With all the negative news swirling around the global auto industry, car enthusiasts everywhere have less to be excited about. Fortunately, the Philippine car market is faring much better, with year-to-date vehicle sales just slightly off 2008 numbers. Partly responsible for this is Columbian Autocar Corporation (CAC), the exclusive distributor of Kia in the country.
Not only is Kia performing well this year - its first-quarter sales total of 875 units represents a 10.6-percent improvement from last year's January-to-March tally of 791 - a reliable source has now also informed Top Gear Philippines that Columbian is getting ready to roll out an exciting new vehicle: the new Kia Soul.
The Soul is a five-passenger small urban MPV that's currently taking the world by storm with its hip styling and subcompact size. Front-engine and front-wheel-drive, the Soul was penned by Kia's design team in California and is assembled at Kia's production facility in Gwangju, South Korea.
You might recall that this car was displayed by CAC at the very first Philippine International Motor Show in 2007 when it was still a concept vehicle. The clamor from the show's visitors was obviously strong enough to prompt the Soul's early release in our market.
Our informant says the Kia Soul could be launched in Manila as early as July.
This development is expected to surprise a lot of industry observers especially since it was the bigger Borrego (Mohave) SUV that everyone was counting on CAC to formally introduce to Filipino car buyers this year.
There are originally three engine options for the Soul, but it is still unclear which one - or which ones - will do duty under the hood of the Philippine-bound variant (or variants).
The Soul for the North American market gets a 1.6-liter, 122hp four-cylinder engine and a 2.0-liter, 142hp four-cylinder engine, both gasoline. The European Soul has the option of a 1.6-liter, 128hp diesel powerplant. Here's hoping we'll get the 2.0-liter gasoline and the 1.6-liter diesel, assuming CAC will bring in two variants. If there's only one variant available, our money is on the 1.6-liter gasoline.
The Soul is just 161.6 inches long, 70.3 inches wide and 63.4 inches tall. To give you a better understanding of these dimensions, note that the Soul is shorter than the already compact Carens from bumper to bumper by 17.3 inches. Make that a full foot and five inches shorter in overall length! The Kia Soul also stands an inch or two smaller than its soon-to-be stablemate.
Inside is where the Soul gets truly interesting. Consider: 14 storage zones; standard USB and iPod connectivity; a 60/40 split-folding rear seat; a 12-volt power outlet; and a "dual-level" glove compartment. Clearly, Kia is targeting the Soul at a young set of drivers.
Then again, who says older people can't drive a funky vehicle? We're guessing people will line up for the new Kia Soul for its promise of excellent fuel economy and unparalleled practicality.
Our countdown begins...