efe-epaLos Angeles

Kia Motors' marketing manager for the United States' Hispanic market told EFE on Thursday that the 2020 Soul, the latest version of the South Korean automaker's popular compact utility vehicle, has features that make it especially appealing to Latinos.

Eugene Santos, who was recently named to that position and is responsible for overseeing Kia's relations with Hispanic consumers, said it is important for brands to establish a "personal connection" with Latinos.

"As a Latino, it's super-important for a brand to recognize that I'm not a second-class citizen, that I'm a person who has the financial capacity to purchase a vehicle," he said in an interview at the Los Angeles Auto Show's AutoMobility LA event, where Kia on Wednesday unveiled the third generation of its Soul model.

"But more than anything, it's important for that company to know me and what moves me culturally," Santos said.

"And for me that's very important in my position as manager for the Hispanic market. Knowing how to give consumers a taste of who we are as a company, that we understand them and know how important a vehicle is to their wellbeing," he added.

"It's important that our campaigns and messages aren't selling the vehicle, but rather its quality, its value and that we really understand that that vehicle is part of their life. The most important thing is establishing that personal connection. Because if we establish that personal connection, I think the rest is easier," Santos said.

He also said the new generation of the Soul, a model that arrived in the US 11 years ago and has become one of Kia's most iconic vehicles, particularly appeals to the Hispanic market.

"For us as Hispanics, our vehicle is not only a way to get from point A to point B. It's an extension of ourselves, of how we express ourselves as a unique people. I believe this vehicle allows you to extend your personal expression to your vehicle," Santos said.

Because Hispanic consumers are among the fastest in adapting to new technologies, the latest features of the third-generation Soul also make it attractive to that segment of the population, he added.

The Kia manager highlighted the 2020 Soul's new sound mood lighting system, which allows users to change the interior color of the vehicle and synchronize it with the beat playing on its audio system.

"I don't mean there's a disco inside the vehicle, but fans of the Kia Soul expect to be able to express themselves with their vehicle, both inside and out," Santos said.

The new Soul also features a "head-up" display that projects important vehicle information onto the windshield, allowing drivers to keep their eyes on the road at all times.

Kia said at the AutoMobility LA that the third-generation Soul will be available in six trim levels: LX, S, X-Line, GT-Line, EX and EX Designer Collection. The model also comes in an electric version: the Soul EV.

The 2020 Soul comes equipped with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine offering 147 horsepower plus a six-speed manual transmission or Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT), developed by KIA and already available on the 2019 Kia Forte.

A turbo-charged version of the 2020 Soul also is available, containing a 1.6-liter GDI engine that produces 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque and comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.