While we like to apply the “iconic” label to lustworthy sports cars, like the Ford Mustang and Porsche 911, every once in a while another vehicle comes along that makes you take notice. Back in 2009 Kia decided to release a box on wheels, called the Soul, which was a rival to other boxes, like the Scion xB and Nissan Cube. 10 years later, the xB and Cube have left the scene, but the little Soul has charged on. Kia has managed to sell over 1 million units since 2009.
The 2020 Kia Soul marks the introduction of the third-generation of the Soul and just like the first two generations, it’s still a funky box on wheels, but now it’s a bit more grown up. Even with its more modern face and slightly more sculpted body, the 2020 Soul is easily recognizable. At the front the slimmer headlights give it a more modern/ techy look than before, while the reconfigured taillights continue that funky theme that’s made the Soul so popular.
We can definitely say the Soul has grown up, since just like the rest of us, most of us have managed to get a bit bigger over the last decade. It’s wheelbase is now 1.2-inches longer and it’s overall length has been stretched by 2.2-inches. What’s interesting though is that even with the slightly larger footprint, the 2020 Soul’s interior isn’t drastically bigger than the outgoing model. Legroom in the rear is actually slightly shorter than before and even the cargo space is the same with the rear seats up at 24 cubic feet.
While the interior is about the same size as before, it is a bit more stylish than before. Again you’ll easily recognize that you’re in a Soul, since the overall feeling hasn’t changed much. There are a few quirky design details to keep you entertained and the interior does feel a bit more refined than before. The Soul isn’t a luxury car, so it’s not surprising that there is a bit of hard plastic throughout the interior, but it’s not offensive.
The 2020 Soul comes standard with a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but a 10.3-inch touchscreen is available. Wireless charging is also available.
Under the hood there are now a few options to choose from. The base engine is 2.0L four-cylinder with 147-hp and 132 lb-ft. of torque that can be mated to either a six-speed manual or CVT. The new CVT replaces the old six-speed automatic, but before you get too made, you’ll be happy to know that the CVT is pretty good. Kia’s engineers did a good job of making sure that the CVT isn’t as annoying as many other CVTs on the market. The transmission doesn’t have the usual CVT whine and during normal driving you’ll hardly be able to tell the difference.
If you choose the 6-speed manual, the 2020 Soul is rated at 25/31 mpg, while the CVT is rated at 27/33 mpg. The 2.0L is rated at 27/32 mpg.
While we wouldn’t describe the base engine as being zippy, it does have enough grunt to get you moving down the road without much drama. It’s also more enjoyable than either of the powertrains that you’ll find under the hood of the C-HR or Kicks.
For buyers that prefer a bit more power, there’s the 201-hp turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder engine that’s mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Since the Soul is technically labeled as a crossover, you might expect it to offer all-wheel drive, but just like the Toyota C-HR and Nissan Kicks, it only sends its power to the front wheels.
On the road, the Soul feels a bit more refined than before with better ride quality and less noise intrusion. Body roll is also kept to a minimum. We will stop just short of calling the Soul sporty though, since its steering is a bit too light to give it that “fun to drive” label.
The 2020 Kia Soul starts at $17,490 and is available in six trim levels: LX, S, X-Line, EX, GT-Line, and GT-Line Turbo.
As the compact crossover segment continues to get more packed, it’s nice to see that the Soul has managed to maintain its own box to help it stand out. The hamsters may be long gone, but the Soul lives on.