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2020 Kia Soul

$17,490 - $27,490
Price Range (MSRP)
Kia Soul

2020 Kia Soul Test Drive Review: The Subcompact King

by Jared Rosenholtz

Remember when the Kia Soul first launched back in 2008? It's boxy styling and hip hamster commercials were designed to target a young audience, but the car's practicality and high ride height actually ended up appealing to seniors. Regardless of who was actually buying it, the Soul was a smash hit for Kia and the car received a second generation in 2013, which included a faster, turbocharged variant. Now the Soul wasn't just for seniors and budget-conscious buyers, enthusiasts could enjoy it too.

The Soul now enters its third generation for the 2020 model year and Kia has dressed the car with a futuristic new look, an upgraded interior, and tons of new technology. More so than ever, the 2020 Kia Soul looks like it could be one of the best vehicles in the sub-compact SUV segment. Kia sent us a Snow White Pearl GT-Line Turbo example so we could find out how it stacks up against its sub-compact rivals.

Read in this review:

2020 Kia Soul Changes: What’s the difference vs 2019 Soul?

The new Kia Soul, unveiled at the 2018 LA Auto Show, has been completely redesigned for 2019, and now represents the third generation of the brand's iconic boxy hatchback which has been on sale in the US for over a decade. It shares its platform with its Korean sibling, the Hyundai Kona. For 2020, the base model engine is more efficient, delivering slightly higher horsepower figures and improved gas mileage, and there's a new variable-ratio auto transmission on offer as well. Inside, there's a larger infotainment display screen and a host of improved tech features such as wireless phone charging, a heads up display and more. Overall, the third-generation Kia Soul has taken a great leap forward.

Pros and Cons

  • More entertaining to drive
  • The famous boxy design looks better than ever
  • It's still practical
  • Interior space
  • Stellar technology (even compared to luxury cars)
  • Interior quality isn't class-leading
  • Transmission tuning lacks aggression
  • Brakes don't match the rest of the performance
  • GT-Line models are priced close to VW GTI territory

Soul Exterior

Kia has, unsurprisingly, kept things slightly boxy, which is one of the primary reasons why the previous generations were so well-loved by young and old alike. Not only does it look quirky, fun, and slightly futuristic, but it gives the Soul a massive amount of usable interior space, unrivaled in its class. The face of the new Soul is decidedly more grown-up and mature, unlike the second and first-generation models that greeted your rearview mirror with big eyes and a happy smile, but Kia has remained true to the overall design, and its lineage is still as clear as day. Standard exterior features now include 16-inch wheels on the base model, growing to 18-inches on the GT-Line, LED headlights, fog lights and positioning lights on top of the range models as well as privacy glass and a sleek all-black front grille. The lower front intake is more significant than ever and hints to the Soul's sporty aspirations. The rear of the car is dominated by the wrap-around tail light cluster that will make the Soul instantly recognizable on the road.

2020 Kia Soul Front Angle View
2020 Kia Soul Side View
2020 Kia Soul Rear Angle View
See All 2020 Kia Soul Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The Kia Soul is a small car and can be compared to Volkswagen's venerable Golf in terms of length, width, and wheelbase. When compared to the outgoing model, the Soul has remained more or less the same size but is longer at 165.2 inches instead of 163. The 2020 Soul is 63 inches tall, slightly shorter than the outgoing model, but shares the same front and rear width, and rides on a 102.4-inch wheelbase. Ground clearance is a respectable 6.7 inches, which gives it the ability to do more adventurous driving than most so-called subcompact SUVs. The new Soul has managed to shed some weight during the re-design; the second generation Soul was already a featherweight, only weighing in at 2,884 pounds, but the new Soul manages to shed 82 pounds for a total curb weight of 2,802 lbs in its lightest incarnation, while heavier trims like the GT-Line Turbo we drove tip the scales at 3,036 lbs.

Exterior Colors

Color options on the new Soul reflect its playful nature, and despite the more mature look, the color palette helps the car retain its youthfulness. In total, Kia offers nine colors, but you also get the option of seven different combinations, which makes the quirky Soul stand out even more. The color options for the 2020 Kia Soul include Platinum Gold, Mars Orange, Undercover Green, Cherry Black, Neptune Blue, Inferno Red, and last but not least, Solar Yellow, and they can be optioned as combinations including Cherry Black/Inferno Red, Mars Orange/Cherry Black, Platinum Gold/Clear White, and Neptune Blue/Cherry Black. Combining colors means that the roof, top wing mirror moldings, and sill accents will change to the secondary colors of your choice.

