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Concept-Kia Soulster Preview

Concept-Kia Soulster Preview

By Jeff Youngs, February 24, 2012

Critical Knowledge:
  • Convertible version of 2010 Kia Soul
  • Built with the younger person's budget in mind
  • Painted Soul'r Yellow
  • Two-panel roof with rollbar for added protection
  • 4-passenger seating
  • Crank windows
  • 19-inch wheels
  • 120- or 140-horsepower 4-cylinder engine
  • 30 mpg or better with manual transmission
Introduction
Who remembers the Kia Sportage Convertible? Better yet, who remembers the original Ford Bronco? It's obvious that someone at Kia Motors America does. Take elements of each and you've got the recipe for the Kia Soul'ster Concept that debuted at the 2009 North American International Auto Show.

The Kia Soul'ster Concept is based on the 2010 Kia Soul, itself a South Korean riff on the Scion xB. Tom Kearns, chief designer at Kia Motors America, said the Soul'ster is "a fun, affordable convertible for active people who like to share good times with friends." That describes most people. Well, except for that "active" part. Kia also claims that the Soul'ster Concept was designed with a younger person's budget in mind, which means the car would be comparatively inexpensive if Kia decided to actually build it.

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Design
"Defying categorization and providing utility and practicality," said Kearns, "the Soul'ster satisfies multiple consumer needs." Inside, that means room for four adults in four seating positions; rear seats and a front passenger's seat that folds flat for, say, a surfboard; storage compartments under the rear seats, in the cargo area, and under the cargo floor; and a 2-panel roof that allows independent exposure to the elements for the front, rear or both occupants. Kia's keepin' it real with crank windows, too.

Kia says the Soul'ster Concept's exterior has a "hip, industrial look." There's plenty of concept car jewelry, such as LED headlights, 19-inch wheels, dual chrome exhaust with polished aluminum tips and carbon fiber sleeves, and special lighting elements in amber or blue. Strip away the show car glitz, and it's easy to see the Kia Soul'ster appears to be just a few short steps away from production. Compared to the production Kia Soul, it's got two doors instead of four, the windshield is shortened, and there's that big rollbar for added safety and for attaching the rear roof panel, but otherwise this thing could conceivably make it to showrooms.


Hardware
Kia's forthcoming powertrain information is one reason why it's easy to conclude that the Soul'ster could one day land in your driveway. The company says the standard engine would be a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine making an estimated 120 horsepower and driving the front wheels through a manual transmission. The optional engine would be a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder making 140 horsepower. A manual transmission would be standard with this engine, and a 4-speed automatic would be optional. Kia claims that either Soul'ster would get at least 30 mpg on the highway.

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