Design & Technology / Product

The Exclusive Design Story of The Kia Soul’ster January 20th, 2009

By Mike Torpey & Brian White
Senior Designer
Kia Design Center America

Hello and Happy New Year, Kia-Buzz’ers!

Mike Torpey and Brian White from Kia Design Center America here with you, giving you an exclusive “inside scoop” on the design process behind the exciting Kia Soul’ster concept revealed at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show in January. Just for Kia Buzz’ers! ;)

Retaining all of the confident aggressiveness of the all-new Soul, and built on the same fuel-efficient yet capable platform, the Soul’ster hits the road with its own all-new brand of youthful “let’s get some dirt on the tires!” character.

Most people know that Designers draw the sketches that create the cars that they end up being able to buy. But with some projects, like the Soul’ster, Designers don’t just think about what would make a hot-LOOKING vehicle — we also set out to re-think the way drivers picture a car, and what drivers and customers expect to be able to do with it.

So…as we sat down to design the Kia concept for this year’s Detroit auto show, a few key ideas were quickly generated by the group — and became the guiding arrows that led us to create the Soul’ster:

1) “back-to-basics” – “many of today’s activity vehicles are getting too complicated, and too expensive. Yet they aren’t any more capable or exciting — so let’s create something simple, low-tech, and FUN!”

2) “This vehicle must be extremely fuel efficient, yet also extremely functionally capable – like no other vehicle out there.“

3) “This vehicle must put a grin on your face – every time you see it or drive it!”

Right away, with the enthusiastically-received and “category smashing” Kia Soul already creating its own exciting market category, it made perfect sense to build upon that potential — and so we set out to literally build “another brother” to the Soul’s blend of function, sportiness, and style.

By combining the simple, tough ruggedness and cargo-carrying capability of a pick-up truck, the multi-passenger functionality of an SUV, the open-air excitement of a roadster…………all with the fuel-efficiency of a compact urban car —- the Soul’ster was born!

Reception to the Soul’ster has been very strong and positive and the question comes up, again and again, “is Kia building this?”

At Kia, believe me, we think the very best answer to that question is this: Just like with the original Soul concept, which is now on sale as a real production car — it’s up to you out there! :)

How the Soul’ster was born..

  • BJD(Boris)

    of the three production possibilities posted in pix, I prefer the last one. could the soulster be AWD? Although the platform used cannot be fitted with AWD, you could replace the rear diff with electric motors to turn the rear wheels like on the nissan cube. A lot of people would like AWD.

  • Hmm. Activity vehicle eh? The Meyers Manx and EMPI Imp come to mind. These were VW-based, rear-wheel-drive vehicles.

    If you’re working on a Kia SOUL check out the Berg shifters at These are, IMHO the best shifters I’ve ever gotten my hands on!

  • ari

    the 2 litre diesel engine with the 6 speed gear box in the sportage which i have,i think is the best package for any car and should be used more in car production especially in other kia models.

  • boompsie

    Just want to say – I absolutely love love love this car and would totally buy one in yellow!

  • Wally

    I would love to see this car with off road capabilities and an AWD.
    Lovely design!

  • Pamela in Korea

    Great comments… keep them coming!

  • Jeff

    Thanks for sharing the design process! Keep it coming!

    It’s great to see that the things that grab me about the vehicle are the objectives that you guys set out to do. Well done!

  • i too would like the option to shift into 4WD. Also diesel. Also – love that convertable model as shown above.

  • RastaRican

    Coming from an island this car would feel just like home. Growing up I liked car models like the X-90, Amigo, VehiCross, SSR, Wrangler… Needless to say this car would fit right down that ally. The market is there, maybe not a big one but it exists. With the new Sonata and the Soul I will def keep an eye on what Kia is doing for my next purchase. Openess, mini-pickupish, SUVish…and that beautiful yellow..hmmmm gimme one!!! AJAJA

    Personally I only see true enthusiasts getting this car so I like the AWD ideas running around but if not, I would like to see it dropped down a bit and a bigger engine. I guess we could all do it aftermarket but if Kia can offer some kind of conversion to keep that beautiful 10/10000 Home-Run!!! I know those seats will be hard to make but do your best to keep some sort of resemblance for the production line!!

    I love the Soul’Ser Dudes!!! ajajja
    Hey, Dont forget Waterproof seats at least!!!!

