Kia aims small Soul at young buyers

SEOUL — The Kia Soul, a small “urban crossover” coming to North America in April, will feature a grille that resembles a tiger’s nose and other new Kia design cues.

Kia hopes to take advantage of the rising popularity of small cars and hopes avoid repeating its flat North American sales performance in 2007. Design chief Peter Schreyer is using the Soul to sharpen the brand’s image.

The tall, boxy Soul is aimed at younger buyers. An optional audio package has eight speakers. Speakers at the bottoms of the doors glow along with the intensity of the music.

The vehicle is 161.6 inches long, which is 13.4 inches shorter than a Ford Focus sedan.

In South Korea, the Soul starts at 14 million won ($12,237).

Versions for the United States will be available with 1.6-liter, 126-hp or 2.0-liter, 142-hp gasoline engines. The 1.6-liter diesel available in Korea and Europe will not come to the United States.

The 1.6-liter engine in the United States will come with a manual transmission only. The 2.0-liter can be paired with an automatic or manual. The company says Canadian versions of the 1.6-liter will be available with both transmissions.

Kia aims to sell 50,000 units annually in North America. The Soul is being assembled in Gwangju, South Korea.

Schreyer wants Kias to be instantly recognizable anywhere in the world. The tiger-nose grille that he designed is the company’s signature element.

“From now on, we’ll have it on all our cars,” Schreyer said at a press event here.

He sees a tiger nose as “three-dimensional — like a face, not just a surface with a mouth drawn on it.”

Schreyer said tigers look powerful, yet “kind of friendly.”

Schreyer joined Kia in 2006 after working at Volkswagen. He said his influence on new models has been steadily increasing. He said he designed “about 10 to 20 percent” of the Soul. Expect to see more of his design work on the next Sorento SUV, Schreyer said.

On Monday, Sept. 22, Kia Motors Corp. unveiled the Soul here. Beginning Oct. 2, the Soul and a fuel cell version of the Sportage crossover will be shown at the Paris auto show.

Sept. 25, 2008 |Automotive News