Is The 2014 Kia Soul Really Worthy Of All The Applause, Applause, Applause?

Ed. note: Kia is not an LGBT-friendly automaker. For a list of those that are, take a look at our long, long list of gay-friendly car companies.

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2014 Kia Soul: first driveNow, since is in fact a LBGT (Lesbian Bisexual Gay Transgender) community focused automotive website, you can imagine how often of late that our staff has mentioned the current reigning Queen of queer fabulousness. No, we don’t mean Miley Cyrus — she still needs a real tragedy or stint in rehab to reach gay icon status. But Lady Gaga has been ruling the gay community for years now, much to Madonna’s chagrin.

So while mentioning Lady Gaga in a review for any new car, truck, SUV or crossover is totally natural if you’re the sort of person who spent every waking minute planning what outfit you would wear as you sat in front of your computer waiting until 12:01 a.m. November 11, 2013 when the woman who considers beef jerky a fabric for dressmaking finally unveiled her latest record “ArtPop.” But once you downloaded those (arguably) precious new tracks, what kind of car should you quickly sashay into so that you can revel in the majesty of new Gaga music?

Or, more importantly: what car would the lady herself most likely want you to be driving? And isn’t making her happy the genetic duty of at least every self-respecting gay man?

Before you say “hogwash” please listen for a second. And stop saying the word “hogwash” because it’s not the 1930s. You see, this all starts to make sense when you recall that one of the more recent Kia Soul hamster videos featured her song “Applause” as the backing music during the rodents’ intense work outs. By the end of the minute and a half video, the hamsters arrived at a glamorous premiere (perhaps a Lady Gaga concert?) looking at the very least very metrosexual and thin, which gave way finally to Kia’s ad tagline:”The 2014 Kia Soul: Totally Transformed!

Well maybe not TOTALLY but Kia made the changes where it counted and left the characteristics that turned this automotive oddball into a 100,000 unit plus a year seller. And people don’t just buy the Soul because it’s affordable — it’s stylish, roomy, comes with lots of unexpected features and, well, it is the preferred form of transport for hamsters. Well, now they are skinny ass hamsters but more on that later.

2014 Kia Soul: first driveThe Exterior Style and Interior Layout/Build Quality
Now compare the 2014 Kia Soul’s exterior appearance to the current Nissan Cube (too cartoonish), Scion xB (no character) or even less obvious competitors like the Nissan Juke SUV (really small cargo hold but looks cool and drives well), Fiat 500L or MINI Countryman (neither of the last two are traditionally attractive and the Countryman doesn’t handle with MINI-like eagerness of spirit). In other words, all of the Soul’s competition is either hideously ugly, wantonly weird or at the very least lacks the immediate people pleasing accessibility of the 2014 Soul.

How does the Soul do this? Well, first off the interior is very roomy inside with two adults easily finding comfort sitting shoulder to shoulder in the front or back seats. Legroom is perfectly generous for a car this size and it has the space to make it the perfect road trip car. As for cargo capacity, the 2014 Kia Soul can hold 18.8 cubic feet under its hard, removable cargo cover. Take away the cover and you can squeeze 24.2 cubic feet back there with that number growing to 61.3 cubic feet with the second row of seats folded flat.

The 2014 Soul might just be the perfect young person’s car because just imagine how many moves you could take care of with this car? You really might be able to buy your kid a 2014 Kia Soul, drop him or her off at college their freshman year and never need to come back for four years. Or five years if they join a fraternity or sorority.

Interior trim materials and plastics are high quality while the new steering wheel is a tactile delight mainly since it was designed by Peter Schreyer himself — in case you don’t know him he was the driving force behind Kia’s ascendency in auto design and he learned his craft from none other than Audi. So, it’s like an Audi steering wheel in a $20,000 car. In fact, Kia did a great job making every part of the interior you touch most feel extra nice, which will make anyone feel like they robbed this poor South Korean automaker blind by paying so little.

2014 Kia Soul: first driveValue, Features and Fuel Economy
Please remember that you can still buy a 2014 Kia Soul with a decent specification, manual transmission and a less powerful 1.6 liter four-cylinder engine than the 2.0 liter motor we tested in Minnesota for less than $15,000. But this new Soul allows buyers to add more luxurious features than ever before so while the sticker price of our tester price might sound high, keep in mind Kia only raised prices $300 across the board for what is a safer car built with more high strength steel, one that is quieter, more fun to drive and that features an interior which is a leap and bound ahead of the last generation which was a bit toy-like. Fun, yet toy-like.