  • Desch


    I have a 1999 Jeep Wrangler Sahara. I love my Jeep, but this vehicle would blow it away in many ways. There are not many other options out there like Jeeps. As a result, I think this vehicle would sell well with college kids, Jeepers, and middle age men. I do agree with others that you should offer 4X4. I love the fact that it will get great gas mileage and help the environmen, but the only negative is that it will not have any pulling power for wave runners, pop up campers, etc. This is the only negative thing I can say about it though.


    I have a few questions for you:

    (1) What is the percentage this vehicle makes it to production?
    (2) If produced, when would they hit the showrooms?
    (3) Can you give me some ballpark prices for different models?



  • David Kris

    I have had a sorento and traded that in for a soul! for my wife. If the soulster is made I will buy it for myself. 4WD would be great but would settle for AWD. I like camping, hiking and fishing. So if this could get me closr to my spots great. I am looking at wranglers. but the mpg is very poor. The Soulster is hot and I will buy one. I am a great Kia fan.

  • Rick

    When are you taking in orders ! I want an awd soul ster now!

  • Colin

    Hello Rick,

    The specific plan for the Soul’ster hasn’t been decided yet, but we are examining marketability carefully.

  • I see this as a really nice replacement for the Suzuki Trackers/Sidekicks & in North America they were a huge hit & still in great demand. I really like the multi function approach & that you are keeping it simple. I hate all the nanny monitors on vehicles today. Go to driving school & learn how to drive properly & safely. If this is produced with the vinyl retractable roof will it be suitable for snow country? Keep the 1500lb. towing capacity of the Soul for us RVers & the part time 4wd system like the Suzuki SX4 would just add to it’s versatility. Put me on a buyers list. Thanks

  • Jacob A Jimenez

    Please ad me to the pre-buyers list.

  • Eric Biehn

    I see a huge potential market. I would definately like to see it in AWD but i would still buy it as a FWD. I would love to see it have some nice suspension and at least 170 Horsepower. If i could tow a small boat with it that would be amazing! Also i would like to see some black 18 Rims on it just like the soul sx has. A well insulated sound resistant roof would be good to. All in all, i love this truck so much put me on the list for one!

  • Allison Thomas

    I own a 01 Kia Spectra and love it. With over 200k (and still running great)I felt its time though to get a new car. This time I was looking for something like the Geo tracker or Suzuki sidekick to haul things. Actually the Spectra hatch does a pretty good job of hauling and if it was a mere 2″ wider a piece of plywood would fit. Anyway, I was depressed Kia didn’t have something like it to fit the bill, but Lo and behold the Soul’ster!

    I am holding off on buying a new car waiting for the Soul’ster – Hurry I hope my Spectra doesn’t fail me now.

  • If only more people could hear about this..

  • Peter

    I find myself typing in google for updates everyday… Please keep us posted with information on whether or not this vehicle will be made.

    I need a new one and about to go with the SX4 AWD. Hurry up kia, you’re losing customers by keeping silent and/or waiting!

    It’s why so many people are waiting for the new Fiesta…. they let people know a year from production that it was headed this way!

  • Eric

    Please, make that amazing thing go into production, and do it AWD!!! (Or at least do an AWD version of the Soul!)

    You can count on me as a future buyer for the Soul’ster AWD !

    Please send me any update on production!

  • Matt

    The thing with this Soul is there is going to be a huge market.

    Your going to get those guys who want style and sound. So the FWD with good gas mileage and a kick ass Stereo package will suit them and make them happy. (I’m kinda one of those guys) Maybe some other tweeks to the outside like maybe lowering it or raiseing it with some decent rims would pull that market.

    Then your going to get your country boys and girls out there. With AWD, a tow package and maybe a little more.

    These are only 2 ways this could be modified to make people happy. Just keep in mind people are out there waiting and i’m one those people too. This could really fit me as I live in hot weather and also I go home back to the mountains I would be one of those that would prob try and find me one that could switch off and on of AWD and FWD with style and sweet Stereo package HAHA.

    Just remember tho, you can only hold a waiting captive audiance so long before they get up and leave. (Great job Kia, never thought i would find one of your rides that interesting you made me a convert)

  • I love being different, and this is right at the top of the list on being different. Just as the Soul came on the market this the Soul’ster will for sure bust out.
    My questions would be will they come in more colors then the normal primary ones and will they have hard tops??

