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Kia gives its boxy newcomer a new body and Soul

on March 30 2014 | in Industry news, Latest news | by | with Comments Off

Is it a hatchback, a crossover or a compact SUV? However you cut it, Kia believes the second-generation Soul can be all things to all people, despite its carried-over oddball looks that limited its appeal in NZ in the first place. It’s an all-round far better package than the original Soul, which arrived in New Zealand in 2009 to a buying public that saw it as a square peg in a round hole. They knew little about why anyone would design such a boxy-looking car. It was the product of the so-called ‘box wars’, a design battle for hip younger buyers in the United States and Japan fought mostly by Toyota and Nissan before South Korea’s Kia muscled in. Toyota had its Scion xB – the Rukus outside the US – and Nissan its Cube. Then came Kia with the five-door Soul. Kia figured the US market alone was good for 40,000 units a year. But Americans, young and old, loved it. In the past two years Soul has recorded almost 250,000 sales in the US. Kia Motors NZ general manager Todd McDonald says the
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sales success of Soul in the US provides an opportunity for improved sales here with the new model. “While it was never a volume model for Kia in New Zealand, the car gained a loyal following through its individual styling, practical use of space and all-round ease and satisfaction of ownership. It’s now even more stylish and practical. I think we are going to do better than we imagine with the new model.” Look closer and there’s more than a hint of the three-door Track’ster concept in the new Soul, especially with the lower air intake and position of the fog lights up front, and the so-called ‘back-pack’ tailgate at the rear. The Track’ster was unveiled at the Chicago motor show in 2012 and designed to be “tough looking, like a bulldog,” said Kia Motors America design chief Tom Kearns. “We wanted to base the car in reality so people instantly knew it was a Soul, but with a lot of attitude. It had to be a bold interpretation that would change people’s conceptions of what a sporty Kia could be.” The Trackster is hardly sporty but some of its styling cues have made it into the new Soul. The exterior panels are all new but there’s the original upright stance, squared shoulders, wraparound greenhouse, and high-mounted tail-lights. The result is a sharper exterior, a look that makes more of a statement, which is exactly what Kia wants. The new Soul is 20mm longer and 15mm wider, but drops 41mm, a dimension which makes it even easier to get in and out of than the old model. The wheelbase is 20mm longer and the tailgate opening is wider for easier access to the cargo bay. A 29 per cent increase in torsional rigidity improves the ride and handling mix over the old model. The added strength means it’s quieter and more refined, too, aided by mechanical changes to the suspension and improved sound-deadening materials. The cabin is a better place to be, defined as it is by a circular design theme. There is nothing singularly outstanding about the new Soul, but it’s clearly better than the outgoing model. Its main strength is its individuality – it remains very different. There are two models available, the entry-level EX starting at $29,990, and the better equipped SX from $33,490. Both use a 1.6-litre petrol engine delivering 95kW/157Nm. A 2-litre 115kW/195Nm engine option is on its way, priced from $35,490. Take it as read that Soul has all the safety gadgets and things for iPods and such.

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