The GT-Line Turbo is available in five colors including Inferno Red, Neptune Blue, Gravity Gray, Snow White Pearl, and Cherry Black. Our tester came with Snow White Pearl Paint, which is not our favorite color but does give off a cool "Storm Trooper" vibe. Both the black and white colors add $395 to the Soul's price, which is why we'd happily recommend one of the two exciting red or blue colors.

  • Cherry Black
  • Snow White Pearl
  • Clear White/Red Roof
  • Inferno Red w/Black Roof
  • Cherry Black/Red Roof
  • Platinum Gold
  • Gravity Gray/Gold Roof
  • Platinum Gold/White Roof
  • Neptune Blue/Black Roof
  • Mars Orange/Black Roof
  • Gravity Grey
  • Inferno Red
  • Neptune Blue
  • Solar Yellow, Late availability.
  • Undercover Green
See all 17 colors

Soul Performance

The 2020 Kia Soul has improved upon the previous generation in terms of outright performance. The base model's 2.0-liter engine is stronger and more fuel-efficient, while the turbocharged engine gives the Soul some credible sporting credentials, although it should be noted that the Soul is far from being an outright sports car. The engine and gearbox combinations work well together and strike a good balance between performance and comfort.

2020 Kia Soul Gear Shifter
2020 Kia Soul Gauge Cluster
2020 Kia Soul Engine Bay

Engine and Transmission

All 2020 Soul Models, aside from the GT-Line Turbo, are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque going out through either a six-speed manual (only on the base model) or a CVT. Our tester featured the 1.6-liter turbocharged four-pot going out exclusively to a seven-speed dual-clutch, which bumps the power up to 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque while dropping the 0-60 mph down from eight seconds to around six and a half seconds. Fuel economy does take a minor hit from up to 29/35/31 mpg city/highway/combined with the base engine to 27/32/29 with the turbo.

In our opinion, the turbo engine is easily worth the minor trade-off in fuel economy because it easily places the Soul as the quickest vehicle in its segment. Most other vehicles in this class feel sluggish and the Soul feels like a rocket ship by comparison. Kia's DCT may lack the overall refinement of Volkswagen's DSG transmission, but it shifts quickly when you want and fades into the background in boring traffic situations. The Soul now has paddle shifters on the wheel to access the turbo's grunt more readily, which is welcomed addition for the third generation.

  • Engines
    1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmissions
    6-Speed Manual, 7-Speed Automatic, Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Drivetrain
    FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Kia calls the Soul a sub-compact SUV but we like to think of it as a slightly raised hatchback. You can tell Kia's engineers wanted to give the GT-Line a sporty flavor without ruining the ride comfort for people who just want to use it as a commuter. The suspension is slightly firmer than you'd expect from a Soul but it still allows for plenty of body roll through the corners. This is no Golf GTI competitor but the Soul Turbo will leave its competitors in the dust on a twisty backroad. No matter which Soul you buy, power is sent to the front wheels only and we feel Kia has left some potential buyers on the table by not offering an all-wheel-drive option.

The steering feel is light but gives enough feedback to entertain the driver and the weight can be increased when the car is placed in Sport Mode. Kia added paddle shifters to the wheel so you can now have greater control over the seven-speed DCT, which shifts quicker than you'd expect in a vehicle like this. We've felt faster shifts from this transmission in related cars like the Hyundai Veloster Turbo, though this was probably done on purpose to keep the Soul grounded as a daily driver.

Where the Soul really stands out is through its excellent safety technology. The lane-keep assist is among the best we've ever tested, and our jaws dropped while the car essentially drove itself without driver intervention for several minutes. We simply couldn't believe this sub-$30,000 could drive itself better than cars costing three times as much.

DISCLAIMER: The 2020 Kia Soul does not actually drive itself but Kia's lane-keep assist feels more in-control than many luxury vehicles.

