Kia wants an icon. And, while the boxy Soul hatch has never set the Australian market on fire, massive success in the US has given Kia exactly what it wants.
The first model designed under styling boss Peter Schreyer, Kia's Soul has far exceeded expectations, blowing an annual US sales goal of 40,000 units out beyond 100,000 in 2011 and 2012.
It's no surprise, then, that the all-new 2014 Soul revealed today looks - at first glance, at least - little different to its predecessor.
All designers fear the risk of their work appearing stale, but one rule almost always rings true: you don't mess with success. Kia's design-led strategy has brought it no small amount of that over the past decade.
Now, with the 2014 Soul, Schreyer intends only to 'revise the wheel', applying the same formula BMW has adhered to since re-launching the Mini/MINI brand in 2001.
Surprising no-one, the new model draws on the look of the massively popular Track'ster concept. Of course, the production model lacks the muscular style (and the muscular power) of its concept forebear, but the influence is clear.
“Striking the right balance between the wonderful design of the current car with the audacious proportions and stance of the Track’ster was daunting," Tom Kearns, design boss at Kia's California studios said.
"It proved to be a truly collaborative effort with guidance from Peter Schreyer in Frankfurt and assistance from our studio in Korea. In the end, we’ve kept the essence of Soul while infusing it with more presence inside and out.”
The new model retains the boxy van-like styling and height of the original, while adding new curves designed to bring the Soul a little more in-line with its less audacious siblings; the Cerato and Cee'd hatch models.
While the glasshouse of the new Soul is nearly identical to the outgoing model, the more obvious elements drawn from the look of the Track'ster include the 2014 Soul's new front and rear lights, along with the bumpers at both ends.
The new Soul is also noteably larger than the old Soul, riding on a 20.3mm longer wheelbase (up now to 2570mm), while width has grown by 15.24mm to 1800mm.
In the US market, engine options kick off with Kia's 1.6 litre all-aluminium four-cylinder petrol engine, producing 97kW and 160Nm of torque.
Mid-range models feature the 2.0 litre NU engine, gaining Kia's GDI tech for 2014. Power is listed at 122kW and 205Nm.
Six-speed manual and automatic transmissions will be offered, depending on trim grade.
Kia says the chassis of the new Soul is nearly 29 percent stiffer, with 66 percent of its construction utilising Ultra High Strength and High Strength steel.
Ride and handling is also improved through the addition of four bushings to the front subframe (compared to zero on the current model).
The stabilizer bar has been moved rearward on the McPherson strut front suspension, while the steering box has been moved forward for better balance and handling.
Other dynamics tweaks include upgraded shock absorbers on the torsion-bar rear suspension, set vertically and made longer for more suspension travel and improved comfort.
The new Soul is set to make its Australian debut early in 2014. Watch for local specifications to be be confirme closer to launch.
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