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Kia Soul
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Overall: The Soul’s popularity stems from its unique design, extra-roomy cabin and cargo area and a very affordable price tag.

Drivetrain: Base 1.6-liter four-cylinder shared with the Rio; 2.0 option adds passing power; six-speed transmissions; Soul EV’s maximum battery range approaches 100 miles.

The Soul is one of those hard-to-describe cars that owes its popularity to the way it looks as much as how much it can carry and how much is costs. It’s also the kind of vehicle that other automakers would give anything to have in their stable. In its most-recent 2014 updating, the cabin was slightly enlarged in front to create additional head and shoulder room, while similar alterations in back contributed more legroom. In addition the dashboard was revised to accommodate an eight-inch touch screen. Outside, design details inspired by the Soul-based Trax’ster concept provided the basis for a front and rear facelift that made the Soul more appealing. The rear liftgate, 2.4 inches wider than the original design, is flanked by one of the coolest set of taillights ever installed on any vehicle. The entry-level Soul Base (its official name) comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that produces a modest 130 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque, while the optional 2.0-liter four-cylinder in the Plus and Exclaim models delivers 164 horses and 151 pound-feet of torque. The 1.6 performs with a six-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed automatic, while the 2.0 is only available with the automatic. Base Souls feature air conditioning plus all the usual power amenities. As well as the larger engine, the mid-range Plus adds a fancier interior including floor console stowage and a backup camera, while the Exclaim gets 18-inch wheels (17s are standard), projector-style headlights, multi-adjustable driver’s seat and a cooled glove box. Optional is a panorama-style sunroof and leather seats (heated and ventilated in front), along with a navigation system and premium Infinity-brand sound package. For 2016, a Designer Collection option includes special two-tone paint plus some unique trim. The Soul EV comes with an electric motor rated at 109 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque and an EPA-rated range of 93 miles before its lithium-ion-polymer batteries require recharging.