Francis' frugality and humble demeanor have received wide coverage in South Korea, a fiercely competitive country that celebrates ostentatious displays of status and wealth. This national trait can be seen in booming industries such as private tutoring and plastic surgery.
The images of the smiling pope in his little car struck a chord online, with many playing on the car's name. One South Korean user tweeted: "The pope rode the Soul because he is full of soul."
For the man called "The People's Pope" the choice makes sense. He has eschewed the bulletproof "popemobiles" that his predecessors used on foreign trips and urged priests around the world to travel in low-key cars.
Inside the Vatican City, the pope prefers a blue Ford Focus, or when he's out in St. Peter's Square, a white open-topped vehicle that allows him to literally reach out and touch the masses.
South Korean media widely reported that the pope requested the smallest South Korean car during his visit. The Soul is Kia's second-smallest model and reportedly provides more leg room than other compact cars.
Though not everyone loves the Soul's funky design, it appeals to a niche of young, practical drivers. It has never, however, been a car of the rich and powerful.
Already bubbling with excitement over the first papal visit in 25 years, South Koreans appeared fascinated by the humble papal car.
"I feel honored that Pope Francis will not be in a bulletproof vehicle," said Shon Cho-eun, a 22-year-old Christian student. "I hope he arrives safely and delivers good messages to us."
Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield contributed to this story.