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Driving with Dan: 2014 Kia Soul

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(KTVI) - What's the connection between hamsters and getting in shape and the 2014 Kia Soul?  It's a complete transformation!

St. Louis Post-Dispatch automotive writer Dan Wiese explains.

1.) The No. 1 priority Kia had in creating the second-generation Soul was: DON'T SCREW IT UP!

2.) During the first decade of this century, it seemed like a terribly good idea for import-nameplate brands to offer a boxy little wagon. So Toyota gave us the Scion xB, Nissan gave us the Cube and Kia gave us the Soul. The Soul, far and away, is the most successful.

3.) Since Soul debuted for the 2010 model year, Nissan has sold about 50,000 Cubes, Toyota about 70,000 Scion xB's, Kia about 400,000 Souls. 2014 sales so far: 5,000 Cubes, 16,500 xBs, 112,000 Souls.

4.) For reasons stated above, Kia has taken a very cautious approach to updating Soul.

5.) Styling changes include new headlights, a big-mouth lower grille and a "floaring" body-color panel out back that seems to meld with the rear glass.

6.) Mechanical changes are mainly direct fuel injection for the 2.0-liter engine and revised suspension tuning for a more controlled ride.

7.) Interior changes are aimed (successfully) at upgrading materials and smoothly integrating modern electronics. Cool touches: speaker towers at each end of the dashboard & light-flickering door speakers.

2014 Kia Soul

DRIVE FORMAT: Front-wheel drive

BASE PRICE: Base: $15,495; Soul Plus: $18,995; Soul Exclaim: $21,095

PRICE AS DRIVEN: $26,195; a Soul Exclaim with $2,600 Sun & Sound Pkg. (auto climate control, panoramic sunroof, navigation, satellite radio reciever), $2,500 Whole Shabang Pkg. (audio upgrade, keyless start, leather, heat/cool front seats, heated rear seats, heated wheel, more)

ENGINES: 1.6-liter I-4; 2.0-liter I-4

HORSEPOWER: 1.6L: 130 hp at 6300 rpm; 2.0L: 164 hp at 6200 rpm

TORQUE: 1.6L: 118 lb.-ft. at 4850 rpm; 2.0L: 151 lb.-ft. at 4000 rpm

RECOMMENDED FUEL: Regular

TRANSMISSIONS: 1.6L: Six-speed manual; 2.0L: six-speed automatic

SUSPENSION: Front: strut type/coils; rear: torsion beam/coils

BRAKES: Four-wheel disc, ABS, stability control, traction control

EPA MPG: 1.6L: 24 city/30 hwy/26 combined; 2.0L: 23/31/26

WHEELBASE: 101.2 inches

LENGTH: 163.0 inches

CURB WEIGHT: 2,714 lbs. - 2,837 lbs.

CARGO (rear seat up/down): 24.2 cu. ft./61.3 cu. ft.

WHERE BUILT: South Korea