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Can the Turbocharged Kia Soul Be Considered a Hot Hatch?

I love hot hatches. Their blend of performance with real-world practicality make them fantastic daily drivers for anyone who enjoys driving, but also needs a normal car that can do normal car things year-round. When you think of hot hatches, you likely think of cars like the Volkswagen GTI, the FIAT 500 Abarth, and the soon-to-be-deceased Ford Focus ST and the Fiesta ST.

But there’s one that I didn’t realize just might be a hot hatch until I actually drove one. I’m talking about the turbocharged variant of the Kia Soul, which is all new for 2020 — and downright delightful. Most Soul models come with a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter inline-four, which is a perfectly good and efficient engine that will be more than satisfactory for most Soul drivers. However, the optional 1.6-liter turbo-four linked to a 7-speed DCT pumps out 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque — and it serves up more fun than you might have thought possible in a compact Kia.

Yes, I know those numbers are a little behind the likes of the GTI and the Focus ST, but the Soul GT-Line 1.6T weighs 3,036 pounds, which is very similar to the weight of the GTI. That means the Kia does pretty well in the all-important power-to-weight ratio that car enthusiasts are always talking about. Sadly, you can’t get a manual transmission with the turbo engine — which is understandably a turn-off for many enthusiasts.

This GT-Line 1.6T model also adds more than just the hotter engine. It also includes a sporty appearance package with a bunch of red exterior trim and special wheels. There’s also sport-tuned suspension and a flat-bottom steering whee, further adding to the cars sporty nature.

But if we’re going to talk about whether the turbo Soul is a hot hatch, we first need to determine if it’s … a hatch. Yes, it has a hatch, but the Soul has always had a bit of an identity crisis between hatchback and crossover. Is it too tall to be a hatchback? Is it too short and too unavailable with all-wheel drive to be a crossover? Its famously boxy profile kind of puts it in a weird spot, not fitting very well into any traditional automotive segments.

And that’s exactly what a lot of people love about the Kia Soul. It’s unconventional and decidedly funky, while also being really practical and a great value for a lot of drivers. I don’t think the Kia Soul GT-Line 1.6T is going to entice a lot of enthusiasts away from the more serious, more performance-oriented hot hatches out there, but I think we should consider giving it a spot at the hot hatch table.

Who knows? Maybe car enthusiasts waiting to happen will opt for the better engine in the Soul and fall in love with driving. Find a Kia Soul for sale

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2 COMMENTS

  1. The Soul is almost exactly the same size as my turbo six-speed Renegade, and I often think that feels more like a hot hatch than an SUV.

  2. Automatics are so efficient that many enthusiasts can look past that especially with paddle shifters.

    Perhaps one day we will have a Kia Soul in the spirit of the Hyundai Veloster N one day, That will be cool.

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Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt is an author specializing in Oversteer content, new car reviews, and finding the best car, truck, and SUV deals each month. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Eric can often be found exploring the north woods on his 1983 Honda Gold Wing when the weather allows it. Father of four, husband of one, and unapologetic minivan enthusiast. Eric mastered driving stick by having a 3-cylinder Chevy... Read More
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