boring. It’s a new car, but we felt a sense of déjà vu.

“This car could have come out ten years ago, and I wouldn’t have been surprised,” Holmes said. “It’s everything you would expect and nothing more.”

For Appearances’ Sake

Neither car had a decided edge in the looks department. In fact, we rather liked them both. The Soul’s design was only lightly updated for the 2014 model year, and it remains one of the most recognizable boxes on wheels. The Corolla is much curvier and more creased than the model it replaces. It’s a contemporary look, and like the Dodge Dart and Ford Focus, the design attempts to make the Corolla appear larger and more upscale.

Room to Roam in the Cabin

Slipping inside, we immediately felt at home in the Soul. It was taller and wider than the Corolla, and that made for more headroom, more leg room, and more interior volume. With the rear seats folded, the Soul provides 61.3 cu ft of cargo space, or 24.2 cu ft with the seats up. You could easily get a decent-sized piece of furniture back there. In fact, with the seats down, the Soul has a greater cargo volume than the Sportage, which Kia markets as a crossover.

The Corolla also had a good amount of space (its passenger volume of 97 cu ft was fairly close to the Soul’s 101 cu ft). But it felt less spacious due in part to its fat, slanted C-pillars, which hurt visibility and were a problem when parking in tight areas or merging onto the expressway. Yes, they make for a cool roofline, but it’s at the expense of rear-seat headroom. We did like the view out the front, however, as the wide windshield and low cowl afford great forward visibility. The Corolla’s trunk, which measures 13 cu ft, is also spacious. A golf bag would fit back there easily, and it could handle a week’s worth of groceries. We had no beef with the Toyota’s cargo hold, we just preferred the versatility offered by the Soul.

The Corolla’s substantially higher price tag was reflected in the materials found in the cabin. The Corolla felt like a much nicer car on the inside than the Soul. There was fashionable stitching and trim across the dashboard, a head-up display, a sporty tri-gauge cluster, and the use of color throughout the cabin was tasteful. The options, like push-button start, a 6.1-inch touchscreen, and the Entune premium audio system (all part of the $1510 driver convenience package), made the Corolla seem more upscale. It outshined the Soul, which had cloth seats, hard plastics, and required use of a key for entry. Although the Soul had few of the Corolla’s bells and whistles, we didn’t penalize it for that because it can be optioned up. (The top-trim Soul Exclaim comes with LED lights, UVO connectivity, and a rear camera, for $21,095.)

Driving Dynamics Make the Difference

Once in motion, however, the Corolla’s polish wore off. Its harsh and noisy ride dominated the driving experience, even though the Toyota’s powertrain has some positives.

“On first impression, everything looks more upscale than you'd expect, like the classy dash design, well-finished steering wheel, and nicely weighted buttons and knobs,” noted associate web editor Joey Capparella. “Once you get past this, though, there's a sense that the whole car is slightly hollowed-out; the seats are thinly padded, the ride is harsher than you'd expect. It's pretty nice on the surface, but the cheapness is still there.”

The Corolla’s 138-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine was peppy enough, and paired with the continuously variable transmission produces an impressive 38 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg in the city (32 mpg combined). Those figures easily eclipsed the Soul’s disappointing 30 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in the city (26 mpg combined).
Fuel economy is an undeniably important component in a small-car purchase. But it’s not the only one. “I can absolutely understand why someone would buy the Corolla,” said Holmes, “but I cannot say I enjoyed my time behind the wheel.”
The Soul, even in its basic spec, was the better car to drive, although a little rough around the edges. The base Soul’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 130 hp wasn’t particularly inspiring, but we enjoyed wringing the most out of it with the six-speed manual transmission.

We found the Soul to be surprisingly quiet for the segment, even when cruising along Interstate 94 at 70 mph. The four-cylinder is a bit raspy, as most are, but it wasn’t offensive. The inputs—throttle, brakes, and steering—were responsive, and we felt connected to the road. “This is the first Kia I’ve driven that has good steering weight and overall dynamics,” associate editor David Zenlea said.

The suspension, which uses MacPherson struts in front and a beam axle in back, is taut, but not harsh. It’s a big step forward from the first generation. Though the ride could still be a little rough over Michigan’s pockmarked roads, it was not nearly as severe as in the Corolla. It took much more to ruffle the Soul, which felt planted and solid.

Plus, the Soul offers a solid value (and warranty), for which Kia has become known. For less than $16,000, you get Bluetooth, cruise control, three months of Sirius/XM satellite radio and a USB port. “You really do get a ton of car with the base Soul,” Capparella said.

The Verdict

In the end, we weren’t fooled by the Corolla’s niceties. It’s an average car with some above-average features. But the Soul is more of a total package. It does have flaws, yet it still won us over with its funky styling, solid driving character, spacious cargo hold, and its competitive pricing structure. The Soul gives you a lot of car for not a lot of coin. It might sound trite, but the Soul did indeed have a soul. That’s something the Corolla lacked, and that’s why Kia won the day in this test.

