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2020 Kia Soul

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Overview (Final Score: B) Traditionally a crossover-SUV is as much car as it is sport utility. Some vehicles, like the Soul, buck that trend, using the best bits of crossover design (namely interior roominess and a higher ride height) with a mostly car-based focus. This has struck a chord with many buyers, especially those interested in a traditional sedan or hatchback, but who want more room without going to a full-blown SUV. The Soul has defined and dominated that automotive demographic since its introduction. While others have come and gone, only the Kia Soul has remained a best-seller. The Kia Soul has been totally redesigned for the 2020 model year with a lot of good updates, including a slightly larger footprint and more interior space. New powertrain options, some restyling, and a lot of added features are high points of this third-generation Soul. The 2020 Kia Soul is a five-passenger hatchback. Available in six trim models, it has two engine options (depending on trim chosen) and either a six-speed manual, continuously variable transmission (CVT), or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

What We Love About the 2020 Kia Soul:

  • Strong feature set for the price paid in most trims
  • Roomier and more comfortable thank the outgoing model
  • Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, among other features

What We Don't Love About the 2020 Kia Soul:

  • Noisy on the freeway
  • Disappointing transmission for the turbo model
  • Some interior elements feel cheap

Exterior View (9/10) Part of the Kia Soul's appeal has always been its near-cartoonish quality. With a square-on-square-on-round-wheels design, the Soul looks a lot like a smoothed over version of what a third grader would draw as a car. This works in the Soul's favor, adding a whimsical, quirky flair that grabs the onlooker's attention. From there, Kia gets more stylish with the new 2020 model Soul. The car now features a floating rear pillar, a narrowing greenhouse to denote forward motion, and a clamshell hood over a thin grille and large lower intake. This design emphasizes the front windscreen, as the Soul always has, while adding a sporty touch to the overall bodywork. Adding in the physically larger size of the Soul, which is visibly obvious when seeing it next to an outgoing model, it's clear that this is a more spacious option. Wheels pushed towards the corners and a wider-appearing rear door add to that impression.

Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (8/10) The interior of the 2020 Kia Soul is a big uptick from the previous-generation car, but still remains somewhat disappointing. There are unique styling elements throughout, but for the most part the Soul's interior design is plain and monotone. Materials quality is maybe average, but nothing special. On the upside, seats are comfortable and there's a lot more room in this Soul. Seating three across in the rear is a squeeze - this is a compact, after all. It's doable when required, though, and two kids in safety seats or two adults on the outboard is realistic. Even with tall folks up front, knee room is pretty good in the back seats. Cargo space is also much larger by comparison, with more usable space than was had in the last-gen Soul. There are a lot of upgrades for the Soul's interior available, depending on trim level chosen. Cloth seating is standard and one of the better options, but leatherette and real leather are also options. Headroom is good in all renditions and legroom is good as well. Parents will like the LATCH connectors in the rear seat for up to two child safety seats. 14757_2020_soul_gt-line

Technology (9/10) Kia added a lot more technology to the 2020 Soul. The UVO infotainment system is standard in all models, starting with a 7-inch touchscreen. A USB port, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a six-speaker audio system are standard. Upgrades include a wireless device charger, a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen, navigation, and a Harman Kardon premium audio system with HD radio and satellite radio. The navigation upgrade adds two more USB ports to the cabin (making for two up front, one in the rear).

Fuel Economy (8/10) Fuel economy in the 2020 Kia Soul is not as good as many might hope for. The EPA rates the base engine at 27 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway (with CVT equipped). That's more on par with SUVs than with cars. The engine upgrade lowers fuel economy to 27/32 city/highway. The manual transmission option lowers those returns even further. In the real world, our Kia Soul GT with the turbocharged engine upgrade and automatic transmission returned only 28 mpg overall after a week of driving. Well below expectation.

Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (8/10) The 2020 Kia Soul has no reliability ratings to draw from, being an all-new vehicle. There have been no safety recalls though, and Kia's history with reliability is about average for the market. Kia's excellent 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and 5-year bumper-to-bumper warranty are good indicators for us.

Safety (10/10) As of this writing, the 2020 Kia Soul has not been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but it has received crash test ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS gave the 2020 Soul a Top Safety Pick Plus rating, with top scores of "Good" on all crash tests, plus a relatively rare "Good" result for headlamps and a "Superior" result for optional crash prevention technologies. Several driver assistance and safety features are now offered in the 2020 Kia Soul as part of the Drive Wise suite of systems. 14755_2020_soul_gt-line

Performance (8/10) The 2020 Kia Soul remains engaging to drive most of the time, but isn't sporty or quick in any rendition, including the turbocharged models. It's smooth and predictable, but not interesting. The base engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that outputs 147 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) are available for that engine. This combination proves to be good for everyday driving. Notably, the Kia Soul is front-wheel drive only. The upgrade option for some trims is a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that outputs 201 horsepower to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. This seems great on paper, but the transmission often misreads shifts and hesitates to downshift, making the car feel a lot less sporty than the power output deserves. We blame this on poor programming, as other vehicles using this same dual-clutch automatic drive very well.

Pricing and Value (10/10) Compared to compact crossover SUVs and small cars, the Kia Soul presents a unique and well-done combination of value and versatility. Being all-new this year, the Soul will see sales surge and some price uptick to go with that. But being one of the least expensive options when compared to compact crossovers, it's still a good value. The Kia Soul has won several awards in the past and present for its value proposition and we think those are well deserved. Most buyers will probably want to look at the EX package for the best mix of amenities for the price paid. 14743_2020_soul_gt-line

Total Score and Competitive Comparison (62/80, 78%) Comparables to the 2020 Kia Soul are hard to come by, as it competes directly with both compact hatchbacks and compact crossover-SUVs. Most comparable are the Hyundai Kona, Nissan Kicks, and  Mazda Mazda3. The Kona is a very close match to the Soul, but has a more likable interior. The Nissan Kicks is competitive with its better drive quality and roomier cargo area, but not as price competitive. The Mazda3 in its hatchback format is a superior drive and more engaging , but has less interior room all around. Because the Kia Soul basically exists in a unique segment all its own, it's difficult to compare. However, it is fully its own thing and happy being that way. We like the 2020 model's upgrade in size, interior roominess, and technology. Ride quality is better, drive quality is about the same, and trim choices - while sometimes a bit confusing - are varied enough to give plenty of choices. The 2020 Kia Soul remains a well-done vehicle that's worth considering if AWD is not a requirement.

Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
Wagon - FWD
LX LX Manual 4 Cylinder FWD 17490
LX LX IVT 4 Cylinder FWD 18990
S S IVT 4 Cylinder FWD 20290
GT-Line GT-Line IVT 4 Cylinder FWD 20290
X-Line X-Line IVT 4 Cylinder FWD 21490
EX EX IVT 4 Cylinder FWD 22690
GT-Line Turbo GT-Line Turbo DCT 4 Cylinder FWD 27490

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