When we first tested the 2012 Kia Soul, we made a little fun of its silly hamster commercial and even suggested that the theme was likely conceived in the mind of a college intern. Come on, the advertisers were asking for it -- the hilarious Super Bowl spot featured everything from flying saucers from outer space and video game-inspired robot soldiers with lasers to LMFAO's "Party Rock!" and dancing hamsters. However, it seems like the hamsters took our jabs to heart.

For the 2014 model year, Kia has introduced the second generation Soul. Given the model redesign, the dancing hamsters felt it was as good a time for a transformation of their own. For the latest Kia Soul commercial, the hamsters grit their teeth through a hilarious workout and training montage and emerge trimmed, suited, dapper, and as fun and adorable as ever. Say, the same can be said about the 2014 Kia Soul! 

The man seen nodding his head to Lady Gaga while scupting the new Soul in the new commercial is none other than Kia chief designer Peter Schreyer. The distinguishing two-box profile is virtually unchanged in the new model, making it impossible for a person to mistaken a Kia Soul for anything else. That said, there are key elements that separate the 2014 model from the previous generation. The 2014 Kia Soul  sports strong elements from the bold Kia Track'ster concept. Most notably, the new Soul features a bold Track'ster headlights and front fascia as well as Track'ster inspired taillights. Schreyer even carried over the blackout frame from the Track'ster to create a playful floating "backpack."

You can't tell by looking at it, but the 2014 Kia Soul is 0.8 inches longer (163.0 inches), 0.6 inches wider (70.9 inches), and just 0.4 inches taller (63.0 inches) than the previous generation. The wheelbase has been lengthened by nearly an inch in an effort to improve the ride quality of the small car. Cargo space has greatly improved as well. The 2014 boasts a generous 24.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the seatbacks up, up from 19.3 cubic feet in the previous generation Soul.

On the topic of the 2014 Kia Soul interior, its dashboard design is luxuriously trimmed, utilizing a mixture of textures and even fun contrast stitching on the leather seats. The Soul interior design is heavily borrowed from the Kia Track'ster as well. Carryover designs from the Track'ster include the tilt and telescopic steering wheel with mounted audio controls, gauge cluster, air vent and speaker design all show. Finally, the center cluster infortainment and navigation with SIRIUS/XM Traffic are now enjoyed on a much larger 8-inch screen. 

The fun (I am totally overusing this word and I don't care) runabout made the perfect companion as I took the car out to upstate New York for a weekend getaway. Fall foliage had begun to take affect and the town of Penn Yan, my destination, was right between Seneca and Keuka Finger Lakes. Not only is the region known for its tranquil landscape, but also for its wine productions as well. In fact, an enormous vineyard with thick yellow leaves became just the perfect spot to snap a couple pictures of the Solar Yellow Kia Soul.

While a standard 2014 Kia Soul offers a 1.6 liter 4-cylinder rated at 130 hp and 118 lb.-ft. of torque, our tester had a 2.0 liter GDI 4-cylinder engine producing a healthy 164 hp and 151 lb.-ft. of torque. With a respectable 23 city, 31 highway mpg rating, the extra oomph was much appreciated. Handling-wise, the 2014 Kia Soul is built on a stiffer chassis by 29 percent and a stiffer ultra high strength steel body by 66 percent, compared to the previous generation. . Also, not only has the wheelbase been lengthened, but the front struts and rear torsion beam has been refined as well. Kia noted that the shocks on the new 2014 Soul are mounted vertically and is longer than before.

On the road, Kia's efforts were immediately noticed. When iMotor Times tested the 2012 Kia Soul, we sometimes experienced an alarming rear instability when the Soul struck uneven pavement in the middle of a turn. The shorter wheelbase also caused the old Soul to have a more bucking ride than we'd like. In the 2014 Kia Soul, we are delighted to find a significantly improved ride, effectively taking care of both negative attributes we found in the previous generation.

The 2014 Kia Soul lost none of its original chubby hamster quirkiness and its newfound refinement; in exterior design, interior trim and finish, as well as handling and ride comfort; sweetens the deal. Just like the Fiat 500 and the Mini Cooper hatchbacks, the Kia Soul's design stands out from the crowd of beigemobiles and encourages younger buyers to shop with their heart and to drive with a smile. At a base price of just $15,495 and a more cargo-friendly package than the Mini or the Fiat, the Kia Soul makes a strong argument for the practical buyers as well.

Our 2014 Kia Soul + with the Audio package (Infinity audio system, speaker lights, 8-inch screen with navigation, SIRIUS/XM radio, and automatic climate control), Primo pacage (fog lights, panoramic sunroof w/ power sunshade, push button start, leather seats, power driver's seat, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, heated steering wheel, and engine immobilizer), and UVO package totals to a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $24,010.