2010 Kia Soul Preview
By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2009
- Urban crossover makes debut at Paris Motor Show
- Five-door hatch hits the streets of Europe early in 2009
- U.S. sales likely to begin in the spring of 2009
- Diesel and gasoline engines are available
- U.S. rivals include Scion xB, Mazda 3 hatch
Kia uses words such as chic, active, unique and individual to describe both the Soul and its likely buyers. That's Soul, not Seoul, although this is the newest model from the South Korean automaker. It makes its debut in October at the Paris Motor Show, and then arrives at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. A concept version of the Kia Soul first appeared at the Detroit auto show in 2006. In the spring of 2007, the company said the car-based crossover would join its U.S. lineup in 2008 as a 2009 model. It now appears ready to arrive in 2009 as a 2010 model, but the company's U.S. representatives have only released photos of the Soul, and no updated details. It goes on sale in Europe in early 2009. Manufacturing, at Kia's Gwangju factory, starts in November.
The Soul's boxy shape might remind U.S. buyers of the Scion xB, the Honda Element, or the MINI Cooper. Besides its exterior styling (of which the forward-sloping roofline is the distinctive feature), the emphasis is on the size of the passenger cabin, ride height, and interior design, including a triple-dial instrument cluster and a thick-rimmed steering wheel. The concept's rear hatch featured a backpack-like compartment, able to hold wet clothes or even a skateboard. It's unknown if the feature will appear in the production version. The concept was powered by a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission.
The front-drive, 5-door Soul measures 13 feet, 5.5 inches, and carries a 100-inch wheelbase. Kia notes that the Soul's high roofline, its hip points and its ground clearance all best a typical compact car. "It is packed with clever and liberating features and will offer cavernous passenger space that matches or even outperforms many vehicles with much larger exterior dimensions,'' claimed Hyoung-Keun Lee, senior executive vice president and COO of Kia's international business division. Photos of the car's cabin show two-tone seats and center-console storage above the stereo.
Kia has said it will offer the Soul in Europe with a choice of two gasoline engines and one diesel powerplant. The top gasoline engine measures two liters and produces 142 ps at 6000 rpm and 186 Nm of torque at 4600 rpm. It comes with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic transmission. A 1.6-liter gas engine will be available in some countries, generating 126 ps at 6300 rpm and 156 Nm of torque at 4200 rpm. The available 1.6-liter turbo-diesel also makes 126 ps, but at 4000 rpm, and with 255 Nm of torque at 2000 rpm.
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