The 2020 Kia Soul enters its third generation this model year after just over a decade on the market. While other boxy crossovers have come and gone, the Soul continues to evolve with two available engines, more room for cargo, and a comprehensive infotainment system that puts the focus on fun.
A large part of what makes the Soul attractive is its fun factor. This starts with a design that doesn’t look like every other crossover. It’s cute no matter which of the six available trims you choose, but each has a distinct personality. Base models are more affordable and mild-mannered while the X-Line gets a more rugged appearance and the top GT-Line turn things sportier.
We spent our drive time in that sporty GT-Line, which is the most eye-catching of the lot. It gets a unique front and rear fascia, 18-inch alloy wheels, gloss black side mirrors, and red exterior accents. There’s also a leather-wrapped D-shaped steering wheel and gearshift knob.
However, it’s not solely about looks with the GT-Line. It comes standard with the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque found in the rest of the lineup, or you can upgrade. This is the only trim to offer a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque.
That’s a lot of power for what’s not a very large car, and it makes the Kia Soul a quick little thing. It’s responsive when you hit the gas and surprisingly quiet. We’ve driven both engine variants and while the smaller engine is very good, once you drive the turbocharged Soul, it’s the one you’re going to want.
Along with the turbocharged engine, there’s a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that makes good use of power with smooth quiet shifts. The rest of the lineup gets a continuously variable automatic with the option for a six-speed manual on the base trim only.
It handles well despite styling that might make you think performance wasn’t a priority. It’s not some sleek and sexy sports car that looks ready for a track. The Soul looks practical, but it takes corners without any body roll and has tight, centered steering. Even on winding roads, the Soul is fun and not cumbersome.
That nice, boxy cargo area has always been a big plus. It makes loading large or awkward items easy, and this year, that cargo room gets larger. There’s an additional five cubic feet for your stuff, which makes the Kia Soul more versatile than ever. There’s also a lower and wider liftgate opening and a dual level cargo board to make better use of that rear space.
When it comes time for people, even the tallest passengers will find plenty of headroom thanks to that boxy roof. Front seats are supportive with heavy bolstering, and it’s easy to find a comfortable seating position. The rear seats three with good legroom and headroom, but gets snug with more than two.
The Soul is also known for its entertaining interior lighting. This year the available mood lighting system gets an upgrade that offers a selection of what Kia calls moods and they even gave them fun names. Choose from six available configurations including Hey! Yo!, Party Time, and Midnight City.
The infotainment system includes a standard seven-inch color touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and six-speaker audio system. The X-Line gest an upgraded 10.25-inch touchscreen and wireless charging while the GT-Line with the turbo takes it a notch higher with a Harman Kardon premium audio system.
All but the base trim includes a range of Kia’s Drive Wise safety features, but exactly what you get varies with the trim. Available features include forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, lane change assist, driver attention warning, blind spot collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, smart cruise control, and a head up display.
The all-new 2020 Kia Soul stays true to its fun and quirky reputation while improving on the original. Find it at your local dealership now with pricing from $17,490 to $27,490.