When Kia first introduced the box-shaped Soul, I wasn’t sure how long it would last. However, 11 years after its introduction, it’s still going strong.
In fact, it has outlasted its boxy competitors, the Scion xB and Nissan Cube by 4 and 5 years, respectively.
The reason behind its success? Kia has done some very smart things with the Soul, including maintaining an affordable base price, adding in some nice standard features and adding a layer of incredible up-level amenities.
The Soul enters its third generation for 2020, and it’s one of the best compact cars currently available.
Though the 2020 Soul sports an all-new design, it doesn’t stray too far from the unique boxy façade. Some of the edges get smoothed out. Headlights and taillights get jazzed up. The grille gets enlarged. But otherwise, it’s still very recognizable as a Soul.
The interior gets upgraded and feels less cheap with intuitively placed buttons and dials and black lacquer accents.
Another nice add for the 2020 model year is the available 10.25-inch display, which is attractively integrated into the center stack.
Ride & Handling
The test vehicle was equipped with the all-new up-level 1.6-liter turbocharged engine that delivers 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. That’s a boost of horsepower and torque of 54 and 63, respectively, over the 2.0-liter engine.
With its petite size and peppy engine, the Soul makes an excellent urban vehicle. It’s fast off the line and sublimely easy to parallel park. It also has a tight turning radius for narrow city maneuvers.
You do have to remember, however, that even with all the available up-level amenities, the Soul is still an entry-level vehicle at heart. Which means the suspension is not forgiving, and you will feel those jarring potholes.
It does well on the smooth highway surfaces, with minimal road and wind noise creeping into the cabin.
Where it falls down a bit in my world is fuel economy. EPA estimates that you should get 27 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.
I drove more than 150 miles in combined driving, and I only averaged a measly 22 mpg. And that was with leaving the auto stop/start engine engaged that shuts down your engine when you come to a complete stop at a light or stop sign.
Tech & gadgets
One of the best things Kia has done with the Soul is make a lot of technology either standard or available. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, lane keep assist, driver attention warning and forward collision avoidance assist are all standard.
Some of the available technology includes blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, head-up display, wireless phone charging, navigation and a 10.25-inch infotainment screen.
The Soul has 6 trims, and Kia changed up the trim names and added a Turbo for the 2020 model year.
- LX ($18,535): This base trim is equipped with the 2.0-liter engine and is the only one that comes standard with a manual transmission. An automatic is available for $1,500. Other features on this trim include 16-inch wheels, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, a 7-inch touchscreen display, auto on/off headlights, a rear camera display and steering wheel mounted audio controls.
- S ($21,335): This trim adds 16-inch alloy wheels, blind spot monitoring, cruise control, a driver attention warning, forward collision avoidance assist, lane change assist, lake keep assist and rear cross traffic alert.
- GT-Line ($21,335): This trim adds GT-line exterior appearance packaging, fog lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, dual center console USB charging ports and a D-shaped steering wheel.
- X-Line ($22,535): This trim adds the X-Line body kit, but for whatever reason it removes the forward collision avoidance assist, lane keep assist and driver attention warning system.
- EX ($23,735): This trim adds heated outside mirrors, LED positioning lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, a wireless charger, forward collision avoidance, lane keep assist, driver attention warning, push-button start, passive entry, automatic climate control, a cargo cover, heated front seats, navigation and a 10.25-inch touch-screen display.
- GT-Line Turbo ($28,535): In addition to the up-level turbocharged engine, this trim adds back in the GT-Line exterior appearance package, LED headlight, LED fog lights, LED taillights, power sunroof, 18-inch alloy wheels, a Harmon Kardon audio system, speaker lights, head-up-display, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control and heated steering wheel.
The test vehicle was a GT-Line, and it only added a few minor accessories: carpeted floor mats and the cargo tray. The as-tested price was $28,765.
The Kia Soul has the basic standard safety equipment you’ve come to expect such as airbags, antilock brakes and rearview camera, but it doesn’t offer the up-level tech as standard fare just yet.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn’t rated the 2020 Soul, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives it “Good” crashworthiness ratings across the board.
IIHS also gives it the coveted Top Safety Pick Plus award – with one caveat: It must be equipped with the optional front crash prevention system (S, GT-Line, EX and GT-Line Turbo) and specific headlights (EX with Designer Collection Package, GT-Line Turbo).
So, really to get the model that qualifies for the award, you’ve got to go all-in on the GT-Line Turbo.
Not sure what the safety ratings mean? We break it down for you here.
New for 2020
The Soul is all-new for the 2020 model year and features a new platform, more technology, a new 2.0-liter engine, an available 10.25-inch widescreen display, available head-up display and new GT-line and X-Line trims.
A few of my favorite things
I love the compact package and roomy interior. The vehicle is easy to get in and out of, luggage fits neatly in the trunk area, and it’s easy to parallel park.
I also appreciate the up-level 1.6-liter engine, which is peppy and provides some oomph for traffic merges and quick urban maneuvers.
Plus, the interior design is well done with nice accents that keep an entry-level vehicle from looking cheap.
What I can leave
The fuel economy was a big disappointment. While I don’t have the lightest foot, I wasn’t trying to drive aggressively during the test period. I had passengers most of the time, which usually tempers my girl-racer tendencies, and I left the auto stop/start engine engaged.
The bottom line
The 2020 Kia Soul has always had its fair share of quirk, and now that the other box-like competitors are out of the arena, it’s also unique. Design aside, this is probably one of the better compact cars currently available with excellent visibility and easy maneuverability.
One thing to watch out for, however, is the price climbs quickly with adding up-level features. So, you may come for the sub-$20K base price and walk out with something priced closer to $30K.