Ah, a 4x4 that’s not actually that big, and can’t go off road?
Pretty much got it in one. This is Kia’s mini 4x4, the production version of the Soul concept that appeared at the Detroit Motor Show in January. It’ll be in the mould of the Fiat Sedici/Suzuki SX4. Although we’ve snapped it testing in the Californian desert, it isn’t slated to make its international debut until the Paris show in September 2008. Thus right-hand drive cars won’t appear on British shores before the start of 2009. The Soul will give us our first glimpse of Kia’s new B-segment platform which will also underpin a mini-MPV (think Vauxhall Agila and Suzuki Splash) and the next Rio.
Any chance of concept car looks inside?
Not a bit of it. The only similarity between the Soul concept car and the production vehicle seems to be the basics of doors, seats, a dashboard and steering wheel. The concept’s panoramic roof and fold-out laptop have disappeared. Funny that. However, this car is aimed at ‘yoof’ buyers, so expect a decent sound system to be an option, while hidden under that dashboard cladding is a pop-up sat-nav system similar to that on the concept. Otherwise, the only similarity to the Detroit car is the slatted air vents either side of the radio. Unfortunately, the door trims look rather shiny and cheap but if we take the quality and materials of the latest Ceed as our benchmark then the Soul should be a decent car.
It looks like a Dodge Nitro!
Well, yes. There’s the same boxy profile and upright taillights. And then the vent ahead of the A-pillars. As long as it's a long way dynamically from the stodgy American, then the Soul should be fine. It was styled at Kia’s Californian and South Korean design studios, and will be built in South Korea. We’ll get the Soul with 1.2, 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol engines and a 1.6-litre diesel. Front-wheel drive should be standard with no silly off-road pretensions, but the American market may get an (American-built) 2.0-litre petrol with automatic transmission, as on the concept car.
Kia is quite busy, isn't it?
It is, and as well as the recently driven Ceed SW, there’s the sporty Proceed and a possible convertible version called the Exceed. Turning the Soul concept (above) into a production car will only swell its range further. Big news at the moment is Kia's forthcoming sports coupe concept (Kia’s TT) which is all part of the effort to make Kia young and sporty, exactly where Seat should be. The South Korean manufacturer has already expanded from just under two million sales a year in 1990 to a few thousand under four million last year. By 2010 it should break the five million cars per year barrier.