When the Kia Soul was first introduced to the North American market, the commercials that Kia had for the car portrayed it as a funky crossover that was nothing like any other vehicle on the roads. It even had “hip” & “cool” hamsters driving it. Now in its 3rd generation, the Kia Soul is no longer being driven by hamsters in the ads. But does that mean it’s not funky and odd anymore?
Engine – In Canada, the Kia Soul is only offered with a 2.0L naturally aspirated engine that produces 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque. If you’re reading this in America, the top GT Line trim is available with a 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 201 hp. But back to the 2.0L engine, it is a bit less powerful than the previous 2019 2.0L engine however it is more fuel efficient. EnerGuide rates the 2020 2.0L engine at 8.6 L/100km (27.4 mpg) in a city and 7.1 L/100km (33.1 mpg) on a highway. Pretty good numbers for a city runabout.
The overall performance of the engine is not going to blow anyone away with blistering acceleration but it is just enough to get going off the line without aggravating drivers behind you.
Transmission – New for the 2020 model year is an “intelligent” continuously variable transmission. Kia’s engineers refer to it as an IVT and is the same one that’s found in other Kia & Hyundai vehicles such as the Elantra.
For the most part it behaves like any other CVT as in it holds the engine rpms when accelerating for optimal smooth acceleration but with with the least amount of fuel wasted. It does feel a bit better when compared to other CVT automatic as this IVT feels a bit more responsive. Virtual shift points are created when the transmission is in Sport mode and the driver can change virtual gears with the gear selector.
Braking – Stopping the 2020 Kia Soul GT Line is an easy task as the brakes fitted to it may seem small in size but have plenty of stopping force. In fact, in some cases the brake pedal may feel a bit too sensitive for some drivers as the brakes do a good job of stopping the approximately 1,350 kg body. Automatic emergency braking is standard across all trim levels except for the base LX trim.
Handling – Handling is pretty good for a subcompact crossover. Steering effort is light but gradually becomes tighter the more you turn at higher speed. It’s not as sporty as the sportiest of subcompact crossovers, the Mazda CX-3, but it is a better driving hatch than others in this segment.
Ride Comfort – The suspension is a tiny bit firmer on the Kia Soul than other crossovers in this segment but it doesn’t feel harsh when driving over bumps or potholes. The front seats provide good support for long journeys although the amount of adjustments is a bit limited.
Interior Space – At 6’4”, I fit comfortably in the front seats of the Kia Soul. There is a good amount of legroom, even for tall adults, and also enough headroom. The driving position is also quite high up so shorter drivers should have good visibility of the road ahead. The rear seats are tight for someone of my height but compared to other crossovers in this class, the Soul offers a tiny bit more passenger volume. It is the same story in terms of cargo capacity. The Kia Soul is slightly bigger than the competition at 633 L (22.4 cu-ft) behind the rear seats or 1,758 L (62.1 cu-ft) with the seats folded.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – For the most part the 2020 Kia Soul is much quieter when compared to its previous iterations. Yes, there is a good amount of wind noise when driving on a highway but it is a “box on wheels” after all. Despite that, you can still have a conversation with passengers without raising your voice and the wind noise won’t tire you on long highway journeys.
But the best improvement for the 3rd generation Kia Soul is the level of refinement. When driving down the road or over bumps, it feels solid. Yes, the materials are plastics but nothing rattles or squeaks. It feels like a well made product.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – This being a top spec trim, it has every feature and option added to it. These include features that one would expect from a modern compact family crossover such as heated seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a backup camera, forward collision alert with emergency automatic braking, blind spot detection, automatic climate control, and so on. All of these features work well and are not confusing to use or even to learn.
My only complaint about the gadgets is the heads-up display. It is a piece of glass that rises from the top of the dashboard which is very entertaining to watch it do that. But the information displayed on the screen is projected in such a way that it’s forcing me to look at the hood of the car. Worse still, it’s the back portion of the hood where it meets the windshield so there’s a cutoff line and it is very difficult for my eyes to continuously adjust to the HUD. A better HUD would be one that is projected onto the windshield like how Mazda has it in many of their models.
Interior Design – The 2020 Kia Soul has an almost dummy proof interior design. Everything is where one would expect it to be. There’s no need to spend hours watching YouTube videos on how to use a feature or gadget. All of the buttons are clearly labeled or have a clear figure as to what they do and there is no need to dive into infotainment menus to change something as simple as the temperature as there are physical buttons for climate, radio, and heated/ventilated seat functions.
This 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line is also equipped with ambient lighting that changes colour and reacts to the music that’s playing on the stereo. It does sound like a major distraction at night but once the car is put into drive, the ambient lights are dimmed.
Exterior Design – In my personal opinion the exterior design of the 2020 Kia Soul looks pretty good. It looks modern with the optional LED headlights and taillights and while it still is a “box on wheels”, there are enough curves in the bodywork to not make it look like the Volvo bricks of the 1980’s.
Overall the 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line is the quirky subcompact crossover that provides ample interior space for a growing family or someone that needs a city runabout with enough space to carry adults comfortably and their belongings. It starts at $21,195 CAD ($17,490 USD) while this range topping GT-Line trim is just shy of $30,000 at $29,595 CAD ($27,490 USD). It is a bit of an oddball in the subcompact crossover market so if you want something a bit traditional, take a look at the Mazda CX-3 or Honda Fit. But if you’re ok with the looks and shape of the Kia Soul, it’s one worth considering for it’s good value and interior space.
Thank you to Kia Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Kia.ca