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