It's likely that you're already familiar with the Kia Soul, either from its memorable "hamster" TV commercials or from seeing the boldly-styled and highly popular hatchback on the road. But the Kia Soul is heavily revised inside and out for 2014, offering new styling and upgraded features. So what do we think of these changes? We spent a week in the revised 2014 Kia Soul to find out.

Excellent Equipment

We didn't just get a Soul press car -- we got a Soul! The brand uses the exclamation point to denote its top trim level, as opposed to a mid-level Soul+ or a base-model trim, named simply the Soul. Better yet, our press car included the Whole Shebang package, which adds $2,600 to the top trim's base price of around $22,000 with shipping.

Add those figures up and our Soul's $25,000 price tag was creeping into expensive car territory, but it certainly felt the part. In addition to standard 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights and Kia's UVO infotainment system, the Whole Shebang package added a long list of features, ranging from a panoramic sunroof (new for 2014) to a navigation system, automatic climate control, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and keyless ignition. Features like these were confined to high-end luxury cars only a few short years ago. And we couldn't be happier to see them trickle down to a compact car like the Soul.

Excellent Ride

If the equipment reeled us in, the Soul's driving experience kept us interested. Handling is surprisingly composed, especially for a tall-roofed hatchback that might seem like it would have trouble going around corners. Not so, as the Soul remains tightly planted to the ground in even the hardest turns.

More importantly, the Soul impressed us with its excellent ride quality, especially given its large wheels. It's hard to disguise the fact that the Soul is essentially just a compact car with a tall roof, but Kia has done an excellent job.

Practical, Not Gimmicky

While the Soul's exterior might give off an air of "cute for the sake of cute," it's all business inside. And to us, that's a good thing. There are no strange lines or unusual materials just for the sake of making the car seem interesting. Instead, the Soul offers a practical, straightforward interior that can carry a whopping 61.3 cu ft of cargo with the seats folded down -- four times as much as a Kia Forte sedan, and even more than the new Kia Forte5 5-door hatchback.

Get the 2.0-Liter Engine

In addition to our thoughts on the Soul's equipment levels, interior and driving experience, we feel especially strongly about its powertrain. Our advice: Go for the 2.0-liter engine, which is standard fare on the Soul+ and the Soul!

The reason we suggest the larger engine is that you're not penalized for fuel economy. (In fact, the 2.0-liter does better than the standard 1.6-liter on the highway.) You get far better acceleration, especially from traffic speeds. If your budget makes the 1.6-liter Soul your only option, instead consider the smaller and less expensive Kia Rio.

Our Take

The 2014 Kia Soul is a great car with a lot of praiseworthy attributes. Some will avoid the car's unusual styling and choose a sedan instead, but those who pick the Soul will find a practical, well-equipped hatchback that's surprisingly fun to drive.

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Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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