It’s hard to take a simple concept like a boxy hatchback and make it more interesting, but that’s exactly what Kia has managed to do with the all-new 2020 Soul. With a fresh face, a bigger size and a familiar profile, the new third-generation Kia Soul keeps what everybody likes about the funky hatchback and adds some new kit both under the hood and in the cabin that not only keeps things interesting, but makes things better.
What’s New for 2020?
The Soul has been fully redesigned for the 2020 model year. Like we mentioned, it keeps its familiar boxy profile because if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be a Kia Soul anymore. Although the shape is mostly unchanged, the details like the front and rear fascias, and even the size of the car, are a little different. We think its new aesthetic makes it look a little more premium from the thin horizontal lighting up front to the boomerang taillights in back. Dare we say this looks a little bit like a baby Land Rover from the front?
The Soul is still decidedly compact, but it has grown a few inches. The Soul has always been roomy on the inside thanks to the inherent space efficiency of its boxy shape and now it’s even bigger on the inside, particularly in the cargo area which has grown 5 cu ft. It’s also easier to get in and out of thanks to bigger front door openings. Ease of entry and exit has always been one of the Soul’s strong suits and a big reason why it’s popular with seniors and now that perk has gotten even better. See the 2020 Kia Soul models for sale near you
What We Like
- Lots of optional tech like a 10.25-in infotainment system, wireless charging, a head-up display, premium audio with mood lighting and Kia Drive Wise safety features, including adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist, driver attention warning, and more
- Low starting price
- Great fuel economy from both engines
- Roomy interior
- Standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
What We Don’t
- No all-wheel-drive option
- X-Line adds no off-road capability
- Gets a little pricey on the high end
Performance and Fuel Economy
The engine lineup for the new Soul has been simplified compared to the 2019 model. Engine offerings have been cut down from three to two with the new base engine being a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter inline-four that makes 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. It comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, but to reach its peak fuel economy of 29 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway, you need up upgrade to the automatic Intelligent Variable Transmission or IVT (that’s what Kia calls the continuously variable transmission). However, only one specific model gets that kind of fuel economy and it’s the EX trim with the standard 17-in wheels. All other IVT-equipped Soul models get 27 mpg city/33 mpg hwy. The manual Soul only gets 25 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.
Your other engine option is the delightful 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-four carried over from the previous Soul, but this time it’s linked to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission. This turns up the heat to 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque without taking very much of a fuel economy penalty with respectable mpg numbers of 27 mpg city/32 mpg hwy.
For reference, the Soul’s new base engine is both more powerful and more efficient than the base engine in the 2019 model and the turbo engine delivers the same performance while achieving slightly better fuel economy than the previous turbocharged Soul.
Standard Features & Options
The Kia Soul is thankfully no longer using punctuation marks as trim names and has switched to a more conventionally named model range in line with other Kias. Moving up the model range can change the appearance and the equipment of your Soul quite a bit.
The Soul LX ($17,490) is the base model and the only one available with a manual transmission. Upgrading to the IVT will set you back an extra $1,500. Standard features include the 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine, a 7-in UVO infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, automatic headlights, woven cloth seat trim and air conditioning. This trim doesn’t have a lot of options available aside from the IVT.
The mid-range Soul S ($20,290) adds quite a bit more equipment including forward-collision warning assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, alloy wheels and premium cloth seat trim.
For the same price, you can get the Soul GT-Line ($20,290) which adds a sporty appearance package that includes 18-in alloy wheels that are exclusive to the GT-Line, red accents, and a unique front bumper and side sills. It comes with some of the same safety tech as the S trim, but blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-change assist are all optional rather than standard.
The next step up is the X-Line model ($21,490) which, we must admit, is a little confusing. The Soul X-Line is a rugged appearance package that makes the Soul appear to be more of an off-roader, but doesn’t actually add anything mechanically to make it more off-road capable — not even AWD. It has X-Line exclusive wheels, plastic fender cladding, and roof rails that are all writing a check that the Soul’s off-road chops can’t cash. Its standard safety tech is limited to blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist.
Creeping into luxury territory is the Soul EX ($22,690), which throws in push-button start, heated front seats with a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat including two-way lumbar support, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 10.25-in UVO infotainment system with navigation, wireless charging, forward collision avoidance assist, lane-keeping assist, driver attention warning, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist. Some optional features on the EX trim include leatherette seat trim, a 2-tone roof treatment, LED exterior lighting and nicer alloy wheels.
