The Scion xB may have written the book on small-and-boxy, but it appears that Kia may add another volume to the work with the Soul. We have no idea how the new Soul will go on the road, or how it will hold up – either materially or financially – but taking a seat in the giant shoe on wheels was a revelation. For a car that isn't expected to cost too much, the details alone would almost have to be worth the price: the chunky moldings around the grille and bumper, the contrasting surrounds for the headlights and contrasting panels for the doors, the gearshift knob housing a ball within a plexiglass ball, the court jester seats. And when we put the driver's seat all the way back, we could sit in the back seat without our legs touching anything else. And we're not short. If the Soul can mind its manners on the road, there's no reason it shouldn't go straight to sales heaven. Get the scoop on the Soul after the jump, and the check out the gallery of high-res photos below.
Related GalleryParis 2008: Kia Soul
Design is the Soul of Kia's future
Kia Motors today unveiled the all-new Soul -its most significant-ever model - at the Paris Mondial de l'Automobile pointing clearly at a design-led future for the brand.
The segment-busting Soul defies classification and traditional appeal providing a stylish yet flexible alternative for urban motorists who want the opportunity to go against traditional trends at a time when global economic doom-mongers are urging consolidation and conservatism.
Conceived in the United States but developed in Korea and Europe under the leadership of Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer the compact but capacious Soul will arrive in the UK next Spring and is set to offer hard-pressed motorists with a reason to be optimistic.
Building on Kia's traditional virtues of quality and value the Soul will appeal to anyone with a more rebellious nature who is determined to stand out from the crowd but also wants to watch the domestic budget. Soul has the aggressive and stylish appearance of a much larger 4x4-type vehicle but its 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engine options, developed from the units available in Kia's cee'd family, will deliver excellent fuel economy and low running-costs.
Paul Philpott, Managing Director of Kia Motors (UK) Limited said: "Everyone knows that economic times are hard but Soul is the perfect response for those who want to lift their spirits - it's blend of innovative packaging and individuality will not come at premium prices.
"Soul will come with an excellent comfort and convenience equipment list plus the opportunity for personalisation in a variety of ways - but I am determined it's list price will be realistic at a time when every household budget is looking to cut back on frivolities and fantasy.
"And Soul shows clearly the way we intend to move forward - with outstanding design and eye-catching appeal coupled with excellent quality and reliability. This car really does mark the start of a new chapter in Kia's remarkable story," he added.
Soul customers in Europe will be offered a choice of 126 ps diesel or 126 ps petrol engines, based closely on the 1.6-litre units produced for the successful Kia cee'd model made in Slovakia.
Soul acceleration times to 62mph range from 10.4 to 11.3 seconds and fuel consumption spreads over a 5.1 to 6.6 litres/100 km span, while CO2 figures vary between 137 and 159 g/km for European models.
Kia Soul cars supplied to the majority of countries in Western Europe and all of North America will be fitted with six airbags, four disc brakes and ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) as standard.
Every Kia Soul in Europe will be equipped with a factory-fit RDS radio/CD player with MP3 compatibility, plus six audio speakers, a 112 watts output, innovative PowerBass technology and a roof-top antenna. An upgraded sound system - complete with 'Sound Sensitive Mood Lighting', a 315 watts output, a large dash-top centre speaker, external amplifier and a sub-woofer in the trunk for a total of eight speakers - can be specified.
Kia also displayed four new models in a special 'Green Zone' at Paris - the Kia cee'd ISG, Soul Hybrid, cee'd Hybrid and Sportage FCEV. Kia's new ISG (Idle Stop&Go) system, made its world premiere at Paris, and will be available on Kia cee'd petrol-engined models from early 2009. The innovative ISG system cuts fuel consumption and emissions in heavy traffic by up to 15%.
Also making their world premieres at Paris were the Kia cee'd Hybrid and the Kia Soul Hybrid concept cars. Both cars feature a 1.6-litre petrol engine, mated to a 15 kW, 105 Nm electric motor and automatic transmission. Fuel consumption is greatly reduced and CO2 emissions are cut to as low as 114 g/km for the cee'd Hybrid.
As part of Kia Motors Corporation's continuing fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) test programme, the zero-emissions Kia Sportage FCEV is undergoing constant evolution. Now, Kia has transported this hard working prototype to Europe for the first time to display the car's higher output 100kW (136 ps) fuel cell, lively performance and greatly extended 300 km driving range.
Philpott added: "Along with Soul we are working to bring environmentally-focused models to the UK and to deliver an emission-free future. Again, it is a clear statement of Kia's plans that outstanding individual design doesn't have to mean concerns about the environment are put to one side, nor does it mean that concern about our environment requires the automotive equivalent of the 'hair-shirt' - it is possible to have both style and responsibility!"