2020 Kia Soul: Wildly Successful Box Matures … Cautiously

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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2020 kia soul wildly successful box matures cautiously

Forget about the “+” and “!” trim levels you’ve grown used to — they’re gone come the 2020 model year. For its upcoming redesign, the long-running Kia Soul subcompact (dare we call it a crossover?) grows slightly in length but much more in maturity, adopting a meaner visage and a trim roster mimicking that seen on other Kia models.

The new face, which calls to mind the Dodge Charger of all vehicles, is but one of a host of changes for 2020. One thing that doesn’t change is the model’s inherent funkiness. This thing hasn’t become staid.

Buyers of the 2020 Soul will choose from six trim levels — LX, S, X-Line, GT-Line, EX, and EX Designer Collection — and they’ll discover the base 1.6-liter four-cylinder is nowhere to be found. That 130 horsepower mill disappears, replaced by a 2.0-liter mill sourced from the Kia Forte and Hyundai Elantra on the bottom end.

Power amounts to 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque, transmitted to the front wheels via a six-speed manual or Kia’s “intelligent variable transmission” (IVT) — a unit also borrowed from the Forte. An available 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder returns with 201 hp and 195 lb-ft, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

For 2020, the Soul’s wheelbase grows 1.2 inches in length, with overall length stretching a further 2.2 inches. Width and height stays put. Cargo volume grows slightly, by five cubic feet, though rear legroom shrinks by three-tenths of an inch. Are you likely to notice this? No.

You will notice, however, the host of design changes, which include narrower headlamps underscored by an LED light bar and a gaping lower grille that looks ready to suck up house pets. Wraparound side vents add muscularity. The high, vertically oriented tail lamps seen on previous models now migrate partway around the rear glass. Kia has also added a garnish to the C-pillar, ensuring passers-by know it’s a Soul they’re looking at, not some weird resurrected Scion. Of course, the car’s profile remains strongly that of a Soul.

If you’re really in the mood to show off, the GT-Line and X-Line trims are your baby. The former is all about sport (new front and rear fascias, black side mirrors, side skirts with red accents, 18-inch rubber, badging, chrome-tipped center exhaust, plus an available turbo engine and upgraded brakes), while the X-Line makes your Soul look like you’re ready to tackle the Oregon Trail. Body cladding, overfed fenders, and other off-road-inspired flourishes (minus all-wheel drive) appear on X-Line.

If that doesn’t fulfill your needs, the EX Designer Collection dons black-spoke 18-inch wheels, LED headlights and foglights, and two-tone paint.

The upgrades continue inside, with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and an available 10.25-inch touchscreen (it’s standard on EX and GT-Line, assuming you’ve optioned the latter trim with the turbo engine). Two Bluetooth users can now connect at any given time, and there’s an eight-inch head-up display on the options list. Safety features run the gamut, though Kia didn’t break down their availability across the trim range.

Lest you feel the Soul has lost some of its, um, soul in the redesign, Kia wants to ensure you’re aware of its new mood lighting system. What could be more funky and fresh than tailoring the ambient light in your car’s cabin to set the tone of the evening? Your choices amount to six cringe-inducing colors: “Hey! Yo!” (what in God’s name…), “Party Time” (isn’t it always, when you’re driving a Soul?), “Travelling” (boooooring), “Romance” (tell us more), “Midnight City” (wasn’t that a Cars album?), and “Cafe” (don’t tell us more).

As for pricing, Kia’s not revealing that until closer to the 2020 Soul’s on-sale date in the first half of next year.

[Images: Kia Motors]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Goatshadow Goatshadow on Nov 30, 2018

    Why would anyone buy the useless, ugly Hyundai Veloster when this is available?

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Dec 02, 2018

    Is the ride any better than before? I rented a Soul and was a little taken aback by how stiff, crude and bouncy the ride was. In fairness, it was an Ohio winter, so maybe the cold left the shocks stiffer, I dunno.

  • Tassos Unlike Tim, I don't use this space as a wastebasket for ANYTHING BUT a proper used car.If you seriously need a car AND you are as destitute as Tim's finds imply, HERE IS A PROPER ONE FOR YOUR NEEDS:You can probably get it for only $4k, WITH Leather, Factory Navigation, plenty of room and a V6.https://www.cars.com/research/toyota-camry-2005/I even considered getting it myself as an extra reliable car.
  • Jeff Of all the EV trucks I like the Rivian the best but I am still years away if ever from buying an EV.
  • Kwik_Shift I definitely like the looks of the newest 300s over the Chargers.
  • SCE to AUX "Should car companies shack up with tech giants in order to produce legible infotainment systems and the like? Or should they go it alone?"Great question(s).The River Rouge days are gone, where Ford produced whole cars out of raw materials entering the plant at the other end. Nearly everything is outsourced these days - sometimes well, sometimes disastrously.But the problem with infotainment systems is that they are integrated with the car's operation. VW has delayed entire products for issues with infotainment.For me, the question boils down to a contractual arrangement - who owns and maintains the code forever? Since more and more of the car's function is tied to the infotainment system, I'd argue that the car mfr needs to own it - especially the larger ones.Do mfrs really want to share intellectual property with Huawei just to fast-track some code they've managed themselves in the past?
  • Kwi65728132 I always did like the styling of the 300C and it was on my short list for a new (to me) rear wheel drive, naturally aspirated V8 luxury sedan but I found a Hyundai Equus that was better optioned than any 300C I could find and for several grand less.