Reviews

2015 Kia Soul Walk Around



Kia Soul is very much a box, though its lines are softened compared with pre-2014 generations. Designed to resemble a wild boar wearing a backpack, Soul has a wide, squat appearance.

The front end features a tiny upper grille and a giant, mesh-covered lower grille, making the Soul look grounded and hunkered down. Round accents, like foglights, contrast with the Soul’s boxy shape. Soul Exclaim models have front tusks, echoing the boar-ish theme. Soul EV can be readily identified by the body-colored solid panel in place of the upper grille area, which includes a cover for the charging connection.

From the side, Kia Soul looks slightly more aerodynamic than a cracker box. The windshield is raked, making the Soul look more laid back in front than upright. Side windows have a decreasing, trapezoidal shape. Wheel designs differ by trim level; optional alloys look better than the base model’s plastic wheel covers. In back, the Soul sports long, high-mounted tail lights and a broad-looking rear.

The Kia Soul EV gets unique styling cues: bright blue metallic paint, a white roof, white mirror caps, unique wheels and EV badging.

Interior

Instead of the flat, hard plastics found in most econo-boxes, the materials inside the Kia Soul are soft and palatable. The cabin has a unique circular theme, which can be seen in the center stack and echoed in the air vents (with nifty round speakers that sit on top), the driver instrument cluster and the gearshift surround.

The instrument cluster features two large, analog gauges with a driver information screen in the middle. High-end Exclaim trims can be equipped with an electronic TFT display. Soul EV models get a standard digital display that shows battery life and vehicle range. All variants we saw were contemporary and easy to read, without looking too quasi-futuristic, although we didn’t get to see an example of the base model.

Multiple buttons on the steering wheel make changing stations, accessing audio and making a phone call convenient, but are so numerous they take some time to get used to.

Fabric seats are of fine quality. Basic seats offer moderate adjustability; we found the upgraded power seats with lumbar support to be more comfortable. We did notice after a few hours, however, that our lower backs and rear ends were a tad sore.

The optional leather upholstery seems stiff and waxy, and we might not have known it was genuine if we hadn’t sniffed it to get a whiff of that unmistakable cowhide smell. We’d opt for the fabric, unless we wanted a fully loaded Soul Primo package, which includes the leather.

Storage in front is plentiful on Plus and Exclaim models, with a center console that has a deep storage box. Lower side door pockets are wide and can hold one or two large water bottles or coffee cups. Side door handles also have a cubby that can hold small items like a mobile phone, though we were dismayed when our driving companion noticed the space was the exact same size as his iPhone 5, and as such, had great difficultly retrieving it once it was wedged in. Kia engineers say they will address this issue in future models that roll of the assembly line.

Cars equipped with navigation benefit from a wider, eight-inch screen that uses capacitive touch, which lets users swipe and scroll, like a smartphone or iPad. Controls are mostly intuitive and the screen is bright and easy to read. Nav-equipped models are also powered by Andriod, while vehicles without nav continue to use the Microsoft-powered UVO voice-recognition and handsfree system.

A smartphone app for Kia’s UVO eServices allows owners to access vehicle diagnostics, saved points of interest and trip information from a compatible Android or Apple smartphone. Drivers can also request roadside assistance and dealer appointments, and save the location where their vehicle is parked using the UVO eServices app.

A separate app for the Kia Soul EV allows drivers to remotely lock or unlock a car, start or stop a charge, and directs users to the nearest charging stations. All Soul EVs come with nav, and although you can call up nearest charging stations using the menu or via voice activation, we found certain third-party websites/apps were better at finding a wider variety of charging stations, including those parking spots with 120v outlets.

As with many OE voice recognition systems, the one in our Kia test car didn’t seem to like us. The first few times we tried to set directions, it didn’t understand what we were saying, and either asked us to try again, or listed incorrect information on the screen. Subsequent tries were better. Even though the system supposedly works with more natural language, one still must use canned commands for it to work. On the plus side, the touch screen lists suggestions, so you don’t have to guess what to say.

The Infinity audio system adds a center speaker, subwoofer and external amplifier, as well as speaker lights that change color. Music on satellite radio and from MP3 files sounded okay, but didn’t blow us away. The system sounded fine at lower volumes, but became distorted at higher volumes. It’s a big improvement over the standard sound system, however. Audiophiles should consider getting this option, or go for aftermarket speakers.

Because of its boxy shape, the Kia Soul has plenty of headroom, both up front and in back. Rear legroom in the standard Soul measures a spacious 39.1 inches, and 36 inches in the Soul EV. That beats the Fiat 500L’s 33.8 inches and Mini Cooper Countryman’s 32.3 inches. As such, the Kia Soul is better suited to carrying a carfull of friends around town.

Cargo space in the Soul is excellent for its class, measuring 18.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up and the Soul’s luggage undertray in place. Without the undertray, space expands to 24.2 cubic feet, for both gas-powered and EV models. The Fiat 500L isn’t far behind with 23.1 cubic feet with all seats in place, but the Mini Cooper Countryman pales in comparison with only 16.5 cubic feet.

Front visibility is excellent thanks to the Soul’s upright seating position and large windshield. In back, the liftgate has wide but short glass, and the large C-pillar makes for a substantial blind spot in the rear corners. Fortunately, the rearview camera helps to compensate.

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