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The hamsters are getting a new ride.
A new version of the Kia Soul urban SUV, which carries the brand's dancing rodent mascots in TV commercials, is due out in the summer. It was unveiled Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show.
Kia says it's bigger and has more room inside, its suspension is tuned for better handling and to reduce noise, and its two engines have more power at low speeds for city driving.
The new Soul looks a little less boxy than the current model, and it gets a bunch of interior upgrades.
Kia sold almost 116,000 Souls in the U.S. last year, up 13 percent from 2011. So it wants to keep the vehicle's funky style while improving it with the new model, said Michael Sprague, Kia's American marketing chief.
"The Soul moved the needle significantly from a sales and marketing perspective, becoming one of our top-selling cars," he said in a statement. "It was important that the all-new Soul remain true to the original iconic design while infusing it with improved driving dynamics and desirable features that add appeal, sophistication and value."
Here are some highlights of the new Soul:
UNDER THE HOOD: Base Soul has a 130-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, the company says. Upper-level models, the Plus and Exclaim, get a more powerful 164-horsepower 2-liter engine updated with direct gasoline injection into the cylinders surrounding the pistons. Both engines get new tuning so they produce more power at lower speeds for improved in-town driving, the company says. Six-speed automatic and manual transmissions are available.
OUTSIDE: The Soul is more upright than the old one, yet more rounded. Its wheelbase, the distance between the front and rear wheels, is about an inch longer than the old car at just over 101 inches, and it's slightly wider at 71 inches. LED positioning lights in the front and rear make it look more like other Kias. There's also a wider hatch gate so that bigger items can fit into its cargo bay.
INSIDE: Kia wanted to go upscale on the interior, giving the Soul a more premium feel despite its relatively low price. There are more soft-touch materials on the dash instead of hard plastic. There are a lot of circles in the door panels and instrument cluster, plus red LED mood lighting and steering wheel controls for the audio system. Kia promises a quieter cabin with more front leg and hip room.
FUEL ECONOMY: Not released. Base model with 1.6-liter engine now gets 25 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway. Models with the 2-liter engine get an estimated 23 in the city and 28 on the freeway.
PRICE: Not revealed. Current model starts at $14,400.