Kia's third-generation Soul has a ton of personality.
When Kia first introduced the Soul back in 2010, our reaction was apathetic. Another funky box to compete with the Nissan Cube and Scion XB didn't get our pulses racing. The second-generation model improved on the styling but it still did nothing to move the needle for car enthusiasts. Then, everything changed when Kia threw in a turbocharged engine mated to a dual-clutch transmission. Almost overnight, the Soul transformed from that cute little car from the hamster commercials to a genuine enthusiast's people mover.
We fell in love with the second-generation Soul Turbo and Kia decided to up the ante with the third-generation model, which was revealed at the 2018 LA Auto Show. After driving the all-new 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line for an upcoming review, we have come to the conclusion that it is currently the best vehicle in the sub-compact SUV class. Here are five reasons why.
Let's start with the number one thing all enthusiasts want from a car - horsepower. The Soul has it in spades courtesy of a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque going out to the front wheels through a seven-speed DCT, easily making it the most powerful car in the class. The next-closest is the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport with 177 hp, then the Hyundai Kona with 175 hp. Most of the SUVs in this class have less than 150 hp (some have less than 130 hp), giving the Soul a clear advantage in performance.
With its gutsy little engine, the Soul GT Line takes just 6.5 seconds to hit 60 mph, which would be respectable for a hot hatchback let alone a crossover. Fuel economy is still pretty admirable too, with EPA ratings of 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. Sadly, the DCT is the only transmission option with the turbocharged engine, so, unfortunately, you can not have the manual.
Kia's UVO infotainment has been one of the best on the market for several years now but the Korean automaker has stepped up its game lately with a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen on the higher trim Soul GT Line. The wider display allows for better split-screen functionality and the user interface is remarkably intuitive. Even a technophobe could step into the 2020 Soul and figure out how to change the radio station because the whole interface is labeled and organized so well. If the system is still not to your liking, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both standard equipment.
The Soul also has some additional features to entertain the children (and the children who live inside all of us). The touchscreen houses light controls for the cabin, which can be set to pulsate with the beat of your music. It's just a fun gimmick in an already enjoyable little car.
Kia hasn't just stepped up in terms of interior technology, its interior design has come a long way in the past several years too. For an inexpensive car (less than $30,000 fully loaded), the cabin is covered in soft-touch materials with hard plastics cleverly placed in places you infrequently put your hands. Storage compartments are numerous and the bolstered seats hug you nicely without squeezing you like a weird aunt at a holiday party. And those awesome lights we mentioned earlier are housed within a nicely designed red styling element on the doors, which add a splash of color to the interior.
So, the Soul is quick, high-tech, and comfortable, but to be the best, it also has to be practical. Luckily, the Soul is positively cavernous with 24.2 cubic feet of cargo room behind the 60-40 split-folding rear seats. With the seats down, the Soul opens up to offer a whopping 62.1 cubic feet of storage space. Even the Soul's largest competitors like the Honda HR-V and Subaru Crosstrek cannot match it on trunk space and only the Fiat 500L and Volkswagen Golf SportWagen offer more cargo capacity.
Not everyone will be sold on the Soul's boxy styling but as far as boxes go, this is a hot one. This third-generation model looks fantastic upfront with those thin headlights and chiseled grille. Red accents jazz up the exterior on the GT Line and the 18-inch wheels look great without ruining ride comfort. The wrap-around taillight is not our favorite design feature but nor is it a deal-breaker. If we were in the market for a sub-compact SUV, the 2020 Kia Soul would be at the top of our shopping list.