2009 Detroit Auto Show: Kia Soul’Ster Concept
By Kevin Miller
On stage at the beginning of Kia’s press conference today at NAIAS were two Soul five-doors, the production version which was revealed late last year in Los Angeles. The front end of the Soul shares a family resemblance to the Borrego SUV thanks to a common headlamp shape and detail; creating a family resemblance between vehicles in such disparate segments is no easy feat. Tom Loveless, VP of Sales for Hyundai, announced that the Soul will be on sale starting at $13995, including destination.
The big excitement, however came when Kia introduced the Soul’Ster concept. Touted as “the sunny side of Soul”, the Soul’Ster has fun, cheeky looks in what Kia is calling a category-busting open air vehicle with loads of utility. Based on the production Soul, the Soul’Ster features a removable two-piece canvas roof which is installed and retracted using ’elbow grease’. The Soul’Ster also features four-place seating, with the seats cantilevered off of the center console, giving the appearance that the seats are floating above the floor of the car and allowing for easy storage under the seats. The rear seats also fold flat for increased cargo capacity. The concept features nice-looking, high-tech LED headlamps, tail lamps, and fog lamps, while at the same time offering low-tech solutions like a manually-operated two-piece top and manual cranking windows.
Hinting at the Soul’Ster’s production intents, Kia’s press release states that the car can be had with several powertrain choices. IN the show car is a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission, which produces approximately 120 horsepower. For those looking for a little more power, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is available with either the five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission, producing approximately 140 horsepower. Fuel economy for both engines is estimated at 30 or more miles per gallon. Other markets might choose the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine producing 124 horsepower or a 1.6-liter turbodiesel.
In person, the Kia Soul’Ster looks fun, and it brought an injection of fun to Detroit. Following the press conference, Kia hosted an ersatz beach party, featuring beach balls and bottles of Corona. With the concept Soul’Ster’s introduction bringing such energy to the show, it isn’t a stretch to think it could bring the same type of energy to Kia’s lineup. As an inexpensive and useful convertible, it could easily do just that.
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