2014 Kia Soul Review – yes, I actually got into the vehicle

2014 Kia Soul Review

First off, I have to give a disclaimer. I’ve been making fun of Kias for years now. Hey – I’m not mean – they earned it. In the 80’s, they were so cheaply made, they even skimped on the key – my buddy in high school had a Hyundai Excel. the first day he had it, he opened the trunk, and the key broke off inside the latch.

Whenever I see someone with a Hyundai, the first thing I think is, “What a piece of junk.” I know, their quality has improved, however, it’s nearly impossible for a brand to erase a poor first impression.

So, Kias are made in the same factories, using the same parts as Hyundais, and are marketed towards the same budget-conscious customers.

So, one sunny day in Fort Lauderdale, when the Hertz car rental folks told me I was getting a Kia, I cringed.

When the Hertz employee brought it to me, and I saw it resembled an electric banana dustbuster, I winced.

Here it is, waiting patiently in the parking lot while I go get boxes.

Here it is, waiting patiently in the parking lot while I go get boxes.

Let me explain the feeling. Ever get a ride in a friend’s expensive car, and think to yourself, “I sure hope someone sees me!” No one in the history of civilization has ever jumped into a yellow Kia, sat up straight, and thought, “I hope the class bully from elementary school sees me driving THIS hot little pile of potassium!”

So, I loaded my parents into the car. First thing dad said was “Son, I hope no one from the condo association see me in this.” I’m just kidding.

I did ask Hertz for a hatchback, since we needed a little more room than a regular car for their luggage and shopping trips.

Yes, it definitely has more cargo space than a Miata

Yes, it definitely has more cargo space than a Miata

INTERIOR:
When I got behind the wheel, expecting to look around and laugh – I couldn’t do it – that is, the interior looked pretty good – mostly matte black, with red lighted buttons, a la BMW. There was a tasteful white stitching on the shift lever boot. The wheel felt nice and thick. It had little buttons. Seats were reasonable comfortable, but all the weight was on my rear end – I prefer a little curve in my lower back, and lower thighs to even out the pressure.

PERFORMANCE:
You’re kidding, right? Reading the paragraph on performance for a Kia review is like skipping to the gas mileage section on a Range Rover review. Let me be brief: it has a 4-cylinder engine. It’s  the preferred ride of hamsters. If you floor it, it makes a lot of noise, and the only part of your body that gets a visceral reaction is your rear end from all the vibration. If you want to go fast in a Kia Soul, find a downhill.

TECHNOLOGY:
Here’s where I almost actually started to like the car. My iPhone connected via Bluetooth easily. When it rang, the stereo muted, and I could talk to the roof-mounted microphone, hands-free. I could push a steering-wheel button, and tell it who in my iPhone address book to call. It streamed my iPhone’s music library through the stereo flawlessly. Very impressed.

It’s things like a car’s infotainment center than can be the fine line between loving and hating it, and I almost started to like it at this point. But then, I put it in drive.

HANDLING:
You’re joking, right? This car was happiest in a straight line. Long sweeping corners meant re-adjusting the steering 3 or 4 times before the corner was up. Not much feedback from the wheel. Then again, you don’t buy a Kia for the joy of corners.

OVERALL:
If I needed a second car with decent gas mileage, and high-than average utility, I might consider this Kia Soul. Sometimes, it’s not about performance and handling. I don’t see Chevy and Ford pickup truck owners arguing, “My F150 takes has higher tactile feedback in the steering wheel than yours.” My biggest gripe with this Kia is their overly-focused juvenile marketing.

See, in 6th grade, I was embarrassed to own a Rick Springfield cassette because his pouty-lipped mug was on the cover. Rick didn’t want 11 year old boys buying his cassettes. Similarly, I don’t want to be seen in the same vehicle shared by Gen Y female athletes and hamsters. The 2014 Hyundai Tuscon doesn’t have that repulsivity baked-in. But at least, the Kia’s key worked flawlessly.

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