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Kia thinks outside the box with Soul EV

Soul mate: Kia’s new Soul gets an all-electric powertrain option for the US, but not for Australia.

Electric Kia Soul confirmed for US, but don’t count on it in new range for Australia


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2 Oct 2013

KIA has confirmed an all-electric version of its new-generation Soul compact SUV will go on sale in the United States in 2014, but it will be absent from the line-up when the new model arrives in Australia in about the first quarter of next year.

US plans for the battery-powered Soul – a first for the South Korean company – were revealed this week by Kia Motors America executive vice president for marketing Michael Sprague, who confirmed the electric variant would have distinctive styling to distinguish it from petrol-powered siblings and to improve aerodynamics.

But Kia Motors Australia general manager public relations Kevin Hepworth said the company had no plans to roll out the Soul EV in Australia.

“It would be very distant on the radar for us,” he said.

Mr Hepworth said prospective sales of such a vehicle here were too small to justify the cost of introducing it.

So far this year, just 188 electric vehicles have been sold in Australia, with 100 of those accumulated by Nissan’s Leaf and 85 by Holden’s range-extender Volt.

The new second-generation Soul was revealed at this year’s New York motor show in March ahead of a global roll out in around the world as a 2014 model.

While retaining the boxy styling that made it a hit with Gen-Y drivers in North America when the first generation was introduced in 2009, the new model is smoother and bigger, and rides on a fresh chassis.

Designed in Kia’s California studio, the new Soul borrowed some of its styling cues from the Track’ster concept from 2012.

However, Kia design chief Peter Schreyer was keen to retain the basic shape that that gave the vehicle what the company described “an individualistic edge”.

Launched in production guise at the recent Frankfurt motor show, the new Soul gets a choice of 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines, in Europe, at least.

In Australia, the current Soul is in run-out, recording just nine sales in August – well down on the 110 it gained in the same month last year.

Here, the Soul is a mere niche performer appealing to an older demographic than in the US, but Mr Hepworth said Kia Motors Australia was keen to retain it in its role as a flag waver for the brand.

Kia has been testing its electric powertrain in a fleet of current model Souls in South Korea for about a year.

The prototypes – dubbed Ray - were given to government departments and other big fleet operators to trial ahead of the production start-up in 2014.

No details of the battery, range or performance of the new Soul EV have been given.

So far, Kia’s only foray into vehicle electrification has been the Optima Hybrid sold in overseas markets such as the US, but that is made only in right-hand drive and thus not available for the Australian importer.

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