The Soul has been a surprising hit for Kia since it debuted in 2010. The “Hamster Car”, famously called after the early commercials starring hamsters driving it the funky car around LA, caught sales fire after its somewhat sluggish start. After selling just 90,0000 units in the first two years, the Soul has sold at least 100,000 units in every year since. When undergoing a full redesign, it was important that Kia kept that magic of a quirky car for the masses and after a wee in it, I can safely say they have succeeded.
The 2020 Soul is more aggressive, sleek, and just more adult looking in general. Its kept the boxy quirkiness, but made it a flavor that is more appealing to the masses. The front is somewhat cartoon character like, but magically remains fairly non-polarizing. This is an impressive in today’s world where nearly every design is either loved, or really hated. Around back, the horseshoe style of tail lamp adds another upscale touch not seen in the last generation. The plastic cladding on the side is part of the X-Line package and attempts to make it a bit more rugged. While it definitely looks bit more beefy, nothing else is added to the exterior or powertrain to prove so.
The 2020 Soul interior is roomy, greatly assisted by the box shape the Soul is known for. At 62 cubic feet of cargo space with thee rear seats folded down, it is easily one of the best in class even competing bigger vehicles such as the GMC Terrain and Hyundai Tucson. Materials in the X-Line are decent, and about what would be expected in a car just breaking the $21,000 mark. Most panels within touch are soft enough, while “leather” steering wheel and shift knob are definitely an upgrade class up the drivers experience. I found all four seats to be comfortable with leg room a non-issue for most people. One huge positive is the rear load floor is lower and wider than the past generation allowing easier loading into the back.
The most disappointing thing about the Soul is the experience. Driving the car is… well… a bit Soul-less. The “blistering” 147hp 2.0L I4 connected to a CVT is less than inspiring. While it is fast enough to not be dangerous, getting up to speeds and passing is an exercise in patience. I found the steering to be quite overboosted numbing most feel from the car making backroads quite boring. In reality, none of this will matter to 90% of people that would consider this car. It gets you from Point A to Point B very efficiently(around 30 mpg) and comfortably and that is all they will care about. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that and I applaud the Soul for being so incredibly good at that job. If fun driving is more your thing, the Soul can be picked up with the GT-Line Turbo package featuring a 1.6L Turbocharged I4 with 201hp attached to a 7 speed Dual Clutch Transmission(DCT). We will be driving the Soul Turbo soon and will know if it is truly worth the near $30,000 price tag for that extra pump of experience.
The features of the Soul lineup go from bare to baffling, and all the way to impressive. The $17,490 Soul LX has a 7” screen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and the federally mandated backup camera are all present. On the $20,290 S package, forward collision avoidance, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, drivers attention warning, and rear-cross traffic collision warning are all tacked on. The GT-Line is most of the Soul S, but with some red graphics and sporty touches and comes in at the same price. Now the baffling. The more expensive ($21,490) X-Line we tested takes everything from the S package away except rear-cross traffic collision warning while only adding the leather steering wheel and shift knob as well as some exterior cladding. I’m not sure why those additions are so expensive, especially for just $1200 more you can buy the Soul EX. The EX has everything of the S, but the screen is now 10.25”, the seats are 10-way electrically adjustable, the flip out key is replaced with a truly keyless entry and start, climate control is upgrade to two-zone, and the weak standard headlights are replaced with projector beams instead. The GT-Line Turbo is everything and the kitchen sink thrown into a Soul. We will wait to detail everything in it for when we review the GT-Line Turbo in a couple weeks. Until then, the EX is definitely the way to go. While much slower than the GT-Line Turbo, the efficiency and features are hard to beat for the completely reason price.
I found myself quite impressed with the Soul as a whole and am glad to see Kia did exactly what it needed to. They managed to keep everything fun about the first generation but tweaked the grown up factor just enough to make the car even more remarkable. With early sales figures looking promising, Kia has hit another home run for their lineup.