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Pope Francis chauffeured around Korea in a Kia Soul

Fri, 15 Aug 2014 09:30:00 EST

Korea is not without its domestic automobiles that would be suitable for transporting a visiting head of state: the Hyundai Equus comes to mind. Failing that, a Genesis sedan would do the trick. Maybe even a Kia K900 or a Renault Samsung SM7. But those familiar with Pope Francis and his taste in transportation won't be surprised that His Holiness has chosen something decidedly more modest for his visit to South Korea.

Instead of a more luxurious sedan, the Bishop of Rome has elected to be driven in a Kia Soul, giving the high-roofed hatchback a bigger boost (in the Catholic world, at least) than any quantity of animated hamsters ever could.

The Soul, which was likely reinforced somewhat if the Swiss Guard got its way, was ready for the Holy Father upon his arrival. Francis slid into the back, rolled down the window and waved back at the welcoming party, including President Park Geun-hye. The Pope will reportedly be driven around in the Kia over the course of his five-day visit.

Francis has consistently elected to use decidedly less impressive forms of transportation than his predecessors. He was known to take the bus while serving as a cardinal in Argentina, and even when he's needed a private car (now that he is, after all, the monarch of a sovereign city-state), he's chosen a humble Ford Focus or a 20-year-old Fiat, and encouraged his followers to do the same.

This in contrast with the popes that have come before him, many of whom have been driven around in specially built Mercedes SUVs. Benedict received an electric Renault Kangoo from Carlos Ghosn, and while we're sure he seldom (if ever) drove it, John Paul II received a Ferrari Enzo from Luca di Montezemolo and Michael Schumacher.

By Noah Joseph

See also: Kia takes the wraps off new Sorento, Kia teases next Sorento [w/video], Kia negotiating to build $1.5B auto plant in Mexico.