Kia’s stylish and fun urban cross-over car, the Soul, has become the first Korean car ever to receive recognition from the world renowned ‘red dot’ awards at the 2009 product design competition held in Germany.
With more than 3,230 entries from 49 countries in 17 different categories, the newly-launched Kia Soul was selected from the ‘Automobile Transport and Caravan’ section to receive an honourable mention.
“Our design teams in Korea, California and Europe can be very proud Kia Soul has achieved this prestigious recognition. Kia’s design strategy is focusing on distinctive product solutions and the development of a unique Kia family look. This recognition is a clear reward for Kia’s determination to establish design as one of the key components of its corporate DNA,” says Kia’s Chief Design Officer, Peter Schreyer.
Possibly even more importantly the new ‘little ‘un’ gained a 5-star Euro NCAP rating just days before its local release.
“The passion behind this vehicle arose from the idea to create a rebellious new car for a new generation of drivers. The new Kia Soul is anything but standard. Kia’s suggestion to its customers is to ‘think inside the box and drive beyond it’,” says Ray Levin, Managing Director of Kia Motors South Africa. “This is a brand new urban crossover packed full of liberating ideas – a car that challenges consumers to ‘free your mind’.
Soul is an urban crossover – small enough to be ideally suited to the world’s urban jungles, but very different to conventional, workaday small cars. By combining the charm and desirability of MINI and Fiat 500, with a hint of SUV ruggedness, Kia is opening up an entirely new market sub-segment with a car that will win the hearts – and souls – of the young and the young-at-heart.
Like conventional superminis, Soul has five doors, five seats and front-wheel drive; is just over four metres long and is a hatchback.
It remains faithful to the concept car revealed at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit at the start of 2006. That concept was the inspiration of Kia’s North American design studios in California, led by Tom Kearns. Eight months later, when Peter Schreyer became Chief Design Officer at Kia, he was immediately full of enthusiasm for Soul and has personally overseen the project through to the final production stage. He was intimately involved with the Soul concept ‘trio’ of Burner, Searcher and Diva, which appeared at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2008. Design teams in America, Europe and Korea have collaborated to bring it to fruition.
“Detroit 2006 marked a special point in time for Kia Motors,’ Schreyer said when he unveiled the production car at the 2008 Paris Motor Show. “Very few people, even those inside Kia, realised what a big moment it was when the Soul concept first appeared. It looked like a flight of fancy…until now.
“For our customers, it’s a lifestyle statement. It creates a strong emotional link between them and us. It will be our first car where customers will check the colours and accessories before they check the price. It is our accelerator for an image shift towards design.’
Soul’s style is ‘tough not rough’. It has a high bonnet with rounded forms, bulging wheel arches and a wide track. A body side crease joins the wheel arches, while the roofline appears to slope gently down to the tailgate. The beltline, which rises from the front wheel arch to create a gentle wedge shape, continues under and around the third side window. A decorative air vent in each front wing incorporates sleek side repeaters and abuts the beltline to intensify an image of quality.
Vertical combination lamps set into a body colour panel and featuring clear outer lenses dominate the rear. One of the early ‘concept’ sketches that helped to define what Soul was all about featured a wild boar. With its strong, wide shoulders, a determined look in its eyes and distinctive sloping back, this animal has one extra, and unusual, attribute – a practical backpack.
The rectangular tailgate reflects that backpack ‘profile’, a design element which has remained since those early inspirational designs that included the ‘wild boar’ – it underlines practicality and reflects the urban nature of Soul.
The Soul is 4,1 metres long with a wheelbase of 2 550 mm. But the key dimensions behind the Soul’s striking appearance are vertical measurements. Overall height is 1 610 mm, the base of the windscreen is 135 mm higher than a typical compact car, the ‘hip point’ is 120 mm higher and the ground clearance is raised by 45 mm to 165 mm. Luggage capacity is 340 litres with the rear seats upright, similar to the KIA Rio hatchback.
“The Kia Soul is all about creating a car that demonstrates Kia’s passion for automotive design. The Soul will get Kia talked about and generate customer appeal that will translate into strong sales,” projects Zian van Heerden, sales director for Kia Motors South Africa.
And Kia is getting attention – car rental companies do not buy product that is not going to withstand the rigours of the business. Kia SA has sold 1 000 Picantos to Avis this calendar year and 1 000 to Imperial Car Rental. Hertz has taken a mix of 200 Picantos, 250 Sportage, 250 Sedona and 150 Rio.
“First impressions will make a big impact and there will be several unique aspects to the experience of sitting in the Soul,” says Gregory Guillaume, chief designer, Kia Motors Europe. “The tall doors and high-mounted seats make for easy access, while the ‘laid back’ dashboard, triple dial instrument cluster and thick-rimmed steering wheel create an unusual combination of spaciousness for passengers and cosy-ness for the driver to generate a very special ambience inside this new Kia.”
Every Kia Soul in South Africa will be equipped with a factory-fit RDS Radio/CD player with MP3 compatibility, plus USB, AUX and iPod connections in the centre console, speed rated volume control, six audio speakers – one in each door and two tweeters – a 112 watts output, innovative PowerBass technology and a rooftop antenna. The Soul is fitted with steering wheel mounted audio controls.
Standard features on the Soul in South Africa will include: 16-inch alloy wheels, 205/55 R16 tyres, body colour side mouldings and door mirror housings, electrically operated front and rear windows, front driver and passenger air bags, head restraints and three-point seat belts for all five occupants, remote release filler flap and rear screen wiper.
Additionally it has electric power steering, air-conditioning, tinted glass with shaded windscreen band, central locking, ‘battery saver’ to prevent draining of the battery, heated door mirrors, special ‘Soul Glow’ seating fabric, a rear spoiler and front and rear fog lights.
Powered by a 1,6-litre petrol engine – a 1,5-litre diesel will follow later this year – featuring electronic multi-point fuel injection and continuously variable valve timing (CVVT), the all aluminium 16-valve unit generates a maximum power output of 91,2 kW at 6 300 r/min and 156 Nm of torque at 4,200 r/min.
Kia claims acceleration from rest to 100 km/h in 10.4 seconds going on to reach 177 km/h.
The Soul is fitted with a fully independent front and twist-beam rear suspension system designed to deliver responsive handling and a supple ride. At the front, mounted on the same sub-frame that supports the engine and transmission, the MacPherson Struts have co-axial coil springs, offset for smooth operation, together with offset kingpin geometry and a 4-degree castor angle.
At the rear, the Soul’s suspension is also sub-frame mounted and employs a transverse torsion beam axle with trailing arms. The coil springs and dampers are mounted separately to ensure smooth operation and minimal intrusion into the cabin/trunk space.
Nitrogen gas-filled shock absorbers, tuned to best suit specific market requirements, are standard fit for both the front and rear suspension systems for optimal damping performance and body control.
A four-channel, four-sensor, anti-lock braking system is fitted as standard. The system incorporates an electronic brake force distributor (EBD), helping to distribute braking force evenly between front and rear wheels.
“The new KIA Soul will kick-start the second major change in perceptions of our brand in recent times and will have an enormous effect on our sales in South Africa, says Levin. “With the introduction of the cee’d, our first car designed and manufactured in Europe, we brought about a qualitative revolution for our brand and started the process of changing the way KIA is viewed by customers.”
The KIA Soul will retail at R189 995 and includes a 4 Year / 90,000 km Service plan.