2008 Paris Auto Show: 2010 Kia Soul
It's hard to think of a compact five-door crossover as being a company's "most significant-ever model," yet that is exactly the words used in the press release to describe the 2010 Kia Soul. In many ways, it is a game changer for Kia: Up until now, Kia has been a company you shop because you have to, but the 2010 Kia Soul has the potential to be a car you shop for because you want to. It looked great on the floor, funky and square and cool like the original Scion xB did. Whether it all translates to big sales for the Korean manufacturer waits to be seen.
Why it Matters
We all know Kia is the car company you turn to when finances are tight and you need to save money. It's good for you, even if you aren't happy about it, and while that moves product, no manufacturer wants to be the automotive equivalent of lima beans. So Kia has revealed the 2010 Kia Soul. This is an undeniably cool car, one that buyers may flock to not because it's cheap and has a good warranty, but because they'll be able to brag to their friends about it. Transforming an image from lima beans to pizza and beer isn't easy, but the 2010 Kia Soul is clearly on the right track.
What it Looks Like
If you've seen the Kia Soul hybrid concept, then you've seen the production 2010 Kia Soul. It's a good looking little car, emphasizing the boxiness of a two-box design. It also debuts the New Face of Kia, which apparently consists of a body-colored nose and a small grille opening. Whatever, it all looks good to us, and kudos for keeping the downward-sloping roofline, which was a styling hallmark of the concept many thought would never make it to production.
If Kia has learned anything from its competitors, it's that they want fun audio options. So we're not surprised to see that the 2010 Kia Soul has an audio system that is lifted straight from the Scion playbook. The standard European audio system will feature an MP3 compatible CD player, and standard USB, AUX and iPod connections. The upgraded audio system puts out 315 watts, has a trunk-mounted subwoofer and "Sound Sensitive Mood Lighting." Ever want to drive the disco from Saturday Night Fever? Get a 2010 Kia Soul.
What's Under the Skin
The U.S. version of the 2010 Kia Soul will have a 2.0-liter 140-hp 4-cylinder under the hood, mated to either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. If there's a chink in the Soul's armor, it's this drivetrain. Not that we're expecting rocket ship performance from the little Kia box, but a bit more power would be nice. If not that, then how about a six-speed manual and five-speed automatic?
Safety is a paramount concern as well, so the 2010 Kia Soul will also come standard with six airbags, four disc brakes and electronic stability control. Since ESP is standard, we'll assume antilock brakes are, too.
What We Think
We have a good opinion of Kia's cars, and the 2010 Kia Soul looks like it will only bolster the company's resonance with us. Beyond that, it may actually be the first Kia you buy because you want to, not because you have to.
By Keith Buglewicz
Photo credit: Greg Brown