LOS ANGELES -- As Kia prepares to launch a redesigned version of the hot-selling Soul this fall, it could learn a lot from its peers in the boxy small-car segment.
Specifically, it could learn what not to do.
The funky but unassuming Soul helped to put Kia on the design map when it debuted in 2009 and has since become a cornerstone of the brand, far exceeding the peak annual sales of peers such as the Scion xB, Nissan Cube and the now-discontinued Honda Element.
Soul sales first topped 100,000 units in 2011 and hit a record of more than 115,000 last year, accounting for a fifth of Kia's U.S. volume. The Soul was the best-selling subcompact car in America last year, beating out more mainstream competitors such as the Ford Fiesta, Nissan Versa and Honda Fit.
But other boxy cars had strong starts, too, only to lose momentum as they aged. Given the importance of the Soul to its overall volume, Kia needs to avoid that curse with the coming redesign.