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Detroit show: Kia Soul'ster drops the top

Sunny side up: Kia's Soul'ster concept tests the waters for a roadster version of the new Soul hatch.

Show car explores boundaries for SUV-style hatch

Kia logo12 Jan 2009

KIA unveiled a roadster version of its Soul small car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week, providing a clue to potential derivatives for the all-new hatchback.

While the SUV-styled hatch is due for release in Australia in April, the two-door, topless Soul’ster concept arrived on the motor show stage as a funky, affordable roadster aimed at younger buyers.

Based on the Soul production car that made its debut at the Paris motor show in October, the four-seat Soul’ster has a two-piece top with what Kia describes as “elbow grease technology” – meaning it is removed by hand. The same technology is applied to the window winders, saving cost.

The prominent rollbar doubles as a mount for the removable roof, incorporating slider tracks.

The boxy design of the original Soul has been give further edge with a shorter windshield and industrial-look screw borders meant to resemble a fighter jet’s rivets.

The front is dressed with an anodised skidpan and LED headlamps, while dual exhausts and 19-inch wheels add further muscle to the “urban crossover” look.

Lay-flat seats with under-seat storage add practical appeal.

Should the Soul’ster make it into production, Kia says it could be offered in the United States with a choice of two four-cylinder engines – a 1.6-litre with a five-speed manual gearbox or a 2.0-litre with the five-speed manual or four-speed auto. A more powerful 1.6-litre petrol engine and a 1.6-litre turbo diesel might be available in other markets, such as Europe.

While Kia Motors Australia (KMA) has confirmed the Soul for Australia, with an on-sale target of April, it stopped short of predicting a production future for Soul’ster.

KMA spokesman Jonathan Fletcher told GoAuto that the Soul’ster was a concept car for the US market, and any move towards production would be contingent on it finding a market in the US.

He said the concept would also need substantial modification to pass Australia Design Rules, and would also need to be available in right-hand drive.

Mr Fletcher said KMA was in final negotiation with its parent company over the specifications and pricing for the Soul hatchback range, which will join the new Cerato sedan in Kia showrooms in the first half of this year.

A new Sorento SUV is also due to land in Australia later in 2009, rounding out a big year of new-model releases.

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