Unconventional, weird, boxy, why hamsters? Those are the thoughts we had when the Kia Soul entered the fray in 2010. We also thought the little non-conformist wouldn’t last, either. We were wrong.
Instead, the Soul went a bit viral in the automotive sphere, quickly becoming one of the South Korean automaker’s best-selling vehicles. There were years it was the top seller. Awards and critical raves came along as well. Why? Probably because the darned thing never took itself too seriously.
And, for its just-unveiled, third-generation model, the all-new 2020 Kia Soul is a little older and a little wiser, but still dances like no one is watching.
Speaker lights are a hallmark of the Soul. Initially, the door panels would only glow red to the rhythmic bass emitting from the speakers. But as the vehicle’s popularity grew and technology updated through the years, that plain old single-color illumination just wouldn’t do.
So, no surprise, the new generation Soul makes a strong point to highlight not just driving fun but the sound experience as well. Infotainment features are an obvious must, and the 2020 Kia Soul comes standard with smartphone integration and multiple-device Bluetooth connectivity, plus an available 640-watt Harman Kardon audio package.
Note that this new sound system offers twice the wattage of the current Soul model, and features an amplifier along with 10 speakers, which includes a tuned center speaker and subwoofer.
Also new is an available 10.25-inch HD color split-screen touchscreen so one can better conduct their in-car orchestra. Because whether you play the latest Backstreet Boys single on repeat or simply shuffle through a 5,000-song music library, the new mood lighting system is going to make audiophiles feel more connected than ever.
As the music plays, a soft light will emanate from the center of the door panels as well as its upper portion, highlighting a 3D pattern surface. Color choices are multiple and customizable, as is synchronization with the glowing beat.
And if you’re suffering a particular disposition, perhaps you’ll be inclined to shift that focus via pre-programmed moods such as “Café,” “Midnight City,” “Romance,” “Traveling,” “Party Time,” and “Hey! Yo!” Rock that dad-band, mumble-rap, country electronica, or classical piano however you head bang, yo.
Now that you’ve set your traveling tone, the 2020 Kia Soul can be optioned via six trims (two all-new), two engines, and three transmissions. LX, S, EX, and EX Designer Collection are now joined by X-Line and GT-Line, both of which are positioned as mid-level grades.
A standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine will be mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a new-for-2020 intelligent variable transmission (Kia’s take on the CVT). Output is 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. An available turbocharged, 1.6-liter inline-4 will be paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and offer 201 hp and 195 pound-feet of torque.
Let’s not forget about the Soul EV, though. Featuring an all-new, 64-kWh battery pack and with DC fast-charging as standard, recharging stops should be quicker and more infrequent. Performance gets a hefty boost as well with the EV now offering 201 horsepower and 291 pound-feet of torque (a 39-percent increase on the latter). Yeesh.
The box star, however, remains very much a box yet somehow also forward-thinkingly fashionable. The Soul keeps its distinctive silhouette but receives a new front look featuring a slimline headlight and DRL design, a larger front grille and fog lamp assembly, an updated front fender, and wraparound taillights.
The EV model receives its own updates including restyled front and rear fascias, a solid front-grille insert, different fog lights, and a unique 17-inch wheel design. The GT-Line and X-Line trims for gasoline models offer 18-inch wheels, trim-specific badging, and distinctive styling. The GT-Line leans sporty with red and black accents while the X-Line goes rugged with the addition of body cladding and overfenders.
The strongest box yet
Regardless of style and sound, the Soul’s dimensions change only slightly. Its 102.4-inch wheelbase is only 1.2 inches longer than the current model, and its total length extends just 2.2 inches more to 165.2. Height and width are unchanged. There are changes to the vehicle’s interior headroom and legroom, but the plus and minuses are minimal. Cargo capacity, however, increases by 5.0 cubic feet to 23.8 cubic feet.
And the Kia Soul is as easy as ever to use with thoughtful improvements like a wider, lower liftgate for better accessibility, adding an easy grip handle on the liftgate, offering a dual-level rear cargo board for various sized items, and creating larger front door openings.
Additionally, with increased usage of advanced high-strength steel, hot-stamped components, and structural adhesive, the all-new Soul features a stronger overall structure. High safety ratings are expected when testing is conducted.
All 2020 Kia Souls also feature the automaker’s suite of safety technologies under its Kia Drive Wise umbrella, which includes standard and available features such as forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.