Kia says the new Soul is based on a chassis that’s longer, wider and 28 per cent stiffer than the current car, which has allowed engineers to reduce NVH and maximise space in the passenger and cargo compartments. The suspension has also been revised, with improved geometry.
The styling has been influenced by the Kia Track’ster. Kia’s Californian-based design team have retained a number of design cues from the current Soul, but elements such as the trapezoidal lower grille and positioning of the front fog lights are a direct carry-over from the Track’ster. Kia’s grille has been reworked to closely mirror that of the concept.
Tom Kearns, the boss of Kia's Californian design centre, said "The Soul was the first car to show Kia's design potential. We wanted it to look good and be an affordable halo product.
"We want to maintain all that with the new one but make it a bit more special and fun to drive. There's lots of inspiration from the Track’ster concept in this. The long wheelbase and pushed out wheels for instance. We kept all the iconic design touches from first car like the wraparound screen and vertical taillights"
A “floating” body colour panel in the tailgate is another signature from the Track’ster. Kia says the tailgate is six centremetres wider to aid access.
The new Kia Soul records increases in front and rear legroom and front head and shoulder room, and is claimed to be easier to climb in and out of. A range of noise-reducing materials sees noise levels reduced by 3db.
The new Soul improves on the hard plastics fitted to the current car. Soft-touch materials are fitted to the instrument panel, centre console and door panels. Leather trim will be offered as an option.
Interior features include an eight-inch touchscreen, which operates Kia’s latest telematics and infotainment system and combines with an Android operating system and Pandora internet radio. Options include LED front and rear lights and a panoramic roof.
Although UK specification is yet to be revealed, US-market models will be offered in three trim levels: Base Soul, Soul Plus and Soul Exclaim.
Kia says it has focused attention on the Soul’s chassis. The front subframe uses four bushings – the current car has none – and the shock absorbers on the rear torsion bar are now mounted vertically allowing for more suspension travel.
Two petrol engines are offered in the North American market. The 1.6-litre engine develops 130bhp and 118lb ft, while a 2.0-litre unit produces 164bhp and 151lb ft.
The new Soul will go on sale in the UK in early 2014. It will initially be offered with a 1.6-litre petrol or a 1.6-litre diesel engine.