Soul Gas Mileage

Starting with the LX base model which uses a six-speed manual gearbox mated to the naturally aspirated engine, one can expect to see fuel consumption figures of 25/31/27 mpg city/highway/combined. The CVT gearbox mated to the same engine manages to improve on that figure, returning 27/33/30 mpg, a testament to CVT efficiency.

After driving the Soul Turbo for a week, we averaged 25-mpg with a combination of city and highway driving. This wasn't enough to match the EPA's combined rating though we did record highway fuel economy of around 35-mpg, which exceeds the EPA's predictions. During a very hot summer in Florida, we turned off the Soul's stop-start system, which may explain the mpg discrepancy.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    14.3 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 25/31 mpg
* 2020 Kia Soul LX Manual

Soul Interior

The well-loved boxy design of the Kia Soul houses a wonderfully funky interior. Kia makes use of an assortment of hard and soft plastics, cloth and leather. Visibility is excellent thanks again to the square design of the car. The general design of the interior, unlike the exterior, is rather curvaceous and flows around a shapely central console that houses the infotainment display screen and hazard indicator.

2020 Kia Soul Steering Wheel Controls
2020 Kia Soul Infotainment System
See All 2020 Kia Soul Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

Due to its boxy shape, the Kia Soul is among the most spacious vehicles in its class. Headroom is over 39 inches in both the front and rear and legroom is rated at 41.1 inches (front) and 38.8 inches (rear). Kia has included more bolstered seats for the GT-Line, which feel more aggressive without being uncomfortable on long journeys. The rear seats feel equally comfortable and a nearly flat floor gives middle-seat passengers more foot space, though we wish the rear seatbacks could be reclined.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

The Soul GT-Line features a combination of black leather and cloth with red stitching, giving the interior a sporty vibe. We wish Kia offered a full leather interior with ventilation, like the second-generation Soul, but the cloth is very breathable and feels premium to the touch. Elsewhere in the interior, most of the surfaces are made from soft-touch materials and there are very few cheap plastics throughout the cabin, which is impressive for such an affordable vehicle. Kia has also jazzed up the door cars with interesting red accents, which house accent lights that can pulsate with your music.

Soul Trunk and Cargo Space

The boxy design and hatchback liftgate featured on the Soul give it class-leading trunk space, especially in terms of packing taller objects. With the rear seats folded up, you get an impressive 24.23 cubic feet of space, easily eclipsing the Honda Fit's 16.6 cubic feet. The Hyundai Kona, which makes use of the same platform, only manages to squeeze out 19.2 cubic feet. With the 60/40 split-folding seats folded down, you get a handy 62 cubic feet of cargo space, a class-leading number, made even better by the fact that the Soul's roofline remains flat all the way to the back, which means taller objects fit easily.

Personal storage space is good and reaffirms the Soul's image as a practical family car. There are dual cup holders for front-seat passengers, front and rear bottle holders, an illuminated glovebox and an optional double-level carbo board for the trunk.

2020 Kia Soul Trunk Space
2020 Kia Soul Maximum Cargo Space
2020 Kia Soul Rear Passenger Seats

Soul Infotainment and Features

Features

The third-generation Soul offers a respectable list of features, but the most premium of these are reserved for the more expensive models. The base model can list single-zone manual air conditioning, privacy glass, a reverse camera and a USB charging port amongst its most notable features. The costlier trims get cruise control and a host of other safety features as well as remote keyless entry. GT and X-line models get a leather-wrapped steering wheel, while the EX and GT Turbo are graced with full LED lighting, wireless cellphone charging, automatic air conditioning, a dual-level cargo board and heated front seats amongst others. So while the base model's feature list is rather spartan, Kia has logically spread out luxuries across the Soul range, which means the Kia Soul is competitive at every price point, and the top of the range GT-Line Turbo can sit with the best of them thanks to a big display screen and modern safety features.

Infotainment

Kia's UVO infotainment system has long been among our favorites but the latest iteration housed on a 10.25-inch touchscreen is even better. Touch response is immediate, and the controls are highly intuitive, so anyone can immediately step in and be an expert. Split-screen functionality, for example, is a single button on the right side of the screen, making it simple to have navigation on one side and radio information on the other. Even if the controls are tricky for you to comprehend, Kia's voice command is among the best on the market.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay both come standard should you prefer them to Kia's excellent infotainment and the Soul includes a few other fun features such as color-changing lights that pulsate with the beat of your music.