2014 Toyota Corolla

Price as Tested: $21,870
Engine: 1.8L I-4, 132 hp, 128 lb-ft
Transmission: Continuously Variable
Drive: Front-wheel
Fuel economy: 29/38/32 mpg (city/highway/combined)
Cargo Space: 13 cubic feet

2014 Kia Soul

Price as Tested: $15,610
Engine: 1.6L I-4, 130 hp, 118 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: Front-wheel
Fuel Economy: 24/30/26 mpg (city/highway/combined)
Cargo Space: 24.2/61.3 cubic feet (seats up/down)

Totally electric version of popular compact car Dimensions are the same, but the drive is very different in this fun and forgiving ride

Kia is adamant there are no compromises with the electric Soul. It’s comfortable, quick, nimble and versatile

LAGUNA BEACH, CALIF.— Does the world really need another electric car?

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Mark Richardson photos for the Toronto Star

*The only visible difference on the electric Soul is that there is no grille, but instead a plastic hatch that pops open to allow access to the charging socket. *

A vehicle bought by only the few brave enough to schedule their driving around a limited daily range? A vehicle that can’t be fixed easily by your neighbourhood mechanic, and which is priced out of range for those Canadians who don’t live in Ontario or Quebec, where they can claim provincial rebates?

Kia clearly thinks so, which is why I’ve been tooling around Southern California in the new Kia Soul EV, a totally electric version of its popular compact car.

The electric Soul — and that’s a great name, but not official — is pretty much identical to the gas Soul, which as several wags have already noted, must be pronounced with care in polite company.

Its dimensions are all the same, save for an inch of raised interior trunk space to accommodate the batteries under the rear floor. From the outside, you’d never notice a difference, except there is no grille but instead a plastic hatch that pops open to allow access to the charging socket.

The drive is very different, though. Like all electric vehicles, the Soul’s single-gear motor creates maximum torque from a standstill, unlike gas vehicles, which must be revved until they find their powerband.

So just like a golf cart, I stepped on the throttle and shot off into California.

The car is a lot quicker than a golf cart, with a top speed of145 km/h. It’s apparently four seconds faster from zero to 100 km/h than its main competition, the Nissan Leaf. Another driver told me he could chirp the tires, but I could not. It was probably more a reflection of their “superlow-rolling-resistance” rubber, anyway.

Once underway, the Soul would be completely quiet if it did not have small external speakers that make a kind of muted throbbing noise to warn pedestrians of its presence. It sounds like the slapping of tires on a ridged road and can’t really be heard inside the car.

Kia is adamant there are no compromises with the electric Soul. It’s as comfortable, quick, nimble and versatile as the — ahem — gas Soul.

If you live in Ontario, which offers an $8,500 government rebate on electric cars, it’s even comparable in price to the high-end model: the basic Soul EV lists for $34,995 before any rebate, while a loaded Soul EV, with synthetic leather seats, fog lights, 480V fast-charging ability and a heat pump for slightly greater range, is $37,995. The conventional Soul starts at $16,995 and climbs to $27,295.

That rebate’s not going to last forever, though. The Ontario government won’t say how long the program will continue, and it was rumoured last year to be ending soon. A similar program in British Columbia offering a $5,000 rebate is already finished after funding ran out in March.

Of course, there is a compromise, and it’s a biggie: the Soul has an official range of 149 kilometres at the most before its batteries must be recharged. This is the official Canadian distance evaluated under the same five driving conditions the government uses to determine fuel consumption, and it trumps the Leaf’s 120 kilometres. The car boosts its range with several clever features: the heat pump on the higher trim level creates up to 27 per cent more battery power from generated heat, and as with the Leaf, the energy-sapping heater and air conditioning can be set to preheat or cool the cabin while the car’s still plugged in. As well, only the driver’s portion of the cabin can be heated at the footwell, and the temperature of the intake air is carefully monitored. Every little bit helps. The driving range can be tempered with fast and convenient charging, and for some people, it just won’t be an issue. City dwellers with access to a fast charger (which rules out plenty of condo residents) probably will be quite content with such an urban range if the Soul can be plugged in every night. On those few occasions they need to drive farther, they can rent a conventional car. Kia Canada is supplying a 240V fast charger free with every Soul EV, and there’s currently a government rebate that offers up to $1,000 toward a charger and its installation, which might cover it. With the 240V, 30-amp charger, a full battery charge takes less than five hours, which isn’t too bad. In contrast, a 120V household plug will take 25 hours to charge from totally flat to 100 per cent. Even faster charging is possible at a 480V commercial outlet that takes just 24 minutes for an 80 per cent charge — in theory, you could plug in at your local mall and be completely charged after visiting the stores. Good luck explaining yourself, though, if there’s only one charger and another EV wants a boost. Have you ever seen pump rage when people have to line up for gas? In practice, the Soul I drove had a range of 125 kilometres — there were only 15 kilometres left after a 110kilometre road trip, and my car was equipped with the 27 per cent boost of the heat pump. In its defence, everything was stacked against it: it was a hot day, and I cranked the air-conditioning and cooled seats while I drove it like I stole it. It was easy to drive this way. The electric Soul is fun and forgiving and seemed right at home beside California’s beaches and fruit bars. Kia hopes to sell 5,000 of them next year in Korea, Europe and North America, and there’ll be 11 dealers in Canada equipped to sell and service them, including three in the GTA.

How many actually sell is a whole different question. Travel expenses for freelance writer Mark Richardson were paid by the manufacturer.