What's left for the 2014 Kia Soul to accomplish? All the first Soul did was become the best-selling vehicle in its class, and it launched the career of some rapping hamsters in the process. But for the new, second-generation Soul, Kia's going uptown, with some pretty formidable rivals in its sights. The Soul still has plenty of funk, but here are five reasons to take it seriously as a premium hatchback, too.

Classy Cabin

Without a doubt, the biggest change in the new Soul is the way the cabin is put together. Previously, it was mostly hard plastic and coarse surfaces, but now the Soul's so nice inside that it reminds us of a Volkswagen. The materials are supple, and the dashboard looks nice, too. We're not used to seeing such quality in this segment.

Grown-Up Styling

The original Soul's playful styling clearly struck a chord with shoppers, but the proportions are tighter this time around, and there's a cohesiveness from nose to tail that wasn't quite there before. You can even imagine a smartly equipped Soul in an architectural magazine, and that just wasn't the case before. At the same time, it's immediately recognizable as a Soul. For Kia's design team, that's a job well done.

Versatile Interior

Despite its compact size, the Soul has plenty of room for four adults, or five in a pinch. That's a big part of its appeal. Another big deal, literally, is its cargo hold: With over 60 cu ft of space, the Soul has more room than some compact crossovers. Among affordable hatchbacks, only the Honda Fit comes close. If you're looking for an SUV alternative that doesn't give up much versatility, the Soul hits the spot.

Upscale Features

The Soul is full of available features that you just don't expect in an economy car. You can get a panoramic sunroof, UVO voice recognition and automatic climate control, along with something called the Whole Shabang package, which adds features like xenon headlights and upgraded leather trim. Try finding all of that kit in a Fit!

Solid Drive

On the road, the new Soul imparts a sense of solidity that was largely absent from its predecessor. It soaks up bumps in a smooth, controlled manner; there's none of the original Soul's lightweight, almost jittery feel. It's much quieter, too. Throw in up to 31 miles per gallon on the highway, and you have all the makings of a class-leading hatchback.

AutoTrader Says

Could the new 2014 Kia Soul be the best affordable hatchback on the market? There's an argument to be made. Do-Da-Dipity ? Kia's hatchback juggernaut may be headed for new heights.

AutoTrader

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