The 2020 Kia Soul is the all-new third-generation of the stylish, funky, and wildly successful Korean hot box. Forget the hamster wheel Soul of days past because Kia has turned the Soul into a hot hatch with the introduction of the 201-horsepower Soul GT-LINE 1.6 Turbo.

Soul GT-Line

In just two generations, the Kia Soul managed to establish itself as one of the favorite vehicles among young car buyers, with its blend of style and technology at a very affordable price. Since its introduction in 2009, Kia has managed to put over a million Souls in the hands of buyers in the United States alone. In just 11 short years, the Soul became an immediately distinguishable design icon from Kia. One look and you knew it was a Kia Soul moving down the road. For 2020, Kia has evolved the formula for the Soul’s success into the future for the third generation and taken the iconic design into the future.

Soul GT-Line

Design & Packaging

The 2020 Kia Soul still retains the vertical sides and box-like profile but has added aggressive but stylish changes. The front end tightens up the lines and stretches them outward to subtly flared fenders. The headlights are low profile and have signature LED DRL light pipes around the LED headlamps that give the Soul extra presence, helped with the large black grille area below them. On the rear of the vehicle, the Kia Soul’s LED “boomerang” taillights integrate seamlessly into the rear hatch area, giving the entire car a bit of a futuristic space helmet look. Twin exhaust pipes finish off the rear end. Overall, the Soul has a very athletic look to it and looks great from any angle.

The Soul has always been a showcase of interior packaging ingenuity, giving the small box a massive interior. The 2020 Kia Soul improves on an already excellent package by adding 1.2-inches to the wheelbase, and 2.2 inches added overall. This extra length means more space for people and their stuff. On the subject of hauling stuff, the 2020 Soul has a broader and lower hatch opening that yields access to 24.2 cu. ft. of cargo space with the seats up, and 62 cu. ft with the rear seats folded down.

Interior Style and Tech

For the Soul’s price point, the mixture of soft-touch surfaces and hard plastics are very acceptable. All materials feel high quality and make the Soul feel like a very welcoming place to be for long road trips. Given the younger target demographic for buyers of the Soul, Kia has amped up the RGB lighting treatment throughout the cabin. There are colored lights on the door cards, near the door pulls, and on the speakers. While these felt a bit gimmicky in the earlier generations of the Soul, I enjoyed how they made the cabin feel in the current model.

The front seats are comfortable and supportive. The rear seat has slightly more legroom than before with a nicely angled backrest for added comfort on longer trips. Legroom can be a little tight in the rear seats for individuals over 6-feet tall.

As with all modern Kias, the Soul packs an incredible amount of technology at its price point. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included across the Soul line-up, and GT-Line models receive a 10.3-inch widescreen display for the infotainment system. The wide aspect ratio makes it easy to divide up the screen with CarPlay and additional sections displayed on the screen simultaneously. The touch interface is fast and very user-friendly, which is something that even luxury car makers struggle to achieve at times.

The 10-speaker, 640-watt Harmon Kardon Premium sound system, is exclusive to the Soul GT-Line and is a total gem. Sound is clear even at volume, and the cabin is well damped for sound, so nothing rattles when you’re pumping out the jams. The aforementioned ambient lighting is configurable to dance with the beat of the music, but I found it to be more distracting than anything else in my advanced age.

Safety Features

The 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line receives the Kia Drive Wise safety suite of features a driver attention warning, forward collision avoidance, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and rear cross-traffic alerts. Hill-start assist is also standard.

Driving the Soul

The heart of the Kia Soul GT-Line is the new 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that produces a healthy 201-horsepower and 195lb-ft of torque. Power is transferred to the front wheels by way of a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Hit the Sport mode button, and the Kia Soul turns into a sporty hatch by stiffening up the steering and changing the driving program to be more aggressive. The transmission is responsive and doesn’t hunt for gears unnecessarily. Throttle response is good in sport mode, without too much turbo lag or torque steer. While the Soul GT-Line isn’t going to unseat the VW GTI as the king of hot hatches, it certainly is a ton of fun to drive.

The Soul GT-Line 1.6 is rated at 27mpg city, 32mpg highway, and a combined rating of 29mpg. I observed a very respectable 30mpg overall in mixed driving conditions over 325 miles of driving.

Conclusion

Our 2020 Soul GT-Line 1.6 price as-tested was $28,710, with the only options being a $130 carpeted floor mat package, and a $95 cargo tray. That’s a ton of value packed into the Soul for not a lot of money. The Soul is undoubtedly a compelling package from a performance and styling standpoint and holds its own against the competition like the Honda HR-V and Toyota CH-R. The Soul has a great personality, made possible by combining an iconic look with the latest tech and enjoyable driving experience.  For under $29k, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something in its segment more satisfying to drive than the 2020 Soul GT-Line.

Key Specs

2020 Kia Soul GT-Line 1.6

Engine – 1.6-liter, 201-horsepower turbo 4-cylinder

Transmission/Drive Configuration – 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, Front-Wheel Drive

Fuel Economy – EPA 27/32/29mpg city/highway/combined, 30mpg observed in real-world driving

Price as-tested – $28,710 incl. $995 destination charge

Warranty – 5 year/60,000 bumper to bumper warranty, 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty

Kia Motors America provided Speed:Sport:Life with the 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line with a full tank of gas for review.

 

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Zerin Dube