Design & Technology / Product

Designer essay.. “Magical transition of the Soul” December 2nd, 2008

Mike TorpeyBy Mike Torpey
Senior Designer, Kia Design Center America

Hello Kia BUZZ Fans!

I am excited to be sharing with you the story of the original design process that created the Kia SOUL Concept Car. My name is Mike Torpey, and I’m a member of the Kia America Design Center in Irvine, California.

Within the automotive world, Concept Cars are essentially the “supermodels” of the automotive design’s “fashion runway.” They may be beautiful or bizarre — they’re a carmaker’s “anything goes” flights of fancy, hints at future possibilities, and test-beds of fresh new ideas. But as inspiring and exciting as they are, rarely do they go beyond pure fantasy and become real production vehicles… though it sometimes does happen!

In early 2005, as a new member of Tom Kearns’ American Kia Design Team, I was fortunate to be chosen and sent on assignment to Kia’s Namyang, Korea Design Headquarters to join and collaborate with the fast-paced studio where the evolution of the Kia Soul was rapidly spinning up. Time to learn to speak Korean!!!!

Springboarding off the brainstorming of both American and Korean Product Teams, Design Staff had a sharp and inspiring mantra for the project – “Dynamic Energy, Function, and Strength, in a small footprint!” And yet, like is seemingly the case with all worthwhile projects, time was short!

As Designers, we often find that having a short time frame to design forces us to make strong, quick decisions, and rely heavily upon our intuition. And the results are often that much more pure. This was indeed the case with the Soul.

From the beginning, I envisioned a strong, bold character with lots of attitude and interestingly, the tough and clever little Boar’s dramatic, sloping-down-from-front-to-rear side silhouette was easy to adopt…..the bold nose…..the front skidplate, evocative of the “tusks” on a boar, and of course the defiant, well-planted stance. Adding a backpack to this little tough guy made for a truly unique image of “rugged capability with attitude,” and the personality was born.

Intrigued with the idea of a continuous, unbroken “race track” design surface, unfolding like a ribbon and defining much of the vehicle’s shapes and forms, I found that as I began to design it, the SOUL almost began to sketch itself. I was really keen to get a feeling of friendly optimism into the curves and shape vocabulary, yet still have the vehicle feel mature and sophisticated…..if that makes any sense.  I think that is a key to part of the vehicle’s real “Soul,” at least for me. Optimistic Sophistication! :)

<Mike Torpey with Chief Coordinator Mr. Moon>

Working together with the Korean designers and sculptors on the development of the concept, and finally merging the exterior and interior, we seemed to be “on the same page” with each other right away.  What a great experience!

Seriously —The fact that you all loved the SOUL concept so much is why it is here today as a very special, real production vehicle. Thank you!!! I hope you all enjoy it just as much going into the future, as a car you can all own and drive, creating your own memories and experiences with. The car really does seem to have its own little “Soul,” I do think!

So what’s next for Soul? Stay tuned! :)

  • Geoff

    When will the Soul be available on the Worldwide market? In addition, will it be available in Australia and if so, when?

    Geoff (from Australia)

  • It will go on sale early next year Geoff.

  • Geoff

    Thanks himi for the reply. Does this include Australia?

  • Chil-Young Kown

    To. Geoff

    Yes~ it does~!!

  • Those are the dates for Kia Souls sales:
    Across the Europe: February
    UK: March
    US: by April
    Soul will also hit Australia,no reports on when, but it will not take long until it gets there as well.

  • Pamela (Korea)

    Thanks himi for following up with Geoff on that info. I hope you enjoy your time in Spain with the Kia Motors gang out there!

    As for Australia, we’re looking at a launch date in March. So keep your eyes peeled!

  • Geoff

    Thanks Chil-Young Kown and himi for the replies.

  • Hi Pamela!
    I just returned from Spain where I spent some wonderful time, met interesting people from Kia Motors Europe and test-drove the Soul! It was an awesome experience! Thank you Kia Motors!

  • Pamela (Korea)

    Great stuff, himi! I was reading Kia World and it looks like you had (are having?) a good time.

    Your observations are spot on… we’ve heard from a number of people about the Soul looking so much better in person than in pictures. If we think it looks great in pictures, just imagine what it looks like in real life, right?!

    Has anyone else had that experience?

  • Mike Torpey has a formidable beard!

  • The Motor Show style wheels and fuel filler cap, if it makes it to the production model, will look great!

  • I’ll tell you one thing.. I sure do like the warranty 100,000 miles, on these babies!!

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