The hamsters from the previous-generation Kia Soul have left the city. Why? They fled because of the new Soul. The intention behind those adorable mice was to entice young people to get inside the boxy car.
Things have changed since then. Although everyone is aware of the Soul, they only know the cutesy form. The brand-new 2020 Kia Soul is here to display a fresh side of the vehicle—a sharper, more aggressive edge to demonstrate that defying convention is beneficial.
Hatchback? SUV? CUV? Technically, one may claim that the Soul encompasses all of these. Due to the fact that you are getting the finest of all worlds, categorisation is not crucial. Due to its subcompact size, the base LX trim’s starting price of $17,490 is very reasonable. The GT-Line Turbo, the model that we tried for a week, starts at a starting price of $27,490. By today’s standards, that is still a reasonable price.
It is clear that American buyers continue to favor crossover vehicles. But unlike CUVs, which strictly adhere to a formula, the Soul, particularly in the GT-Line trim, deviates from the norm to show potential customers what fun, affordable, and versatile looks like. From this perspective, it’s excellent but not flawless.
both inside and outside design
Interior and exterior design
Both the new and the ancient Souls are boxes on wheels. You may go back to primary school and remember those awful square milk cartons by simply looking at the Soul. Simply include four wheels.
The general silhouette hasn’t altered, but almost all of the other details have. Slim daytime running lights are now connected through a paper-thin grille, and the headlights have been lowered lower on the front fascia. The taillights are shaped like a hockey stick around the back and join at the top.
In stark contrast to the cute appearance of the previous generation’s model, the 2020 Soul boasts a more muscular style. For added character, the Soul can also be specified with a two-tone color scheme.
Choose one of the GT-Line trims or the X-Line trim, and your subcompact CUV will have a distinctive body package. With unique 18-inch wheels, roof rails, and body cladding, the X-Line simulates an off-road CUV. The GT-Line Turbo has distinctive wheels, red emblems, black trim, and a center-exit exhaust, while both GT-Line trims aim for an aggressive appearance.
Although opinions on the Soul’s outer design are divided, this box is hot within. Even the tallest passengers can easily forget that they are in the back row because of the ample headroom and legroom in both rows. The Soul’s utility is also excellent, with room for a total of 62.1 cubic feet of freight and the ability to transport 24.2 cubic feet of cargo behind the back seats. These numbers place the Soul ahead of the Hyundai Kona, Nissan Kicks, and Honda HR-V as one of the segment’s most roomy choices.
Alongside all of this practicality, there is still a fun component. The Soul’s interior is stylish yet practical, from the triangular vents to the space-like trim that encircles the door handle and speakers. Our Soul GT-Line Turbo included mood lighting that changes colors or themes to accompany the music, such as “Midnight City,” “Café,” and “Romance.”
The Soul is a roomy, cheap way to go around, so there are plenty of harsh plastics and unpolished materials everywhere. Still, none of it feels cheap. For a car that costs about $29,000, the Soul GT-Line Turbo feels and looks well-designed. The leather and fabric seats are robust yet comfortable, with the heated seats warming up your behind quicker than a hot tub.
Tire and wind noise sometimes break the calm at highway speeds, and the chairs seem somewhat high at their lowest configuration. Of again, that may not be a drawback for shoppers longing for that CUV vibe.
Kia does make you reach far into your pockets to grab the best tech features, but this economy box comes with plenty of tech standard. The majority of models offer a 7-inch touchscreen that includes both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s nothing out of the usual, though, as practically every rival can equal that.
Where the Soul truly exercises its muscles is when you start to move higher up the food chain. EX and GT-Line Turbo variants feature with a large 10.25-inch touchscreen and Kia’s sleek UVO infotainment system. That’s one of the largest screens you’ll find in the sector, easily exceeding the available 8-inch screen in the Hyundai Kona, and the 7-inch touchscreens in the Nissan Kicks and Honda HR-V. As an added plus, you get wireless charging with the larger screen.
Having spent time with both systems, this is an easy decision. Get the larger 10.25-inch screen. The typical 7-inch unit is basic — iPhone 6 levels of basic. The 10.25-inch screen with the UVO system is a treasure, featuring beautiful, crisp visuals in a simple arrangement. The extra-wide length puts three incredibly helpful things – navigation, audio, and weather – front and center. If one of those doesn’t sound important, there’s enough of customization to allow you prioritize as you see fit.
The Soul’s list of safety features follows the same direction as its infotainment systems. All you get with the lowest trim is a rearview camera. The farther up the ladder you walk, the more you get, with the GT-Line Turbo being packed with virtually everything under the sun, including blind-spot monitoring, pedestrian detection, and lane-keep assist. A retractable head-up display is also featured in the safety cocktail.
