Blog: Dave LeggettKia Soul

Dave Leggett | 17 February 2009

I'm escaping from the desk for a few hours this afternoon. Kia has a drive event for the new Soul over in Henley. It's a chance to drive the car and speak to some Kia people about it and other things (like the state of the market). Soul is Kia's new funky small car that looks a little Scion-inspired, aimed at a younger demographic.

Kia as a brand is an interesting one. I was in a press fleet pro_cee'd (I think I have got that model name syntax right, but wouldn't swear to it) last week. It's the more sportily styled cee'd and is a basically good car, as it happens. Looks very good in black, is solidly put together, boasts inoffensive but slightly sporty styling and a pretty decent interior. It's not a million miles away from the sort of product you expect from Toyota or Volkswagen. Kia has perhaps helped to narrow a gap with the introduction of its European built cee'd and could be very well positioned to benefit in the downturn as people consider 'cheaper' brands.

But the interesting thing here is the brand and the way people perceive it. Kia? Well, there's an image for the brand that is still around (Kia Pride with white-walled tyres was funny, but something like the Sedona doesn't get many smiles on styling) and will take time to change. It used to be about cheap and not very well styled or finished cars. Some of that - the value part - is what Kia probably wants to retain. But it will also want to project the idea of modern designs, well finished - and in the case of Soul, with a fun and youthful element, too. Good to see the products are apparently getting better.

Another thought just occured. I wonder why Kia Europe's ex-COO, Paul Willis, returned to Volkswagen after such a short stint with Kia? I have heard before that the politics inside Korean companies can be, well, a tad tricky to negotiate at times. He was certainly brimming with enthusiasm about his new role when I interviewed him a year ago.

The Editor’s Q&A: Paul Willis, Kia Motors Europe COO


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