The South Korean automaker takes a stab at the future of upscale mobility

To help build up some hype over its plans to release a production-ready fully autonomous vehicle by the year 2030, Kia is putting together a modified Soul compact crossover for SEMA called the “First Class.” Packed with a new exterior look, a luxury-laden high-tech interior space, and no steering wheel, Kia says the First class is a vision of “a not-too-distant future where vehicles will not only drive on their own, but will be tailor-built to our active and diverse lifestyles.”

The First Class was revealed in a short, sub-20-second teaser video, which shows a production Soul model with its interior gutted, surrounded by mechanics hard at work grinding and welding and gluing, presumably in the process of creating the concept’s interior.

Kia says the Soul First Class will be a premium conveyance for use in the city, and will enable “business travelers [to] work and relax as they journey to out-of-town meetings and destinations.”

Specifics on the custom ride include some slick PPG Lux Blue paint, plus a front fascia studded with LEDs lining the upper and lower grilles. In the corners will sit plus-sized, aero-efficient Rotiform Monoblock CCV wheels, measured at 19-inches in diameter.

Sounds interesting, but the biggest draw of the First Class will be the interior. Peek inside and you’ll find rear-facing seating and no steering wheel – a common theme amongst fully autonomous vehicles, given the greater opportunities for social interaction.

Complementing the self-driving tech will be a 40-inch flat screen display, high-end sound system, and a center console that hides a duo of tablets to control the electronics. There should also be plenty of luxury on tap, with premium materials like leather upholstery and wood paneling. White and grey hide with diamond stitching will be used for the upholstery, and the floors will get gray wood.

No word on the powertrain yet, but considering Kia produces the Soul EV, all-electric motivation makes sense.

Look for the Kia Soul First Class to make its big public reveal at SEMA on November 1st.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why It Matters

It was recently revealed that over the next four years, Kia is planning to release over a dozen new models equipped with an alternative powertrain, including all-electrics, hybrids, and even a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

That makes the First Class concept well timed, as Kia ramps up its efforts to project itself as a make of the future. SEMA seems like a good opportunity to show off some its up-and-coming vehicle chops, but this is also an idea that would work well at the Consumer Electronics Show, just so long as the focus was on the auto-driving tech, rather than the interior.

Kia says the Soul First Class is just one of four concepts it has planned to showcase what it’s got in the works for autonomous vehicle technology integration, so hopefully we’ll see a follow up in January at CES.

Press Release

Kia Motors plans to put a fully autonomous vehicle on the road by 2030. So for SEMA 2016, Kia Motors America envisions a not-too-distant future where vehicles will not only drive on their own, but will be tailor-built to our active and diverse lifestyles. One such vehicle is the “Soul First Class,” an upscale inter-city chariot that lets business travelers work and relax as they journey to out-of-town meetings and destinations. This custom-built creation — with its rear-facing seats, absence of steering wheel and wide array of luxury enhancements – is one of four vehicles that imagines what living the “Autonomous Life” might one day look like.

This Soul’s passengers will be greeted by a 40-inch flat screen connected to premium-level speakers throughout the cabin. A custom motorized center console reveals two tablets, which control this futuristic Kia. To match the first-class electronic system is first-class comfort with white and grey leather with diamond stitching throughout and gray wood flooring to match. The Soul’s exterior brings the same level of luxury as the interior with PPG Lux Blue exterior paint and modified upper and lower grilles with LED lighting. Aerodynamic 19-inch Rotiform Monoblock CCV wheels bring a modern vibe to the car’s exterior, rounding out the complete autonomous-vehicle inspired overhaul. #SEMA2016

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