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2014 Kia Soul hamster dances into the future

March 27, 2013

Like the opening montage of robots evolving to take over the world, Kia continues to move forward, just below the surface of our awareness. Really, Kia sold 500,000-plus vehicles in the U.S. last year? Bow down.

This year at the New York Auto Show, Kia unveiled three products to close out a dominating auto-show run of introducing stuff that exists below the radar of awesomeness but right in the mainstream of marketable. The first, a mid-cycle refresh of the Optima sedan, failed to impress. When one of your major selling points is a “new rear trunk lid,” you’re not poised to make headlines. The “new integrated driving mode selector” isn’t going to wow anyone, either.

The other two products have a little more verve. The 2014 Forte Koup (German-Korean for “zippy little thing”) features two doors of fun, a sporty look, and a 1.6-liter 4 cylinder engine that will get 201 hp, and a nifty, fun, streamlined design that will give it a solid chance in a compact segment not exactly bursting with excitement.

Then you have the 2014 Soul, Kia’s signature “funky urban passenger vehicle.” This new version of the Soul has certain signature elements, like the “tusk bumper” and the now-iconic colored mood disks around the front speakers, but it’s also more sophisticated looking, with a panoramic sunroof, LED positioning lights, increased wheelbase, and an overall stronger profile. The car now also features optimal premium touches, including ventilated seats, as well as a new front and rear suspension and a direct-injection 2-liter engine. It’s eminently likable, and is obviously trying to make the transition from quirky to actually cool, or at least a suburban high-schooler’s idea of cool.