The car you're looking at above is not, in fact, the Kia Track'ster concept from last year's Chicago Auto Show. But it is the 2014 Kia Soul, the five-door production version of the concept that is headed to an urban dweller's parking spot near you.
We've been graced with the Soul's funky presence for about four years now and it's a big departure from the anonymous-looking cars that Kia was selling in 2009. The Soul still looks good today, but Kia's Track'ster concept stole the 2012 Chicago Auto Show and got us wondering what the next Soul would look like. As we were wondering, however, Kia was translating the Track'ster's lines to the production Soul.
The resemblance is more than a passing one: the 2014 Soul's front end borrows its five-sided headlights, stretched hexagonal grille, and fog-light placement from the Track'ster. Look closer and you'll see that the Soul's lower grille insert is actually a series of ovals, and the signature "tiger-nose" upper grille is actually filled in with gloss-black plastic. There's an asymmetrical racing stripe (a carryover from the last generation's Denim and Ignition special-edition models) on the hood, and a panel gap between the quarter panel and hood that draws a line between the tip of the headlights to the quarter-panel badging.
Further back, the Soul is mostly unchanged -- the A-pillars are blacked out to create a C-shaped roofline, and the doors look similar to the last generation's, minus the crease just above the handles. The roof panel itself is blacked out, while the roof rail is body-color.
Those body panels sit atop a new unibody chassis that's 0.6-inches wider with a 0.8-inch-longer wheelbase (now at 70.9 inches and 101.2 inches, respectively). The architecture is reportedly 28.7-percent stronger than before.
To translate those measurements into better driving dynamics and comfort, engineers made significant changes to the front and rear suspension geometries, as well as the steering gear. The result, Kia says, is better balance and handling.
The size increase also reaps benefits inside the cabin, where Kia says that front-seat passengers will have 0.8 inches more legroom, 0.2 inches more headroom, and 0.3 inches more shoulder room, as well as a slightly lower step-in height and seating position. Cargo space is up by half a cubic foot to 24.2 with the seats up, but you'll have a slightly easier time loading and unloading cargo thanks to a liftgate opening that's 2.4 inches wider than before.
Kia says that the Soul will be much quieter thanks to the use of expanding foam, but the Soul's driver and passengers may be more interested in the optional Infinity audio system with LED surrounds that change color and pulse with the beat of your music. Other optional equipment includes a panoramic sunroof, UVO telematics, heated front and rear seats (fronts can also be ventilated), high-intensity discharge headlights, and a color screen mounted in the gauge cluster to provide trip computer and navigation information.
The base Soul -- thoughtfully called "Base" -- is powered by a 1.6-liter direct-injected I-4, which makes 130 hp and 118 lb-ft of torque. Upper-trim models (either + or !) are powered by a 2.0-liter I-4, which receives direct injection for 2014 and makes 164 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. Base and + models are available with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, while ! models are only available with a six-speed automatic.
Kia doesn't say how much all this will cost, but the Soul will go on sale in the third quarter of 2013.