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2014 Kia Soul: more than hamster under the hood

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The Kia Soul has been an enormous success. Everyone recognizes the cute car with a slightly cheeky personality and associates it with the hamsters in the commercials. There is more than a hamster under the hood of this vehicle, though, and a lot more comfort, convenience and technology than they started off with.

The paint on my test drive vehicle was Fathom Blue/Black. It gave the car a more sober look than the often-seen lime green that seems to characterize the Soul. Any changes in the exterior body are basically unnoticeable unless you have an older model next to it for comparison. It is deceptively small in appearance, but offers more generous interior room than one might expect. It is categorized as a small station wagon, and it has space for a smaller-size family plus all their sports equipment, groceries, luggage, pets or whatever else they may wish to carry.

A 2.0-liter gasoline direct-injection 4-cylinder engine powers the Soul. There was a time in the past when 4-cylinder meant sluggish and slow, but this engine produces satisfactory pep, due in part to the 6-speed automatic transmission. Electric power steering complements the package and makes handling comfortable. I found the Soul fun to drive and comfortable to ride in. It handled really well.

The standard safety features on the Soul are impressive and lend greatly to the driving experience. Traction control system, electronic stability control and vehicle stability management keep the weight in balance around curves and corners, and prevent slipping and sliding on wet surfaces. Anti-lock brakes with brake assist help bring you to a safe stop even in an emergency situation. And, of course, the Soul has dual front advanced airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.

There are more premium interior features on the Soul than might be expected on a small car perceived to be in the low-price category. Rear camera display, power driver seat, cruise control with trip computer, tilt and telescopic steering column and auto-dimming rearview mirror are some of the niceties on the Soul that aren’t always included on more basic cars. Add the auto-on/off projection headlights and the heated power-folding mirrors with turn signal indicators, and the Soul is a package that is not missing anything important. Rather, it is on the plus side of attractive amenities.

There is, of course, a price for all this. The original Kia Soul had a MSRP well below $20,000. The 2014 model is only $20,300. My test drive model had some optional additions. The Sun and Sound package, which included a panoramic sunroof with power sunscreen, navigation system with SIRIUS/XM traffic, Infinity audio system, and speaker lights were a nice addition, although at a slightly extra cost. The Whole Shebang package had HID low-beam headlights, push-button start with smart key, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, and more!

With the added packages and destination charges added on, the bottom sticker price on the test model came to $26,195. Estimated fuel economy is 26 miles per gallon for city/highway driving. The greenhouse gas rating is 7 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best.

Although you will see many Kia Souls on the roads and parking lots, it still has a novel and appealing look, as well as many attractive features that make it a great buy!

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