Words by: Adam Allen
We discover some truths while peering deep into Kia’s new Soul
Soul Truth #1: Don’t mess with success.
The Soul has been an unmitigated smash hit for Kia- they’ve moved over one million of the things since they first hit showrooms a decade ago. When you strike sales gold like this, being careful with the launch of a new generation is of the utmost importance; you don’t want to risk alienating the buyers who are drawn to what the Soul has always brought to the table- fun, efficiency and practicality bundled together in a wrapper that says, “let’s play”. The Soul has always had distinctive styling, but this 3rd generation moves away from the folksy, cartoonish design cues to something that is decidedly sharper and more modern. You’ll not mistake the 2020 Soul for anything else which is a good thing- to our eyes, we think Peter Schreyer and Co. did an excellent job designing the Soul’s new duds.
Soul Truth #2: The same remains true from the last time a Kia Soul graced the Carpages Garage: boxes have always been good at holding stuff.
Is the Kia Soul the perfect tool for helping a friend move? It might not be the first thing you think of to get the job done but after experiencing its virtues in this context we decided that it undeniably brings a lot to the table, and then said table can be easily packed up and stowed in the cargo area. Most people would search their contact lists for a pal who’s got a pickup, but one of our staffers who identifies as a Millennial found the Soul to be the perfect vehicle to schlepp all thier worldly belongings to their new digs. Pretty much all the stuff was swallowed easily by the Soul in a couple of trips, it was much wieldier than a pickup truck in the ever tightening spaces of downtown Toronto. After all the gear was hauled and we retuned the seating positions back from being folded down, we couldn’t help but be impressed by the overall feeling of roominess imparted by the Soul. All four would-be movers (most of them on the taller side) were taken home in comfort and not one person lacked for space. It’s a commodious den inside the Soul and that has made it a perfect choice for those who have lifestyles that require a lot of gear be taken along but don’t need something ponderously big and thirsty to get the job done.
Soul Truth #3: The Soul may be a cheap and cheerful subcompact CUV, but inside it’s anything but.
With a price tag of under $30K, you aren’t likely expecting an interior that will upstage a luxury car, and you’d be right to do so. That said, our GT Line tester far exceeded expectations and (almost) caused us to break out our lengthy list of Kia models in the past that couldn’t compete in the same galaxy as our Soul, let alone on the same level. Suffice it to say that the Kia Soul puts a healthy amount of distance between past and present in the same way a supermodel might do from their painfully awkward high school yearbook photos. The choices for interior plastics seem well chosen and build quality is first rate. Our very generously outfitted tester had all kinds of goodies including heated and cooled seats and something that we rarely see even in cars that cost a heap of cash more- a power passenger seat. The icing on the cake was the newest version of Kia’s UVO infotainment system whose layout and interface reminded us of BMW’s iDrive- it’s just as responsive to commands an toggling about the various menus and it looks nearly as slick with sharp resolution and detailed graphics.
Soul Truth #4: Make it fun to drive and they will come.
The Kia Soul will never be mentioned in the same company as any comparable dedicated sporty offerings that might come to mind, but it isn’t inept from a dynamics standpoint either. Kia engineers have kept that cheeky chuckability intact and it remains a frisky runabout up to 8/10ths where at that point it gently suggests it might be time to settle down. Steering is crisp and responses aren’t dulled by the typical thicket of 1’s and 0’s we so often see with electrically assisted racks. As a result, handling is lively thanks in part to the wheels being pushed out to all four corners reminiscent of a Mini. Like the little German runabout, the Kia Soul is a car that you find yourself grinning while simply commuting. We can sum up the driving experience thusly- the Soul is much more fun than it needs to be.
Soul Truth #5: While excellence permeates many aspects of the Soul experience, there is room for improvement.
Aside from the CVT transmission- which is better than many others of similar ilk- could benefit from snappier responses and we wouldn’t miss the slurring you sometimes encounter around town. The biggest gripes we have after hanging out with the Soul isn’t with what it has but what it doesn’t. All-wheel drive is still not on the menu, and we think Kia might have missed an opportunity to appeal to a huge swath of buyers that are demanding AWD these days. Sending power to all four corners would make what is already a hugely practical vehicle even more so. If all-wheel drive ever does become a part of the conversation, we can’t help but suggest that the makings of an epic hot-hatch type crossover would be a solid foundation on which to make a truly memorable car, one that could join the Stinger in Kia’s fledging portfolio of sports cars. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for this unlikely scenario to come to fruition, but it’s not like Kia is finding it tough to sell every Soul it can build.
Soul Truth #6: There’s a ton of choice in the segment, but the Kia Soul is best.
Perhaps you are considering an Honda HR-V or maybe a Jeep Renegade to fill the void of a subcompact crossover in your life. They are both good choices- but they are not as solid an option as the Kia Soul. The only area where the Soul can’t compete with those two and a plethora of others is the lack of all-wheel drive. Put a good set of winter tires and the gap closes and unless you live in an area that gets dumped on all winter, you likely won’t miss it. For the price of admission, there simply isn’t a challenger that offers Soul’s mix of handsome styling (without sacrificing any practicality) fun, and of course, value.
2020 Kia Soul GT Line Limited– Specifications
- Price as tested: $29,595
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger UHV
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
- Transmission: Continuously Variable Automatic
- Engine: 2.0 litre inline-four DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 147 @ 6,200 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 132 @ 4,500 rpm
- Curb weight: 1,393 kg (3,071 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 10.2L/100km (23 mpg)