Slow sales of outgoing car could mean a no-show locally.
Korean marque Kia has unveiled at the ongoing LA motor show its third-generation Soul hatchback, which continues the legacy of marrying style and practicality, while offering more powertrain options than ever before. Bearing an aesthetic unique to the Soul, the new car retains its boxy, blocky bodywork, peppered with neat design touches here and there.
The Soul might seem like not-a-Kia at first glance, but look closer and you’ll notice details that are inspired by its other models. The slim headlights mimic those found on Kia’s saloons, while the large lower intake is more reminiscent of the marque’s SUVs. The blacked-out A-pillars make for a mask-like glasshouse (a Soul hallmark), and there are now character lines down the side that are derived from multiple Kia products.
Round the back and the unique-ness becomes a bit clearer. Aft of the rear quarter light is a small plastic panel bearing the ‘SOUL’ text, while the rear itself sits very upright. Breaking up the visual bulk are a pair of L-shaped vertically-oriented taillights which cut into a blacked-out portion of the tailgate, upon which sits a body-coloured “island” that houses the Kia logo.
The red car seen here is the Soul GT-Line, one of three trim-lines for the internal-combustion models (we’ll get to that in a sec). GT-Line models get the more aggressive bodykit, 18-inch diamond-cut alloys, and a chrome central exhaust (for turbo models). Additionally, the suspension gets a tune-up and the brakes get bigger discs.
X-Line is the other option, which plays a more overlander aesthetic with body-cladding, roof-rails, two-tone paint, and chunky alloys. The EX Designer Collection is the last available trim line, which gives the car a simpler look with LED lights everywhere, a contrast-hue roof, and black-spoke alloy wheels.
Kia will offer the Soul in the US with a choice of three drivetrains. The range begins with a 2.0-litre atmo petrol mill (109kW/179Nm), which gets either a six-speed manual or a CVT auto. Go up a step and you’ll find the 1.6-litre turbo-four petrol from the Hyundai i30 SR, which puts out 150kW/264Nm, and sends powers to the front wheels via a 7-speed DCT.
Urban commuters will likely favour the third option, the Soul EV. You get a 64kWh battery pack, mated to an electric motor production 150kW/400Nm, making it the most fruity variant of them all. Kia did not go to talk about how much range the Soul EV offers, but considering it’s the exact powertrain setup as the one used in the Hyundai Kona EV, we’ll expect a number topping out at 500km on a single charge.
Safety is well catered to regardless which Soul takes your fancy, with all cars being offered with forward-collision warning, AEB, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring with lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, intelligent cruise control, and automatic high beam, though a breakdown of which is standard and which isn’t has yet to be given.
Tech is well catered for to, with a 10.25-inch central touchscreen offering up Apple or Android smartphone mirroring. Additionally, you can choose from one of 11 hues to light up the cabin, which is either nifty or tacky, depending on your tastes.
The Kia Soul is a solid favourite in the United States where buyers have always loved its individuality and nifty customisation options. That can’t be said of the Soul in Australia though, where you’d have to really, really stretch your imagination to call its sales figures even ‘interesting.’ That said, Kia Australia says the Soul’s availability here is “under consideration,” suggesting that it’s most likely not going to make it here at all.
Or, perhaps, the two petrol cars won’t make it, leaving just the Soul EV to duke it out on our market. Kia has promised to bring not one, but two fully-electric vehicles to our market by 2021 and the Soul EV might just be one of them. We think that’d be a winning combination because, for the most part, EV drivers are quite happy to be left-of-field. So what better way to demonstrate that with a left-of-field styled car?