Kia Motors began selling its all-new Kia Soul "urban crossover" late this year in 15 derivatives with two engine choices, two transmission choices, and five equipment levels. The model had its world premiere at the Paris Motor Show in early October.
The five-door hatchback is built on an all-new platform, which is an unusually accommodating design, allowing for a wide variation of wheelbase, track, and wheel/tire sizes. Soul marks the first use of this platform, which Kia plans to use, in slightly different forms, in future models.
The front-wheel-drive vehicle has a high roofline with an overall height of 1610 mm (63.4 in) and what the company describes as an unusually long wheelbase of 2550 mm (100.4 in) to create generous interior space. The car can accommodate five large adults in comfort, according to Kia.
An all-new body shell employs a high percentage of high-tensile-strength steel (70.3%) for structurally critical components to save weight and increase torsional stiffness. More than 72.6% of the body shell is made from "anti-corrosion" steel.
Engineers used FEA to conduct simulated crash testing and arrive at the optimal structural design. As the body shell design was developed, several areas were strengthened, including the dashboard bulkhead joint with the A-pillar, three of the floor crossmembers, the roof joints with the A- and D-pillars, and the four pressings that form the corners of the tailgate opening. The result is a body shell that surpasses its design goals in terms of resistance to both twisting forces (torsional rigidity is 36.5 Hz) and longitudinal bending forces (flexural rigidity is 54.2 Hz).
A stiff body shell is a good base, Kia noted, for creating a refined vehicle with minimal vibration and low interior noise levels. Additional measures include an optimized exhaust silencer, a vibration-damper on the (longer) right-hand driveshaft, a sound-proofed windscreen header-rail, and increased use of floorpan sound-insulating pads.
A fully independent front and twist-beam rear suspension system are employed. Kia will produce the Soul with four suspension setups: standard for Korea, a choice of standard and sport for the U.S., and a unique setup exclusively for Europe with sports dampers (in two versions for diesel and gasoline cars).
Mounted on the same subframe that supports the engine and transmission, the MacPherson struts in front have co-axial coil springs offset for smooth operation, together with offset kingpin geometry and a 4° caster angle designed for optimal handling stability. The front suspension geometry ensures minimal camber and caster angle changes for good steering stability under all conditions, says Kia, and the antiroll bar is mounted directly onto the shock absorber to maximize its effectiveness.
The Soul’s rear suspension is also subframe-mounted and employs a transverse torsion beam axle with trailing arms designed to deliver a smooth ride and ensure the minimum intrusion into the trunk space. The coil springs and dampers are mounted separately to ensure smooth operation and minimal intrusion into the cabin/trunk space. In addition, third-generation hub bearings have a positive impact on durability, and urethane bump stops have a positive impact on refinement. To optimize use of space, the rear antiroll stabilizer bar is mounted inside the torsion beam.
Nitrogen gas-filled shock absorbers, tuned to best suit specific market requirements, are standard fit for both the front and rear suspensions.
Engines choices are a 124-hp (93-kW) diesel with diesel particulate filter as standard, a 113-hp (85-kW) version of that same engine in some countries, and a 124-hp (93-kW) gasoline engine based closely on the 1.6-L units first designed and produced by Kia’s engineers for the Cee’d model. All three engines are Euro 4-compliant for emissions.
The most popular engine choice for Soul buyers in Europe is expected to be the 1.6-L CRDi 16-valve diesel designed and engineered at Kia’s center of diesel excellence in Russelsheim, Germany. The DOHC unit features an electrically actuated variable-geometry turbocharger and a diesel particulate filter as an option. In the Soul, it generates 255 N·m (188 lb·ft).
The all-aluminum 1.6-L Gamma gasoline engine with 16 valves and continuously variable valve timing generates maximum power of 124 hp at 6300 rpm and 156 N·m (115 lb·ft) at 4200 rpm.
The Soul accelerates to 100 km/h (62 mph) from 10.4 to 11.3 s. Fuel consumption figures range from 5.1 to 6.6 L/100 km while emissions of CO2 vary between 137 and 159 g/km.