Kia's Soul'ster concept debuted today at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The Soul'ster is a small-footprint, front-wheel drive two-door garden truck derived from Kia's new 2010 Soul, a car-based compact crossover powered by either a 1.6- or 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.
The Soul’ster is a radical departure from what Kia originally wanted to bring to the 2009 Detroit auto show.
“About a year ago we were actually considering building a proper pickup,” said chief designer Thomas Kearns. “We even started a concept for (the Detroit auto show). But with the economy we decided it wasn’t a good time to do a standard truck.”
Instead, Kearns and the Kia design team rethought what the concept could be. It had to be sporty, not a work truck.
“We thought, let’s do a derivative of the production Soul,” Kearns said. “Let’s be more fun and offer utility, yet be more appropriate for the time and economic condition and buyers we have now.”
“It’s a cross between a convertible and a pickup truck,” said Peter Schreyer, Kia’s senior executive vice president and chief design officer. Schreyer worked at Audi for more than 25 years and created the original Audi TT. “It’s a toy, but it has a twist that’s quite nice about it.”
Kia is pitching the Soul’ster as a lifestyle truck, meant to haul surfboards rather than plywood. It has a tailgate and a cargo box, plus two fold-flat stowable seats behind the open-air cab that can be raised to provide seating for up to four people. The interior is Spartan, but it's highlighted by interesting design cues, including a square steering wheel and seats cantilevered off a center dividing hump.
What are the Soul’ster’s odds for production?
“With the design team, we’d be very happy if we could build it,” Schreyer said. “But we need to wait for feedback and reaction from the show. You never know. It would be great to do it, though.”
According to Kearns, it wouldn’t take a huge investment if the company decided to build the Soul’ster. The full front clip is the same as the Soul, just a little tougher. The wheelbase is the same. The interior could be the same, and the windshield would be a bit lower.