2020 Kia Soul

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2020 Kia Soul Test Drive Review: The Subcompact King

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:

9.2
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2020 Kia Soul Changes: ๐Ÿš™Whatโ€™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

Best Deals on 2020 Kia Soul

2020 Kia Soul Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

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

2020 Soul Exterior

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

Dimensions

  • Length 165.2 in
  • Wheelbase 102.4 in
  • Height 63.0 in
  • Max Width 70.9 in
  • Front Width 62.0 in
  • Rear Width 62.4 in
  • Curb Weight 2,802.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

  • Cherry Black +$345
  • Snow White Pearl +$345
  • Clear White/Red Roof +$345
  • Cherry Black/Red Roof +$345
  • Inferno Red/Black Roof +$345
  • Cherry Black/Blue Roof +$345
  • Cherry Black/Orange Roof +$345
  • Platinum Gold +$345
  • Gravity Gray/Gold Roof +$345
  • Platinum Gold/White Roof +$345
  • Gravity Grey
  • Inferno Red
  • Neptune Blue
  • Solar Yellow, Late availability.
  • Undercover Green
See all 17 colors

2020 Soul Performance

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

Engine and Transmission

  • Engines
    1.6L Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 2.0L 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.

2020 Soul Interior

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

Seating and Interior Space

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 41.1 in
  • Front Head Room 39.4 in
  • Rear Leg Room 38.8 in
  • Rear Head Room 39.5 in

2020 Soul Trunk and Cargo Space

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

2020 Soul Safety and Reliability

Warranty

  • Basic:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    10 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Verdict: ๐Ÿ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 โ€“ 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.

Check out other Kia Soul Styles

2020 Kia Soul Comparisons

Hyundai Kona Hyundai
Honda Fit
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Kia Soul147 hp28/33 mpg$19,290
Hyundai Kona 195 hp29/35 mpg$21,300
Honda Fit 130 hp29/36 mpg$16,190
Honda HR-V 141 hp28/34 mpg$21,870

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
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