Soul Problems and Reliability

There have been no recalls for the third generation Kia Soul in 2019, and previous generation cars have been proven to be reliable and easy to maintain. The 2020 Kia Soul is backed up by a five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, and a seven-year/unlimited-mile corrosion warranty. New owners will also be covered for any drivetrain issues for an impressive ten-years or 100,000 miles. If you break down, you'll also be covered for roadside assistance for five years with unlimited mileage.

Soul Safety

The 2020 Kia Soul is at the top of its class in terms of overall safety ratings and is a notable improvement over the previous generation. The Soul scored a perfect five out of five stars on the NHTSA rating scale, but more importantly, it was awarded the Top Safety Pick + award from the IIHS. These achievements bode well for the Korean Rubix Cube, as it will boost its appeal to both young and old; who doesn't want a safe car right?

Key Safety Features

The 2020 Kia Soul makes use of, what some might consider, a rather rudimentary set of safety tools, but this clearly isn't an issue when you consider all the safety awards under its belt. The standard-issue items include ABS braking, electronic brake-force distribution, stability control, hill-start assistance, vehicle stability management, and six airbags. Kia put safety first when they designed the shell of the Soul, which has been reinforced at certain key points to preserve body integrity in the event of a serious accident. Full LED lighting on EX and GT-Line Turbo models gives it an edge over its lower-spec siblings. Additional driver aids such as blind-spot monitoring, driver attention warning, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane change assist, and a head-up display add further levels of safety to higher trims such as the GT-Line Turbo we drove.

Verdict: Is the 2020 Kia Soul a good SUV?

The Kia Soul isn't just a good car, it is our favorite in the sub-compact SUV segment. We can see how some buyers might be turned off by the boxy styling but we like to think of it this way – there's a reason why the box is the best shape for carrying stuff. Under the hood, the Soul boasts more power than any other vehicle in this segment, including several in the luxury segment. It also comes with a spacious interior, advanced interior technology, and some of the best driving aids found at any price level.

At less than $30,000 as-tested, the 2020 Kia Soul should be on the shopping list of anyone looking for an affordable vehicle with reasonable gas mileage, ample storage space, and a modicum of speed. Kia has built one of the best all-around packages at an affordable price and we recommend the Soul above all of its competitors in the segment, unless you need all-wheel-drive.

What's the Price of the 2020 Kia Soul?

There's a relatively hefty price gap between the entry-level LX model and the top of the range GT-Line Turbo, while mid-range models are priced within a tiny margin, making some of the trims somewhat redundant. The base model starts off with an MSRP of only $17,490, undercutting the Hyundai Kona, but is priced higher than the entry-level LX Honda Fit. The S model, which represents the first step up in the range comes in at $20,290. The GT-Line trim starts at the same price as the S. The X-Line car gets a host of safety and tech additions, hence the price increase to $21,490. The EX model adds more and costs more at $22,690, and finally, the GT-Line Turbo will set you back $27,490, a massive jump in price from the EX, granted it comes with the more powerful turbocharged engine and dual-clutch transmission, as well as a slew of further tech upgrades.

2020 Kia Soul Models

The redesigned Kia Soul is available in six different trim levels, each offering its own unique configuration. Trims include LX, S, GT-Line, X-Line, EX, and GT-Line Turbo.

The LX represents the base model, and its key features include six-way manual seat adjustability, an Android Auto and Apple CarPlay enabled infotainment system with Bluetooth streaming, hill start assistance, and a rear-view camera.

The S model adds alloy wheels, blind-spot warning, collision warning, lane keep assistance, and remote keyless access.

The GT-Line adds a list of appearance and material upgrades over the S. You'll get big 18-inch alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and small exterior changes to make the Soul look more sporty.

The X-line takes things further with a bold crossover SUV-type body kit that makes it look ready for some extra-urban exploration. Buyers will also benefit from 18-inch wheels premium cloth seat trim and a sporty D-shaped steering wheel to name a few.

