New 2020 Kia Soul redesign maintains quirky spirit
Kia went full quirky with the introduction of the Soul in 2008, even deploying hamsters in advertisements as drivers and passengers in the new subcompact crossover. The Soul has been an enormous success for Kia. Last year, only the midsize Sorento SUV beat the Soul’s sales figure of 104,709.
Still, the South Korean automaker’s brain trust sensed the need for a full redesign for 2020. Most noticeable are the narrow headlights; otherwise, the Soul’s personality remains fun and quirky, yet functional. This little crossover can swallow 23.4 cubic feet of luggage with the rear seat upright, and 61.2 cubic feet of cargo with the seatback folded down, nearly matching the plane of the rear deck. Seating space in back is adequate for two large adults or three medium-sized people. Fuel economy is fair to middling for a crossover — up to 33 mpg on the highway.
Also on the plus side, the Soul is fun to drive. The standard 147-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine is peppy, and Kia has added a 201-horsepower turbocharged Four to the options list.
2020 Kia Soul GT-Line 1.6 Turbo
Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged inline Four, 201 horsepower, 195 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Weight: 3,036 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear
Wheels: 18x7.5-in. alloy
Tires: P235/45R18 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 23.4 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 61.2 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 14.3 gallons
Fuel economy: 27 mpg city, 32 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline
Finally, the interior ergonomics are well thought out. Controls for the audio system, climate control and infotainment system — including Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth wireless technology — are easy to access.
We were treated to the newest version of the Soul, the GT-Line. It features the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, forward collision avoidance system, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, power sunroof, navigation system, power driver’s seat, head-up display, heated seats, premium audio system and satellite radio. Its sticker price was $29,055.
The base Soul LX starts at $17,490. In its most elementary form, it sports the 147-horsepower Four, 6-speed stick shift, AM-FM radio, and Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth wireless technology.
Someday, one might hope, Kia will offer a version of the Soul with all-wheel drive. All Souls have front-wheel drive. But there’s hope for New Englanders and others who like the Soul but insist on all-wheel drive. Kia has developed a concept car called the Trail’ster, “a re-imagined Soul that transports you to the great outdoors,” according to Kia’s website. “The turbocharged Trail’ster is an all-year, multi-terrain vehicle made for the wild.” But the Trail’ster has been around since 2015 and has yet to be put on the market — bringing forth the question, “What is Kia waiting for?”
We also were surprised to discover the 6-speed standard transmission isn’t available in GT-Line models. In between grumbling about the occasionally clunky performance of the 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox, we entertained fantasies about what a blast the 201-horsepower Soul would be to drive if only we could shift for ourselves.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the 2020 Soul a Top Safety Pick Plus. However, the institute deemed the headlights inadequate on the GT-Line and S versions.
The Soul’s major competitors include the Honda Fit and H-RV, the Toyota CH-R, Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X, Mazda CX-3, Chevrolet Trax Ford Ecosport and Nissan Kicks.
Steven Macoy is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.