    CAn’t wait 2 see them on the street. Hurry please

  • Eric G

    Please, please, please, get that car/truck/suv/crossover/whatever you want to call it into production, i want one! Ideally in AWD!

  • Jasmine

    Is this a collaborative effort with Hyundai?

  • John

    I dont want a pick-up, i dont need an SUV… the soulster is a perfect choice!!!
    make it with an AWD and automatic option for 1600cc and im your first buyer from greece.(we get taxed on high cc.).

  • Jim

    In the troplcal climates for car rentals this would be the perfect vehicle to replace the Suzuki Jimny. i agree have it in AWD and 1600cc engine and trendy colours like the concept yellow, this would be a hit i would buy a few as the demand for open top 2 door vehicles in the rental market is quite high. It would also compete with the Diahatsu Terios.

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  • Pamela Richte

    Pleaseeeee! B U I L D I T

  • BJ

    I personally would not drive a KIA Soul!!! BUT!!!! If Kia built the Soulster I would for sure look into buying one. I love the beachy feeling it gives. I am a very outdoorsy person and I think this would be a great vehicle for a person with my tastes.. Please start building.

  • @ BJ
    Thank you for your comment and strong interest in Soul’ster. We will pass your comment to Product Planning Team to refer to your opinion.

  • Anonymous

    I too would buy a Kia Soulster, and I live in Canada, where it’s colder! I like the look of the Nissan Juke too, but the Soulster looks even nicer. Actually, I would prefer an option with a rear hatch instead of a tailgate, because tailgates can get in the way when trying to load stuff from the rear.

  • Steve

    Would buy one right now if it was in production. I am in the car market and Looked up the Soulster just incase it ws being produced.

    Have to go and find something else now.

  • Benjaminhelm77

    i love the Kia Soul’ster when is it avlibale to the public? and how much $ will it cost?

  • Thank you for your interest in the Kia Soul’ster. The exact launch date and pricing of the Soul’ster have not yet been determined. We will make sure to provide the information on Kia BUZZ in the near future.

  • Jean Duquette

    One word:  WOW
    A “Jeep” (they are selling 90% of their wrangler for urban trip and because its convertible)
    A 4 seat Convertible car… interseting
    Gas Mileage (actually the soul is very good)
    What do you want more ?

  • Hello Jean Duquette, yes we hope to see Soul’ster on the road someday . Thank you for your continued interest and if we have any news or updates on the Soul’ster, we’ll let you know through Kia Buzz so stay tuned!

  • greg mayer

    Bring It Already my saab is sobbing

  • Sandyriley9255

    I have owned two KIAs in the past and I love the brand. Now I can’t wait for this model to hit production. Trust me when I say I will be first in line for this beauty. Please hurry!!!!

  • Rodrigo

    My wife and I are young college students and we want this car more than anything. We are going car shopping in mid-August this year and we really hope this Kia is available by then. W would not hesitate to buy this. It would sell. Trust me! 

  • Craig009

    You must make this vehicle. It is everything I could imagine. Don’t make me buy another Isuzu Amigo. I live on the Gulf Coast.

  • Neto2000

    Kia, make the Soulster already, plllllllease!! 

    Need something affordable, with good gas mileage and the soulster looks like it will meet my needs, and be fun, stylish, and useful with that pickup like bed!!! The only thing I could think that would make it better would be retractable top that retracts into the roll bar split, instead of a removable, and 4×4 off road capable, but gas mileage is more important to me. Fuel efficient, powerful, and 4×4 would just be cool. 

    Love this thing and had to see it in different colors i’d like, so I Photoshopped it in black and white, here are the pics. What are your thoughts?

  • M2pharmd13

    Currently driving a Kia Soul (which my dog and I love with all our hearts) but have ALWAYS wanted a convertible since the day I got my license…..what a way to make a girls dreams come true!!!!
    Please let me know the second I can place an order……

  • M2pharmd13

    I currently drive a Kia Soul (which my dog and I absolutely love) but have ALWAYS wanted a convertible from the day I got my license………What a way to make a girls dreams come true!!!!
    Please let me know the second I can place an order.

  • Greatlakes_gunsmithing

    Please stop teasing us and BUILD THIS! More obnoxious colors please.

  • Dudezillla

    Build this please!
    Consult the NAPA “hot licks” paint chart for colors.

  • Stevieboy

    It’s about time we had something decent like this in the UK

  • Kim ONeil

    can you build a pick up PLEASE (equiv to !