At Kia, the toaster car takes on special meaning

Kia's freshened 2012 Soul hatchback... One of the latest in toaster cars. Photo credit: KIA

CHICAGO -- Here's a new term for your automotive vocabulary.

Have you ever seen a "toaster car?"

You have, hundreds of times. Kia and Scion have been making toaster cars for years. In fact, nearly every automaker probably has offered a toaster car at some point in its model lines.

Former GM product czar Bob Lutz once used "angry toasters" to describe some of the automaker's most recent concept vehicles.

What's a toaster car today?

It's a reference to boxy cars like the Kia Soul and Scion xB -- boxy like a kitchen toaster.

What design studio gets credit for the term?

Well, it really wasn't an automotive studio, but one studio is using it now.

The term has been appropriated by Tom Kearns' 12-year-old daughter, Tom told me at the Chicago Auto Show. Tom is chief designer at Kia Motors America.

Sometimes as Tom and his daughter roll the road, his daughter points to a certain vehicle and says, "Dad, that's a toaster car."

It's now become part of the design jargon.

Said Kearns: "We actually started using that in the studio. It is kind of a styled box."