We drove a top of the line “!” Soul model which came with 17-inch alloys, a six-speed automatic, 2.0 liter 164 horsepower 4-cylinder engine, power windows, locks and mirrors, Sirius/XM radio, USB/i-Pod integration, Bluetooth, tinted rear windows, a tilt telescoping steering wheel and more for just $18,200. To this, we requested the UVO e-services for the center dash mounted navigation screen and a back-up camera for $500, floormats for $115, the “Primo Package” for $3,000 which adds impressively soft and supple leather seating, push button start, a panoramic sunroof, power driver’s seat, heated and ventilated front seats (usually only luxury cars have air conditioned seats), heated rear seats and a state of the art steering wheel. It comes leather-wrapped with the ability to be heated, along with tactile controls for audio, cruise and Bluetooth smartly laid out. It’s not too dissimilar from the modular steering wheel multi-function unit made by RAFI GmbH, another wheel considered by many to provide enhanced convenience. If convenience is what you need most in a car then the Primo Package will definitely tickle your fancy.

Lastly, we got our Soul ! with the essential Audio Package for $1,400 which features an excellent in-dash navigation system with terrific graphics, glowing speaker lights, automatic climate control and most importantly a superbly crisp sounding 10-speaker Infinity audio system which managed to pass our quite rigorous Lady Gaga “Alejandro” at full volume test. Wait. We have an audio system test named after the hit Lady Gaga song “Alejandro?” Darn right we do.

We even informed Infinity’s PR staff with stories of how we use Lady Gaga’s hit song “Alejandro” as our great auto sound system equalizer to test realistic sound quality during acoustic changes. Listening to it at full volume uncovers if the sound system in question can handle the very sudden changeover from an acoustic intro directly into a deep, thumping electronic beat. Most cars develop either buzzing or rattling from the speakers at that point but we are happy to inform the LBGT community that the 2014 Kia Soul with the Infinity audio system passed the “Alejandro” test with flying colors.

Fuel economy estimates for the 2014 Kia Soul are 23 city/31 highway, which is not a figure that will bowl most consumers over but try to consider the comparably powerful motor, boxy and less than aerodynamic styling as well our feeling that Kia is being overly cautious with published estimates after having to recently adjust their efficiency figures the opposite direction. But rest easy. It runs on regular unleaded. And remember, every car’s fuel economy depends on how you drive it. EPA estimates are just that: best guesses.

2014 Kia Soul: first driveWhat’s It Like to Drive in Minnesota? Our Behind the Wheel Impressions
People are really, really polite in Minnesota. They get over to let faster-moving traffic pass. We never saw a single soul giving anyone the finger or under the spell of road rage.

Moving on, the 1.6 liter 130 horsepower/118 ft-lbs of torque base engine was unavailable at the press event for us to drive so we just had to take a Soul with the 2.0 liter 164 horsepower/151 ft-lbs of torque, four-cylinder, which impressed for its faultlessly smooth-off-the-line zip. It was only when the engine got revved out to its full redline under heavy acceleration that the motor emitted some noises that sounded a bit like mechanical protestations of “slow down!” Granted, you have to really be pushing the engine for it to become raucous.

Otherwise, the six-speed automatic worked flawlessly with the engine always picking the perfect gear for passing maneuvers. At freeway speeds we were impressed with how very quiet this generation of Soul is compared to the last model which could get a bit warying from tire, road and wind noise. One other big improvement seen in the 2014 Kia Soul is the ride which was smooth, quiet and refined except for one time when we hit one of the largest potholes in the Midwest near downtown Minneapolis. That large rut caused a judder to travel through the suspension but we were just happy that it didn’t damage the car in any way. Seriously, that pothole could have eaten Lady Gaga’s ego whole. Wait, we didn’t say that. Not out loud.

One Final Question For Kia & For The Universe at Large (And A Conclusion)
Now, the Kia Soul ads with the hamsters are easily some of the best ever created for the auto industry and are unquestionably inspired, fun and memorable. But our question is this — and we mean no offense to Kia, hamsters, gyms or Kia’s ad agency — but isn’t a thin hamster now just a rat with a cuter mini-tail? Does this spell the end of the hamsters selling the Kia Soul? Well, we doubt that but maybe next time they could invite squirrels (rats in 50’s poodle skirts) or some morbidly obese hamsters with them. We will sure miss those hamsters shaking the ample junk they always had in their trunks.

Well, now that we got that question off of our chests, we will conclude by saying that the 2014 Kia Soul exceeded all of our expectations regarding style, interior quality, feature availability, refinement and how much an American can still get for his or her hard-earned dollars. Our Soul maxed out with every option at $23,215, boasting pretty much every luxury toy and gizmo expected by BMW, Mercedes and Lexus drivers but rarely Kia Soul drivers. Well, now even Kia owners should have their expectations very high because they will so love their new Soul that this Korean Automaker may find itself deafened by all of the “Applause, Applause, Applause.”