Three Kia SOUL concept cars unveiled by the Kia Motors Corporation at the 78th Salon de l'Automobiles this week in Geneva, Switzerland, reveal a whole new ‘fun' side to the Korean brand.
The concept cars – SOUL Diva, SOUL Burner and SOUL Searcher – were created by Kia's European design team led by Gregory Guillaume, Chief Designer Kia Motors Europe, under the guidance of Kia's Chief Design Officer, Peter Schreyer. Following Kia's recently established tradition, the trio of concept cars are closely related to the new Kia production car which will make its World Premiere at the Paris Show in September."The all-new Kia production car will be a car that defies classification and encourages customers to build an emotional bond with their new purchase by providing a creative platform that they can customise to match their car to their own character. It will appeal especially to the young-at-heart – whatever their age," declares Guillaume.
"Because this new Kia model is not a replacement for an existing vehicle and will play a unique role within the Kia range it can be a bit of a rebel! The trio of concepts shown at Geneva are ‘appetisers' for the Paris introduction. We are making a bold ‘fun' statement to highlight ‘the world of possibilities' that this new Kia will bring to the marketplace."
For Geneva, the Kia design team decided that a single SOUL concept car would not fully express the fresh philosophy behind this new Kia, so they simultaneously developed three concepts with very different executions to hint at the possibilities open to future customers.
"In creating SOUL Diva, SOUL Burner and SOUL Searcher, we envisaged the cars as three equal co-stars at Geneva, three members of a team going through an urban adventure together. Each would display a very different, strong character, complementing each other. We wanted to demonstrate the widest variety of characteristics and the flexibility of the design," added Guillaume.
Inside each Kia SOUL concept car at Geneva the centre stack storage compartment will present a unique message. Deep within the compartment, an LCD screen will show an animation representing the ‘soul' of each car.
Based on the forthcoming all-new Kia production model, the SOUL Diva, SOUL Burner and SOUL Searcher concepts have a common core structure – a unitary steel bodyshell with a 2550 mm wheelbase. Overall length is 4.1 metres (depending on bumper styling treatment) and the spacious body measures 1785 mm wide and 1610 mm high, excluding roof rails.
Kia SOUL Diva
The Kia SOUL Diva has been created as a fashion accessory for a style-conscious young-at-heart woman who regards her car to be as important as her entire outfit. SOUL Diva is like a supermodel with an aura of glamour, a bit flashy but playful and fun!
"I never thought I would be putting so much gold on a car, but the SOUL Diva is the right type of car for this kind of treatment," comments Guillaume. "The exterior sparkles with metallic white paint in bright contrast to elements that would normally be in body-colour or chrome -- such as door handles and wheel trims – accented in gold.
"We have applied an ‘overlapping circle motif' that echoes current handbag designs to the front grilles, panoramic glass roof and seats. SOUL Diva's bumper treatment is more refined than the other concept cars, but the gold roof rails and large, 19-inch diameter gold-finished alloy wheels with their unique 225/45 tyres and overlapping circles tread pattern, are certainly not self-effacing," observes Guillaume.
Inside, SOUL Diva presents a black, white and gold world of leather and glitter – all beautifully and evenly lit by the full-length tinted glass panoramic roof.
The sweeping dashboard is covered in white leather and the gold-trimmed centre stack and outer air vents appear to lounge across the surface. A special two-spoke steering wheel is trimmed in white leather as befits its fashion accessory role.
Turning the cabin into a stylish lounge, the seats are upholstered in glossy black imitation leather using ‘quilted' stitching and trimmed to look like sofas. Even the cabin floor presents a tactile treat, with black long-pile ‘Pony-hide' carpet that simply begs to be stroked.
Kia SOUL Burner
The Kia SOUL Burner is the ‘bad boy' of Kia's three new concept characters, according to KME Design Chief Guillaume. "In developing SOUL Burner we avoided going in the ‘boy-racer' direction. This concept is the most extroverted of our three characters. SOUL Burner is more about showing-off and parading about. If one of our SOUL trio had to have a tattoo – it would be the Burner! Indeed, as visitors to Geneva will see, it does have a ‘tattooed' exterior, complete with dragons!"
