Kia has been on a tear this year, introducing seven revised vehicles to its lineup, and the most impressive of the lot is the 2014 Soul. The funky box on wheels, with a design Kia says was inspired by a hog wearing a backpack, has been completely revised for 2014. And as part of the revision, Kia has redesigned its UVO infotainment system, ditching its old Microsoft-based software on the higher-end models and replacing it with a new Android-based system.
Kia says the new version of UVO runs on an automotive-grade variation of Android Gingerbread. The system, Kia's representatives said, had to be specifically designed to safely work in an auto without causing any driver distractions. The end result is an iteration of Android that provides users with increased functionality over earlier versions of UVO and full Web connectivity.
The biggest change in the infotainment system is the ability to view two onscreen apps at once. Users can, for example, view navigation information on the left side of the display and audio information, or other dynamic apps, on the right side. Unfortunately, during our hands-on time with the new UVO, the navigation system was nonoperational.
In addition to the new interface, the Android-powered UVO system also gains the ability to download apps from a Kia-curated app store. No apps are available yet, but Kia said it is actively working on some. Interestingly, the automaker has also chosen to include a full Web browser with the new UVO system.
Of course, the company says the browser will be inaccessible when the car is in motion. But when you come to a stop, you'll be able to navigate the Internet using Android's stock browser. Other enhancements include SiriusXM satellite radio with real-time weather, stocks, movie times, sports scores and more.
Kia has also outfitted the Soul with the company's emergency eServices, as well as a new smartphone app. The app, available for Android or iPhone, allows users to monitor their vehicle's diagnostics. So if your car's check engine light comes on, you'll be able to search the app for information on the cause.
From the look of it, the 2014 Soul is an upgrade in every sense of the word. Pricing for the Soul is not yet available, but the company says consumers can expect to see the car on dealer lots later this summer.