Special Coverage

Auto Show

Kia Motors Corp. is counting on its much-anticipated new Soul model, unveiled today at the Paris auto show, to propel the brand beyond an image of affordability.

First exhibited in concept form at the 2007 Detroit auto show, Kia calls the Soul its “urban crossover passenger car.”

“The new Kia Soul will be a breakthrough vehicle for Kia on its journey to be seen as a design-led company and the maker of distinctive cars which consumers aspire to own,” Kia Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer says in a statement. “Conceived in the U.S.A., developed in Korea and fine-tuned in Europe, I strongly believe that the production Kia Soul urban crossover is a completely resolved design that has successfully achieved its own distinctive style.”

Design features include tall doors and high-mounted seats, triple-dial instrument cluster and thick-rimmed steering wheel, all meant to create “a very special ambience” inside the Soul, the auto maker says.

Adding to the ambience is an optional sound system featuring what Kia calls “Sound Sensitive Mood Lighting.”

Kia says the Soul will be powered by a 2.0L 4-cyl. gasoline engine in the U.S. when it goes on sale next spring. The mill makes 140 hp and is mated to either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission.

In Europe three engines, 124-hp and 113-hp diesels and a 124-hp gasoline mill, will be offered. The latter is “based closely” on the 1.6L under the hood of the Kia cee’d compact car.

Kia is building the Soul at its Gwangju, South Korea, plant and is planning to produce 136,000 units annually, including 50,000 destined for North America, 36,000 for South Korea, 30,000 for Europe and 20,000 allocated to other markets around the world.

A Chinese version of the Soul will be built in China beginning next year, with output targeted at 40,000 units annually.

Also at the Paris show, Kia unveils a concept Soul Hybrid, featuring a transparent hood and floor allowing the vehicle’s 1.6L gas engine and 15-kW electric motor to be viewed.

The Soul Hybrid also features a Kia-designed continuously variable transmission and Idle Stop & Go (ISG) system.

Kia pegs the fuel economy of the concept at 48 mpg (4.9 L/100 km), equaling a carbon-dioxide emissions rating of 117 g/km.

A concept cee’d hybrid also is on Kia’s Paris stand, as is the auto maker’s Sportage fuel-cell vehicle and a cee’d with ISG, the fuel-sipping system due to go into production on European gas-powered cee’ds in early 2009.