For the most part, the driver-assist systems all work as they should – except for the lane-keep assist system. That sucker will take the wheel out of your hands to stop you from straying into another lane. Some nitpickers may say the head-up display screen looks cheap, too. That may be true, but it works, and it’s a feature you won’t find in the Honda HR-V and Nissan Kicks.
There are two available powertrains for the Soul. Five out of the six grades come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. The engine is linked to a constantly variable transmission that Kia calls a “intelligent variable transmission,” or IVT.
Only the GT-Line Turbo has a different mill. That model comes with a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that’s good for 201 horses and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine also comes with a novel transmission in the shape of a seven-speed dual-clutch.
With 54 extra horses and a dual-clutch gearbox, you’d expect the GT-Line Turbo to be the performance-forward trim. And you would be correct. But the powertrain has some serious flaws that highlight just how nonathletic the subcompact CUV really is.
The peppy motor doesn’t lack grunt, but the way it puts down the power in one massive gulp instead of a smooth set of sips is jarring The issue is exacerbated because of the dual-clutch transmission, which is slow to shift, clunky at low speeds, and quick to provide a surge in power unexpectedly. Stabbing the throttle from a standstill doesn’t result in immediate power, making parking a tricky situation.
The expensive GT-Line Turbo trim is an easy pass.
In addition to the engine, the GT-Line Turbo comes with a firmer suspension. The ride is stiff, but the Soul doesn’t feel limber around corners, as the boxy design limits true performance potential. Around corners, the Soul exhibits body roll befitting a subcompact CUV, and the GT-Line Turbo’s Goodyear Eagle Touring tires don’t inspire confidence.
Ironically, the Soul’s front-wheel-drive-only layout isn’t a dealbreaker. Other subcompacts like the Nissan Kicks and the Toyota C-HR are front-wheel drive only, too. You’re still getting 6.7 inches of ground clearance, which is a decent amount to tackle snow. If you want any kind of real off-roading capability, though, you’ll have to look toward the Jeep Renegade.
With the powertrain’s issues and the extra bumpy ride that doesn’t translate to real sporting potential, the expensive GT-Line Turbo trim is an easy pass.
Fuel efficiency and safety
The Environmental Protection Agency rates the 2020 Kia Soul at up to 31 mpg combined (29 mpg city, 35 mpg highway) when equipped with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and the CVT. If you go with the sportier GT-Line Turbo trim with the turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, you’re looking at 29 mpg combined (27 mpg city, 32 mpg highway) (27 mpg city, 32 mpg highway).
Those aren’t bad figures for the subcompact segment, but they do put the Soul behind the Nissan Kicks, which is rated at 33 mpg combined, and the new Hyundai Venue that’s rated at 32 mpg combined. But the Soul is slightly more efficient than the Honda HR-V and the Hyundai Kona, which both have combined fuel economy ratings of 30 mpg.
With the Soul being all-new for the 2020 model year, it’s tough to say how reliable the vehicle will be down the road. The subcompact CUV does come with one of the lengthiest warranties on the market: A 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and a five-year, 60,000-mile limited warranty. That’s better than what you’ll find with cars from Nissan or Honda.
Being a new vehicle, the Soul hasn’t been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) yet. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) tests, the Soul did well enough to be named a Top Safety Pick.
How DT would set up this vehicle
Because of the issues with the powertrain and ride, we recommend skipping the GT-Line Turbo trim. With that said, we like the EX trim the most. It has the same 10.25-inch touchscreen, UVO infotainment system, and wireless charger as the top-of-the-line model, but comes with the more efficient powertrain.
The 2020 Soul has a more muscular aesthetic that sharply contrasts with the adorable look of last gen’s model.
If you’d like a two-tone paint scheme, it’s part of the $1,500 EX Designer Collection Package.
Despite testing what is arguably the worst option in the lineup, the 2020 Kia Soul is a great CUV. Its looks won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but it stands out in a segment that’s filled with boring options. It’s practical, too, with one of the largest cargo areas, loads of tech features, and an efficient powertrain. This is all wrapped in one of the snazziest designs and backed by one of the lengthiest warranties, too.
If you’re looking for anything close to decent off-road capability, you’ll have to go with the Jeep Renegade. For those wanting a vehicle with a design that doesn’t stand out as much, you’ll want to look at the Nissan Kicks, Hyundai Kona, or Honda HR-V.
The Kicks doesn’t have all-wheel drive as an option, but the other two do. Neither the Kicks nor the HR-V come with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto as standard, but both come with safety suites in the middle of their respective lineups instead of random features that are sporadically spread around. As usual, Kia’s priced the Soul competitively, and between these competitors, it’s the most affordable option of the bunch.
With so many options to choose from in the subcompact segment, there’s bound to be one option that does something better than the Soul. But as a complete package, it’s a well-rounded CUV that manages to do a lot well at a low price, making it one of the better options on the market.
Do you need one?
Yes. The Soul is a great value with funky, functional design. Just stay away from the GT-Line.