Kia has issued some more details and photographs of its new tallboy supermini alternative, the Soul. Kia calls the Soul 'a segment-busting urban crossover' model, but we'd pigeonhole it as an intriguing new rival to the likes of the Honda Jazz and Vauxhall Meriva, with a small dose of Mini charm thrown in for good measure.
So what exactly is segment-busting about the Kia Soul?
Is Kia right to label the Soul its value answer to the Mini? We've seen the Soul concept cars in the metal and they are a refreshing take on the city car, blending the higher driving position of the mini-MPV with a chunky stance of a quasi SUV (Kia claims the ground clearance is 45mm higher than a conventional supermini). We even called the Soul a shrunken Qashqai on first acquaintance.
But at the end of the day, don't get too excited by all this marketing hype. The Soul is a five-door hatchback with a high roofline (at 1610mm), a long wheelbase and oodles of personalisation options (for that Mini/Fiat 500 vibe), but there's little to distinguish the Korean-built Soul mechanically.
The first models land in Europe in spring 2009, following an official debut at the 2008 Paris motor show; UK sales start in March 2009. Kia today confirmed that it will be available with 1.6 twin-cam petrol or diesel engines from the Ceed hatchback range, feeding drive through a choice of manual or auto transmissions.
Click 'Next' to read all about the Kia Soul's mechanical package
Kia Soul: the engines in detail
Pick either engine choice and you'll bag a 124bhp motor – just delivered in markedly different styles. The diesel will feel the punchier of the two engines, developing a stout 188lb ft of pull from just 2000rpm.
The all-aluminium petrol engine produces an identical power output, but a more limp-wristed 115lb ft of torque. All Souls are front-wheel drive, so that 4x4 flavour is restricted to the styling. European buyers will be denied the 140bhp 2.0-litre model readied for the US market.
Kia Soul: the design chat
Gregory Guillaume, Kia's European chief designer, said: 'The experience of sitting in the Soul is unique. First impressions will make a big impact. Tall doors and high-mounted seats make for easy access and an airy interior, yet the ‘laid-back’ dashboard design, triple dial instrument cluster and thick-rimmed steering wheel create an unusual combination of spaciousness for passengers and cosiness for the driver generating a very special ambience.'
We'll know if he's right at the Paris motor show, kicking off on Thursday 2 October 2008. That's when we'll see the production Soul in the metal for the first time.