The new Kia Soul has gone on sale, priced from £12,600. The second-generation compact crossover, which shares its underpinnings with the Cee'd hatchback, comes with two engines and five trim levels at launch.
Kia says the styling of the new Soul draws heavily on the Track'ster concept car, revealed at the Chicago motor show two years ago. Styling elements include a new central trapezoidal air intake, low-mounted front fog lights and Kia's 'tiger-nose' grille.
The new Soul is longer, lower and wider than the old model, which Kia says has improved the car's practicality. The Soul comes with 354 litres of boot space with its rear seats upright, rising to 1367 litres with them folded away.
The front-wheel-drive Soul comes with either a 1.6-litre direct-injection petrol with 130bhp and 119lb ft of torque, with CO2 emissions of 158g/km and economy of 41.5mpg or a 1.6-litre turbodiesel with 126bhp and 192lb ft, with CO2 emissions of 132g/km and economy of up to 56.5mpg.
Petrol versions of the Soul can reach 60mph in 10.6 seconds and have a top speed of 115mph, while diesels drop to 10.8 seconds and 112mph respectively. Diesel versions fitted with the optional 6-speed automatic transmission, though, are slower, reaching 60mph in 11.8 seconds with a top speed of 110mph. Kia says it has improved the Soul's ride quality with new suspension bushes and new geometry, as well as a stiffer chassis.
Five trim levels dubbed Start, Connect, Connect Plus, Mixx and Maxx will be available in the UK. Entry-level models come with DAB radio, variable power steering, 16-inch steel wheels, painted bumpers, keyless entry, air conditioning, and USB and auxiliary audio connections.
Connect specification adds part-leather trim, 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, a reversing camera and an armrest. Connect Plus models, meanwhile, get an improved sound system and integrated satellite navigation.
Higher-spec Soul Mixx models get larger 18-inch alloy wheels, new exterior trim, LED lighting and heated front seats, while top-spec Maxx trim adds 18-inch alloys, leather trim, front and rear parking sensors and a panoramic sunroof.
Prices for the new Soul start at £12,600 for an entry-level model, rising to £14,800 for a diesel model and up to £21,550 for a top-spec version. A fully-electric Soul EV version will also be available at the end of this year.
Kia plans to take full advantage of the booming crossover market, citing sales of 380,000 units in Western Europe last year. By 2015, the Korean manufacturer expects that figure to rise to 600,000. The UK has a big part to play, with just over a quarter of current crossover sales coming from this country. Around 5000 units of the new Soul are likely to find their way to UK showrooms.