Crossover & Midsize

Thank Goodness the Kia Soul’ster Never Saw the Light of Day

Nowadays, Kia is a well-respected automaker that produces cars anyone can enjoy. That said, not that long ago, Kia was trying plenty of tactics to make its cars more appealing, and one of those attempts was the Kia Soul’ster. It looked like a blend of several cars, but it was just never meant to be.   

A look at the Kia Soul’ster

The year was 2009, and though the Soul was a success, Kia wanted to expand its business in North America. That’s why, according to Car and Driver, Kia introduced the Soul’ster at the North American International Auto Show. The Soul’ster was a concept car, so it was a chance for Kia’s engineers and designers to go wild, and they went wild indeed. 

The Kia Soul’ster, as its name implied, was based on the Soul, but it changed a lot about the Soul. Car and Driver described the Soul’ster as a “little car/truck thingy,” and from its looks, that’s pretty accurate. The Soul’ster looked like a weird combination of a Soul, a Jeep Wrangler, and maybe even a pickup truck. Looks aside, its features also echoed the Wrangler and a truck. 

Its features

As Car and Driver reported, the Kia Soul’ster could seat only four people, a number close to a regular Wrangler’s. Plus, the Soul’ster had a two-piece roof that could be removed, reminiscent of a few options on the Wrangler. And the Soul’ster had a relatively small truck bed. But its seats could fold down to deliver “pickup-like utility.” 

As for the Kia Soul’ster’s engine, it wasn’t really that impressive compared with those of today’s vehicles. Car and Driver reported that the Soul’ster could come with a 1.6-liter 120-hp engine or a 2.0-liter 140-hp engine. However, a bright spot with those relatively weak engines was that both were estimated to get at least 30 mpg, according to Car and Driver. That was pretty decent fuel mileage for 2009.

Because of the Soul’ster’s design and Kia’s promotional images, it’s easy to see what the carmaker was thinking. The Soul’ster was set to be Kia’s Wrangler, and it was supposed to be a larger and more outdoorsy car than the Soul. But as fate would have it, that wasn’t how things panned out for the Soul’ster.

Why the Kia Soul’ster never became a reality

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Off the bat, the Kia Soul’ster was a concept car, and like most concept cars, there was always a chance the automaker wouldn’t go all the way with it. Furthermore, it didn’t help that the Soul’ster’s design was weird, especially for the time. It was eye-catching, but not in a way that appealed to people.

Also, the Soul’ster was unveiled at a poor time. In 2009, the world was in the midst of the Great Recession, and many automakers struggled to make ends meet. According to Autoblog, the auto industry was simply in a bad place, so Kia scrapped plans for the Soul’ster. Instead, the carmaker focused more heavily on the Soul, which has worked out well for Kia.

Regardless, customers probably dodged a bullet when the Kia Soul’ster was canceled. The concept was likely ahead of its time, but it simply didn’t look great.