The boxy Kia Soul has made the move from perennial show car to production. The model will be in dealers come March, with prices that Kia says will be "comfortably in the teens."
The five-passenger four-door comes in four models: the 2010 Kia Soul (base), the Soul + (Plus), the Soul ! (Exclaim), and the Soul Sport (apparently, there isn't a grammatical icon for "sport"). Content builds through the models, with the base vehicle providing the following as standard: 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 115 horsepower, five-speed manual transmission, six airbags (including side curtains), power windows, power door locks, 15-inch wheels, and an audio system that features USB and line-in inputs. If customers want more features such as air conditioning, ABS, stability control, keyless entry, 18-inch rims, or the larger 2.0-liter engine with 137 horsepower, they'll need to upgrade. The four models are available with very few options, and represent the first level of choice Kia offers those shopping for Soul.
The next step--and details were sketchy from the press conference--will include "port" installed options that are fitted after the vehicles arrive state side from the manufacturing facility in Korea.
The last stage of Kia "personalization" happens at dealers. Taken together, all of these opportunities for personalization will lead to thousands of potential combinations. To prove this point, Kia's display at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show was filled with stylized Souls festooned with exterior graphics, bolt-on body kits, various wheels, and multiple interior trim configurations and options.
It seems that the Koreans have what it takes to bring kustomization to the mass market.--Rex Roy
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