UPDATED: How The 2014 Kia Soul's Changes Make It Worth More Money

2014 Kia Soul
The 2014 Kia Soul.

Behold the all-new 2014 Kia Soul.

What's that?

Looks like the Kia Soul you've seen on the streets for years?

Well....yeah, until you do this:

2014 Kia Soul (left); 2013 Kia Soul (right)
The 2014 Kia Soul (left); The 2013 Kia Soul (right).

Once you park the 2014 and the 2013 Souls next to each other, the changes become much more clear to the eye.

The basic shape may be the same, but the grille and headlamps are completely re-done, and the stance of the '14 is much more purposeful and aggressive.

2014 Kia Soul (left); 2013 Kia Soul (right)
2014 Kia Soul (left); 2013 Kia Soul (right).

Go around to the back and it's clear that there's nothing apart from the KIA badge, the rear window wiper and the radio antenna that's a carryover.

And it's not just cosmetic.  Underneath is a new longer, wider, stiffer chassis with upgrades to the suspension for better handling and lower noise, vibration and harshness.  The slimmer pillars at the windshield allow for better visibility.

The substanitally revised 2.0-liter four in our "+" (not a typo) model makes 164 horsepower, and delivers more of its torque across a wider band of revs, making the power smoother and more reliable under varying road conditions.  And, unlike the 2013 model we reviewed a few months ago, the '14 has a real six-speed automatic, replacing a CVT (continuously variable transmission), which improves performance and gives you the response you need at the moment you need it.

Interior of 2014 Kia Soul
The 2014 Kia Soul interior.

Kia also made a huge effort on the new Soul interior, and it shows, with more room for people and cargo, lower interior noise levels, higher-quality materials and fresher design.

And while the EPA city mileage estimate is unchanged at 23 miles per gallon, the highway number jumps from 28 to 31.

Base price for our "+" (say "plus") model tester is $18,200.  That comes with a ton of standard equipment including a full complement of airbags and other passive safety gear, anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring, air conditioning, power windows and locks, an audio system with USB, auxilary and satellite radio, Bluetooth, remote keyless entry, cruise control, and, of course, Kia's legendary 10 year/100,000 mile warranty.

Ours had a few options...an audio package that upgraded the stereo to an Infinity audio system (which allows you to pause and rewind live AM, FM or satellite radio broadcasts...a very cool feature my son had to point out to me), added navigation with an 8-inch color screen, which brought with it Sirius/XM NavTraffic and automatic climate control and color-changing lights around the door speakers($1,400); The Primo Package (front fog lights and a power moonroof for $3,000); the UVO e-services infotainment app suite, which also includes a rear-view camera and automatic headlights ($500) and carpeted floor mats ($115). Which, with freight and handling charges ($795), turned $18,200 into $24,010.

Here's how big an improvement the 2014 Kia Soul is over the 2013:  It's worth it.  A mere 8 months ago, we thought the "!" (not a typo) model, which is the top-of-the-line, was out of its league with an as-tested price of $24,000.  The 2014 "+", one step down, at $24,010, justifies the expense.  There are competitors to this vehicle (Nissan Cube, Scion xB), but in truth, the Soul is in a class by itself.

UPDATE:  Had the opportunity to spend a week in the 2014 Kia Soul "!" (say "exclaim") and was once again thoroughly impressed. Kia has simply cornered a market that the competition couldn't (Scion xB, Nissan Cube, Honda Element) get a handle on.  The little car is brilliant and the only question is what trim level you'd like yours in.

The "!" is the priciest at $20,300 to start, but it adds Kia's UVO e-services, body-colored bumpers, power folding outside mirrors, auto-light control, it makes the optional fog lights standard, LED positioning lights not available on any other model are available on the "!", and it upgrades the standard wheels to 18-inchers.

Our tester had the Sun and Sound Package (automatic climate control, a panoramic moonroof with power sunshade, navigation with an 8-inch screen, SiriusXM Traffic, an Infinity audio system and speaker lights) for $2,600 and The Whole Shebang Package (HID low-beam headlights, push-button start with smart key, leather seat trim, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, heated steering wheel, a Supervision Meter Cluster with a 4.3-inch color LCD screen and engine immobilizer) for $2,500.  With $795 inland freight and handling,  the total was $26,195.

Yes, that's more than 2 grand above the price of the 2013 Kia Soul "!" I balked at before.   The difference?  The car itself is now worth more.  The value is in there.  And if you're going to have one of these, there's no crime in going for The Whole Shebang.