From the outside, SOUL Burner is a mean totally black beast with sparse flashes of scarlet. The paintwork is satin, almost matt, Black, the wheels are matt black and the only other exterior colour is a little bit of red – around the lower front air intake, the wheel rims and door mirrors.
"SOUL Burner's tattoo is tone-in-tone, black gloss on the black satin paintwork. At first look viewers can't tell what the tattoo represents. Then they'll notice that there is something happening on the car's surface. But it's only after a second ‘look' that they will realise this car is enveloped with dragons!"
In an unusually asymmetric design, the largest dragon creeps up the left side of the SOUL Burner and over the bonnet to blow fire down onto the front bumper. On the other side, a small dragon emerges from the sill panel and climbs over the C-Pillar. Throughout the car, a ‘dragon scales' pattern is repeated, appearing on the front grille, seats and door trims.
At the front, the bumper is equipped with L-shaped day-light LED driving lamps around the outer edges. The bonnet has an extra air outlet and the door mirrors are smaller (then Diva). At the rear, twin vertical exhaust pipes are placed at the extremes of the bumper, while the tailgate features an asymmetrical number-plate and release handle.
Unlike the other SOUL concepts, SOUL Burner has a solid roof panel and no roof rails. It rides on the widest, lowest profile tyres of the trio – 245/40 R19 – again with a concept-specific tread pattern comprised of dragon's flames.
Inside SOUL Burner, the four individual sports seats (complete with dragon-scale motif), thick-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel and entire cabin trim are divided horizontally. Above the split, everything – including headliner, pillars and dashboard – is finished in a rich matt red, below all is deep black. In contrast, the centre console, air vents, gearshift, and door handles are finished in a special black-chrome.
Kia SOUL Searcher
In complete contrast to its Geneva Show co-stars, the Kia SOUL Searcher is the car that provides a haven of tranquillity within the urban jungle, a comfort-zone on four wheels.
"With the SOUL Searcher we set out to capture the spirit of Korean and Far Eastern culture with a focus on achieving personal inner peace. We also looked to embody both the Chinese Chan (quietude) and Japanese Zen (meditation) and create a calm cocoon for the occupants. The colours are muted, the textures are soft and the road presence is discreet," states Guillaume.
SOUL Searcher is painted in pale green-grey solid paint, with body-cladding and added parts in a lighter pale cream. The rear of the body, not just the rear bumper, is also painted pale cream, as are the 18-inch alloy wheels fitted with 205/60 tyres. The unique design motif for SOUL Searcher is a street map, an abstraction that is not city-specific but one that simplifies the complexity of urban road networks and banishes all sense of pandemonium.
A used-leather finish – old, lived-in, much-loved leather – is applied to an inset three-dimensional panel on the bonnet and a panel on the tailgate that protrudes like an extra cargo box. The powered, folding (concertina-style) full-length roof also has a weathered leather appearance. Above the windscreen, twin rectangular spot lights are mounted on the roof.
Exuding an air of casual confidence, the haven of tranquillity theme continues inside SOUL Searcher, with old leather-effect finish to the dashboard, door panels and rim of the three-spoke steering wheel.
Grey-beige felt is used to cover the floor and the seats. The seat design is simple, with the minimum number of separate panels. The seams between panels are on the outside of the seats, creating a small ridge that is slightly raised above the surface, to exaggerate the feel of the material. Overall, the cabin ambience of SOUL Searcher, like that of SOUL Diva, is one of domesticity – albeit of a very different nature to its Geneva co-star.
Kia SOUL – three image-changing concepts
With its new SOUL concept cars, Kia bares three exciting new facets of the brand's very own soul. Bold, beautiful and provocative, the three vehicles are poised to defy conventions and reach out to new drivers.
The SOUL Diva, SOUL Burner and SOUL Searcher are inspired by the same individualism, creativity and flexibility that are the driving forces behind today's urban hipsters. With their built-in confidence and potential for almost limitless customising, the Kia SOUL concept cars easily adapt to meet every challenge in the urban jungle and to satisfy their driver's changing needs.