Kia Motors is reportedly ready to bring its new Soul small crossover to the U.S. by next March and is aiming the new vehicle squarely at Honda's Fit and Toyota's Scion brand, according to a report by Automotive News.

The five-seat box-like concept first debuted in January 2006 at the Detroit Auto Show and a pre-production version was later displayed at this year's Geneva Show sporting an updated "tiger nose" by Kia design chief Peter Schreyer.

Along with the help of ex-Cadillac designer Tom Kearns, Schreyer is seeking to give the Kia brand a more distinct styling character -- a trend that began with the Borrego SUV and now incorporated by the youth-oriented Soul.

Most recently our spy cameras spotted the Soul testing in the Nevada desert, further adding to speculation that Kia is ready to bring its California-designed model our way.

Powering the Soul will likely be the automaker's 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine presently found in the Spectra, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. If everything goes as expected, production for the U.S. model will begin later this year for its early 2009 debut. The Soul is also bound for the Chinese market, and will likely to hit the streets there by the end of 2009.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)