Quirky, fun and affordable, the Kia Soul is the best-selling vehicle for the Korean automaker. Maybe it was that old hamster-themed advertising campaign.
The five-passenger Kia Soul gets totally redesigned for 2020 and is now in its third generation. It was introduced a decade ago when boxy cars were in. Remember the Scion xB and the Nissan Cube? Now the Soul is the lone survivor, and it’s a little less boxy than before.
The new 2020 Soul is a little bigger now with more passenger and cargo room, more power under the hood, better fuel economy, an upgraded infotainment system and more standard features.
The 2020 Kia Soul is available in six trims, up from three last year. The LX starts at $17,490; The S starts at $20,290; the X-Line starts at $21,490, the EX at $22,600, the GT-Line starts at $20,290; and my tester the GT-Line Turbo starts at $27,490. The Soul is also available as an EV which starts at $34,945. Front-wheel-drive is standard, and all-wheel-drive is not available. The Soul has 6.7 inches of ground clearance.
All but the GT-Line Turbo models are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque, paired with a six-speed manual transmission. Kia’s CVT, called the intelligent variable automatic transmission, is optional. The GT-Line Turbo gets a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that makes 201 horses and 195 pound-feet, paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
The Soul is fun to drive as long as you don’t expect it to be super-athletic. Its boxy build and high center of gravity just aren’t made for performance-oriented driving. My GT-Line Turbo model is peppy off the line, as you’d expect in a turbo. It has enough oomph for merging and passing at freeway speeds. The ride is mostly smooth, although you will notice larger bumps. There’s some road and wind noise at higher speeds. Visibility is good all the way around.
Fuel efficiency is pretty good although some rivals do better. EPA ratings for my tester are 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway with a combined rating of 29. I got 29 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.
The interior is pleasant enough for the price point. Yes, there are some hard plastics. But seats are comfortable and roomy. Even taller passengers in both rows enjoy good leg- and headroom.
There are some special Soul touches, including the ambient interior lighting. The Soul has always had lights on the doors that pulsed with the music. That goes a step further in the 2020 models with optional LED lights that you can see during the day. Choose from lighting themes called “Hey! Yo!,”, “Party Time,” “Traveling,” “Romance,” “Midnight City” and “Cafe.” Or you can customize the light show with the colors of your choice.
Standard features include cloth upholstery, rearview camera and the UVO infotainment system with a seven-inch touch screen, six-speaker audio system, USB port, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Available features include upgraded cloth seats, faux leather seats, real leather seats, power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, sunroof, upgraded UVO infotainment system with 10.25-inch touchscreen, navigation, satellite radio, Harman Kardon audio system, wireless device charging, and more USB ports.
Kia’s UVO infotainment system is user-friendly with sharp graphics. There are buttons and knobs for common functions such as volume and tuning.
Available driver assistance technologies include blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, lane change assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, rear parking sensors, rear cross traffic alert, driver drowsiness monitoring and a head-up display.
The Soul has plenty of cargo space, similar to what you’d find in a small SUV. There are 24.2 cubic feet behind the second row and 62.1 cubes with the rear seats folded. The large opening and low height make it a breeze to load larger items. A hands-free power liftgate is optional.
The Soul has Kia’s impressive 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.
Lots of cargo room
Good vale for the money
Kia powertrain warranty
Performance not as athletic as some competitors
Some rivals have nicer interiors
My tester starts at $27,490. Carpeted floor mats are $130. The cargo tray is $95. Delivery fee is $995 bringing the grand total to $28,710.
With its relatively low price tag, the Kia Soul is popular among college students and entry-level buyers. But it also appeals to families and even grandparents for its fun personality and SUV-like practicality. The new 2020 Soul is sure to remain the top seller for Kia.