The EX jumps in price due to the inclusion of smart tech such as a larger 10.25-inch display screen, navigation, SiriusXM satellite radio, and wireless phone charging.

The top-of-the-range GT-Line Turbo takes the EX trim features list and adds LED lighting, sporty exterior features such as a chrome-tipped exhaust, smart cruise control, a custom interior color scheme and a premium Harman Kardon sound system. It also receives the only turbocharged engine in the line-up.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
LX
2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$17,490
S
2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$20,290
GT-Line
2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$20,290
X-Line
2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$21,490
EX
2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$22,690
See All 2020 Kia Soul Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

Thanks to a big lineup of models, the Soul is rather customizable. The base model can be optioned out with remote start for $425, and you can even get sport pedals for an additional $100. The GT-Line model can be optioned with a sunroof for $1,900. The EX is available with a designer collection package which adds 18-inch exclusive alloy wheels, a two-tone roof design, LED lighting and leatherette interior trim for $1,500. Other options include a $200 paint protection plan and a $75 badge for the GT-Line Turbo that lets people know that your Kia Soul is turbocharged.

What Kia Soul Model Should I Buy?

The 1.6-liter turbocharged engine sits high atop the list of our favorite features in the 2020 Soul, which is why we recommend opting for the GT-Line Turbo. Kia has eliminated the basic Soul Turbo from its lineup, so the GT-Line with the more powerful engine comes pretty well equipped without any available options. Expect to pay an MSRP of $27,490 plus a $995 freight and handling fee. Skip the $395 premium white paint of our tester and opt for a more exciting shade of red or blue.

Check out other Kia Soul Styles?

2020 Kia Soul Comparisons

2020 Kia Soul
2020 Kia Soul

2020 Kia Soul vs Hyundai Kona

The Kona shares its platform with the new Kia Soul but has gone with a crossover SUV look and feel. The Kona is available with two engine options; the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in the Kona perfectly mirrors the performance numbers of the Soul, but the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine is weaker, developing only 175 hp and 195 lb-ft. Both the base and turbocharged engines return a combined fuel consumption figure of 30mpg. The Kia is available in AWD, which gives its baby SUV styling some substance. Dimensions are comparable thanks to a shared platform, and both cars have a 6.7-inch ground clearance. The Kona has a superior feature list, but can only be had with its chunky crossover SUV styling cues, an option on the Soul. The Kona is a more versatile car when optioned with the AWD drivetrain, and has a longer list of standard features, making it a good choice for people with a more active lifestyle.

See Hyundai Kona Review

2020 Kia Soul vs Honda Fit

The Honda has been regarded as one of the best compact hatches in the US and offers solid performance and space. Combined with Honda's legendary reliability, there's no wonder why the Fit is one of the most popular choices in this category. The Fit starts off at $16,190 for the base LX model and is powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 128 hp and 113 lb-ft of torque which is low when compared to the Soul's 201 hp turbocharged unit. The Fit uses 31/36/33 mpg city/highway/combined when equipped with a CVT transmission, beating the Soul's combined 30 mpg. The Fit is slightly smaller than the Soul in most categories, and the Soul offers much more cargo and trunk space but is comparable when it comes to passenger seating space. The Soul offers more standard features and should be the better choice for young and tech-savvy buyers.

See Honda Fit Review

2020 Kia Soul vs Honda HR-V

While we await the 2020 edition of the Honda HR-V, the 2019 model battles on against newer rivals like the fully redesigned Kia Soul. Despite being newer, the Kia manages to start with a lower base price, making it cheaper to get behind the wheel. At that point, the Kia affords you full smartphone integration while the HR-V doesn't, but the HR-V counters with available leather seats and standard cruise control. Kia's boxy crossover gives buyers more power from the base engine, with the difference increasing when you opt for a turbocharged plant under the hood. However, the HR-V is more economical and offers all-wheel-drive. Both are comfortable, provide exceptionally well-equipped, safe as houses crossover options, and present as reliable options in the segment, but the Soul offers better performance and more practicality, with the boxy exterior opening up more internal space for passengers, while also giving buyers more trunk space. Both are good, but the Soul is great!

See Honda HR-V Review

Kia Soul Popular Comparisons

2020 Kia Soul Video Reviews