Since their arrival in the US 14 years ago, Korean automaker KIA Motors has been been playing it safe. But building cars for niches where they can compete on price leads to bland, mediocre cars... ones that work best when thought of only as an appliance. Like a toaster or a dishwasher.
To break out of the ranks of toaster-car makers, KIA needed to find some soul. Starting next spring, they'll have it in spades.
Aimed straight at the early 20-somethings not yet won over Scion brand, the Soul is a four door hatchback with coke-bottle flares and a wraparound windscreen.
At first glance, the Soul bears more than a passing resemblance to the current Scion xB. Arguably, it was KIA who first set the mold for a butch looking, car-based trucklet. At the Detroit Motor Show in 2006, design chief Peter Schreyer unveiled the Soul in prototype form. Two years later, a trio of fully operational concepts came to the Geneva Motor Show. (See below for a full gallery).
In addition to adding some visual flair to the brand, the Soul will also compete on price and fuel economy. While the xB is powered by a 158 horsepower 2.4 liter inline-four, the smaller, lighter Soul will be powered by the company's 1.6 and 2.0 liter inline fours, rated at 110 and 138 horsepower, respectively.
In an era of heavy traffic and high gas prices, KIA is banking that gas mileage will appeal more than raw horsepower to the Soul's frugal yet style-conscious buyers.
Pricing has not been finalized, but given the xB's MSRP of $16,420, expect the Soul to be priced near $14,000.