Finally, there’s the top trim: the Soul GT-Line Turbo ($27,490), which is pretty pricey for a compact Kia, but it brings a lot to the table. It’s the only trim that comes with the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and it also comes standard with a slew of other features. It has all of the cool standard features you just read about in the EX model plus the GT-Line appearance package with standard LED lighting, a power sunroof, Harman/Kardon premium audio with mood lighting that can pulse with the music, a head-up display, and all of the aforementioned driver-assistance tech plus adaptive cruise control.
As of this writing, crash test ratings for the 2020 Kia Soul are not available.
What we do know is what safety features are standard and optional on the new Soul. Naturally, it comes standard with all of the mandatory safety features that all new cars need like seat belts, airbags, LATCH child seat anchors and a backup camera. They also all come with side-curtain airbags, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, electronic stability control, vehicle stability management, electronic brake-force distribution and tire-pressure monitoring.
Optional safety and driver assistance technology include forward collision avoidance assist with optional pedestrian detection on top of that, lane-keeping assist, driver attention warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic collision warning, lane change assist and adaptive cruise control.
Behind the Wheel
Despite being a box on wheels, the Kia Soul is agile and sure-footed while also being quite a comfortable highway cruiser. It’s great for urban driving thanks to its small footprint and tight turning radius, but it’s also not afraid of eating up miles on the highway with a smooth and agreeable ride.
The turbo is a lot of fun, but frankly, most Soul drivers will be more than content with the base engine. Its performance numbers don’t sound too exciting, but Kia makes the most of this humble engine with the well-tuned IVT that gives you enough pep when you need it while still returning great fuel economy. The base engine won’t be lighting up any drag strips, but it also never felt like it was too slow to get out of its own way.
We need to talk about the AWD situation of the new Kia Soul, or rather, the lack thereof. No, the Kia Soul still doesn’t offer AWD as an option. This has been a common complaint throughout the Soul’s life and I’m a little surprised that Kia still isn’t meeting that demand. I guess they want you to upgrade to a Sportage if you want AWD.
I didn’t do any riding in the back seat of the Soul, but I did sit behind the driver’s seat that was adjusted for my six-foot-tall self just to test out the back seat comfort. There was no shortage of legroom or headroom, again, thanks to the boxiness. Like any car in this class, it would be a little tight with three people in the back seat, but the Soul is roomy enough and smooth enough to be all-day comfortable for four adults.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Nissan Kicks — The Nissan Kicks is another outlier in its segment in the sense that it doesn’t offer AWD. The Kicks is the second most affordable new SUV right after the Soul and it has many of the same virtues as the Kia, like a low base price, a surprisingly big cargo area, great fuel economy and some interesting available features including Bose speakers built into the driver’s headrest.
2019 Hyundai Kona — The Hyundai Kona is the Soul’s corporate cousin offering very similar engines. This subcompact crossover has a slightly higher starting price than the Soul at $19,240, but it also offers more standard safety tech on the base trim like forward collision avoidance assist. One of the biggest distinctions between the two is that the Kona is available with AWD. The Kona even has a cool Iron Man Edition available for you Marvel fans.
2019 Toyota C-HR — Another one of the quirkier little crossovers available is the Toyota C-HR, which is a Scion design that was inherited by Toyota. The C-HR is extremely generous with standard safety tech with a pre-collision system, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, and automatic high beams all coming standard on every model. However, the C-HR also has a higher base price and worse fuel economy than the Soul.
Used Kia Soul — If all of the new stuff on the 2020 Soul that you just read about isn’t all that important to you, the second-gen Kia Soul that ran from model years 2014-2019 is a great little car. It was an excellent bargain on the new market meaning it’s an even better deal on the used market if you don’t mind a few miles on the clock.
The new third-generation Kia Soul is the logical next step for the funky hatchback. It takes a great little crossover and makes it even better with updated tech, a fresh new look, and better fuel economy, making for an overall enhancement over the outgoing model. It may have gotten a little too pricey on the top end, but lower-end and mid-range models are still fantastic values for anyone looking for a small, practical, efficient car that’s a little more interesting than more mainstream offerings. Find a Kia Soul for sale