Model tested: Kia Soul GT Line 1.6 Turbo
Engine: 1.6-liter Gas Direct Injection Turbo Engine
Transmission: 7-speed Dual Clutch Automatic
Torque: 195 Lb-Ft
EPA ratings: 27/city, 32/highway, 29/combined
Base Price: $27,490
As Tested: $28,710
Overview: The Kia Soul is our favorite of all the quirky vehicles like the Nissan Cube, Scion xB and Honda Element that all debuted around the same time. The difference is the Soul has outlived them all to claim the title of Last Quirk Standing.
The 2020 Soul is slightly bigger, with a new seemingly smiley face. Although most of the interior is new, its timeless boxy exterior — which has obviously grown on most of us — is basically unchanged.
The Soul’s base power plant is a 147-horse 2.0-liter. However our test vehicle was the 1.6-liter turbo-4, and this review will focus on that model.
Walkaround: The Soul’s boxy exterior is basically unchanged. When sheetmetal changes on most vehicles about every three years, Kia’s thinking is obviously, “If it ain’t broke, and people still love, don’t fix it.”
The styling is evolutionary — meaning it’s become more angular yet smoother, \than previously — with modest tweaks at the windowline and the taillights, which remain upward sweeping wide boomerangs.
Depending on the model, the Soul offers three headlight designs, and the aforementioned smiling grille.
Interior: The Soul interior is well-laid out, and the popular things haven’t changed. Materials quality is good for this price point — durable and cleanable.
The center touchscreen dominates the dash, and the popular speaker lights have been upgraded. Our GT Line test driver featured the large touchscreen, illuminated door speakers and a unique instrument cluster. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are offered and our tester featured a Harman Kardon audio system.
The Soul boasts excellent small storage that includes cubbies and shelves galore. There’s also ample room for four six-foot adults, and a fifth can squeeze in. The rear seats offer generous leg room, although the rear door openings can make entry somewhat awkward for some. Also, when the rear hatch is raised, a six-footer can’t stand upright under it because the Soul’s roof is lower than its boxy shape suggests.
Behind The Wheel: In spite of its low base entry-level price, the Soul is just fun to drive — which is an accomplishment at this price point. which is already saying a lot.
The 1.6-liter turbo-4 is optional in the Soul GT Line, and power comes in what feels like chunks while winding up the turbo at highway speeds. However we didn’t see a lot of difference between a standard CVT found on lots of other vehicles — including the lower trim level Soul, and the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission in the GT model with the turbo engine. At low speeds, the twin-clutch seems to sometimes hesitate momentarily while deciding which gear is best.
The Soul’s ride is composed and more supple than you might expect from a short-wheelbase economy vehicle.
The Soul handles confidently, and in Sport mode the steering is firm. On the highway the Soul tracks in a straight line — something not always found with a short-wheelbase, front-wheel drive vehicle.
Bottom Line: The Soul delivers some things you neither expect, nor receive, for the money in other econoboxes — a smooth ride, ample room for five passengers, and lots of cargo space. Overall, we love the Soul for its fun factors as much as the other reasons. It’s a great value for the money.