Kia Track’ster Concept. Click image to enlarge
Preview by Paul Williams, photos by Paul Williams and courtesy Kia Motor Corporation
For a while now, Kia has been showing its Track’ster concept on the auto show circuit, and while it got lots of attention, it seemed more of a design exercise than a vehicle Kia would actually put into production. It certainly showed what you can do with a Soul, however!
Turns out the Track’ster concept was the inspiration for the all-new 2014 Soul, and I reckon it’s something of a head-turner as well.
I’ve always liked the Soul, and thought it should have won the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s Best New Design award when the Soul was introduced in 2010. But how to follow up such a distinctive profile?
The 2014 Soul rides on a new chassis that’s longer, wider and stiffer than the current model, featuring sheet metal that loses nothing to the outgoing Soul’s edgy design, while smoothing its corners in a pleasing, more “grown-up” way.
Kia’s California design studio is responsible for the new version’s appealing looks, while the company’s engineers in the U.S. and Korea worked on improvements under the skin to raise the level of handling and interior comfort.
“The all-new Soul was one of the more difficult assignments we’ve taken on, said Tom Kearns, Chief Designer at the California studio, “striking the right balance between the wonderful design of the current car with the audacious proportions and stance of the Track’ster was daunting. It proved to be a fully 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.”
I’d agree. If anything, the new look and revised proportions will add to the appeal of this small, useful and stylish car.
2014 Kia Soul. Click image to enlarge
The new Soul’s wheelbase is increased by 20 mm, overall width is increased by 16 mm, while the height remains the same at 1,610 mm. Available front LED lights and rear LED “halo” lights are shared by the 2014 Sorento and 2014 Forte sedan, somewhat tying together the Soul and other Kia models (although Soul remains something of design outlier in the Kia lineup).
Torsional rigidity is up 28.7 percent over the current Soul, premium features and content are added, and driving dynamics improved for 2014.
At the front, the large trapezoidal lower air intake is a virtual direct copy from the Track’ster, as is the location of the optional foglights. Practical enhancements include a wider (by a significant 60 mm) opening for the rear liftgate. Also at the rear, the Track’sters “floating” body-colour-panel inset is reproduced, although one wonders how that will affect outward visibility.
The new Soul has a more premium look and feel to the interior. Soft-touch materials are widely used in the instrument panel, centre console and door panels, leather seating is available and the console and dash is finished in piano-black trim.