By on November 29, 2018

Image: Kia

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.

Image: Kia

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.

Image: Kia

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.

Image: Kia

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.

Image: Kia

[Images: Kia Motors]

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44 Comments on “2020 Kia Soul: Wildly Successful Box Matures … Cautiously...”

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    No AWD this time around? The Soul now shares a platform with the Hyundai Kona so it should be an easy offering.

    • 0 avatar

      ^this, there was talk about the possibility of AWD, but it sounds like it has everything but

    • 0 avatar

      I say, great! Fewer customers will pay for something they don’t really need.

    • 0 avatar

      And the first post. We wonder why sedans are disappearing.

      No AWD! OMG! Death trap if it snows!!! Danger! Woe! Horrors! Must have AWD to be safe. Must be lifted to see better! Must be bigger to survive a crash!

      Danger! Danger! Danger!

      Us old farts all the way back in the 80s and 90s drove in FWD in the snow and we got around fine. My parents – the horrors! RWD!!! Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!! How did we ever survive???

      • 0 avatar

        For those years when a lot of snow storms occur and the plows have pushed the snow really high at intersections, I’ll take the higher seating. I’m not a fan of sticking the cars nose out 6 feet so I can on coming traffic a half second before it hits me.

        AWD? Big deal. MAYBE 1 MPG lost. Get a better job to pay for it.
        Also, my old Accord really didn’t fit the bike very good.
        Having a roof rack for that on a car just seemed stupid.
        Also, my life and what I put in back is much easier with a SUV.
        Also the seat height and having arthritis are much better.

        Thanks for wanting to ridiculing peoples choices because they
        don’t coincide with yours.

        So, in Soviet Russia a local farmer buys a cow. Makes a couple of bucks on the
        side. The neighboring farmer goes to the local party headquarters to complain.
        They ask him, what do you want, a cow like him?
        No, I want you to kill my neighbors cow.

        ApaGttH the neighboring farmer. If you aren’t like him you are stupid and shouldn’t
        have personal choice.

      • 0 avatar

        Exactly and your grandma drove in snow with manual steering, three-on-the-tree and RWD. Today’s drivers are hothouse flowers.

      • 0 avatar

        “Back in my day…”

        “when I was your age…”

        Just because we CAN do without doesn’t mean we SHOULD do without, go yell at a cloud grandpa

  • avatar

    More Korean car goodness. I don’t understand why GM or Ford can’t build something like this that sells.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis


      Ford & GM loyalists would not buy this vehicle. It’s weak in to many areas. The automotive press would distroy this vehicle if it was a Ford or GM product. The Cheap hard plastic interior and poor driving dynamics would be a death sentence.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree Ford and GM types wouldn’t buy this, and it’s an interesting question whether the press would bash the Soul if it came from GM. I don’t remember the critical response to the Chevy HHR, which also had a boxy/funky vibe, but as I recall it didn’t last long.

        But I think the Soul drives pretty well. I’ve logged several hundred miles in rental Souls, mostly in and around Portland, OR, and they’re fantastic in the city and perfectly acceptable on the highway. While it’s no Civic Si by any means, I think the handling is great in normal driving, and the straightforward controls are refreshing. (BTW, I’m referring to the current generation with the 160hp motor. The previous generation wasn’t nearly as good.)

        If the Soul had more cargo room behind the rear seats, I may have bought one, but we ended up with a Forester. Less fun, but more function.

        • 0 avatar

          The Chevy HHR was ROASTED in the press universally, sans the SS model with a manual.

          I had one as a rental and did some significant driving (2.2L 4/auto). My impressions were it was a great city car (was driving SFO and SMF), got shockingly good MPG, and was utilitarian in a good way.

          In the minus columns the paint on the front clip was chipped to Hell at just 28K miles so super thin paint, noisy, mediocre egonomics for anything that wasn’t attached to the steering column, oversized c-pillars and acres and acres of cheap black plastic.

          The Holy Grail of HHRs is a SS panel van with the 5-speed. They do exist, but not many were made. They sell for stupid money.

          In SS guise it was a wolf in sheeps clothing.

          But the press roasted the Cobalt Wagon, errr, HHR.

          • 0 avatar

            HHR was basically a PT Cruiser ripoff

            But yes I will take an SS manual or a GT Cruiser manual.

            The silliest thing to me about the HHR was what the letters stood for – “Heritage High Roof”

  • avatar

    Making successful small cars is no mystery – just give it some character and bigger than average interior space. Works for Nissan and Kia, despite offering largely lacklustre vehicles.

  • avatar

    This is actually good. Get rid of the wayward crease on the bottom of the doors and the stamp between the front door and the fender and it would be better.

  • avatar

    Man, this looks really good. The EV version is a lot more appealing. It’s just too bad Kia doesn’t deliver this high level of design across the range. Stinger and Sportage look good, but the Optima, Forte, Sorento and Rio all either look cheap or boring.

    • 0 avatar

      I JUST had an Optima as a rental for a week out of SMF. My impression was this, cheap and boring and poorly built. If this is representative of one of the best midsize sedans money can buy per multiple reviews, no wonder sedans are dying in the United States. How anyone would pick this over an Accord, Camry or for that matter a Fusion, I could never understand.

      In the plus column it was a nice driving car. It had the right balance of road feel and responsive versus isolation for a bread and butter sedan. The trunk was HUGE and the driver seat was comfortable. Infotainment screen was good, when Apple Carplay worked right. When I focused on just the driving experience, it was a great car.

      In the minus column holy cheap black plastic Batman! I don’t think that car had a soft touch surface in it. It got abysmal fuel economy for a 4-cylinder, and it looked cheap both inside and out. At 27K miles some of the exterior black trim was already oxidizing and the car was showing a ton of wear. Apple Carplay was problematic particularly the Pandora integration which would die sometimes or take forever to load. It’s a shame because the overall design of the Infotainment system is solid.

      27K miles for a rental at the end of its life for rental duty is like 60K to 75K miles in the real world. It was clear by the dings this had it had suffered 27K very hard miles as a rental, but this car was spent. I feel sorry for anyone who buys this after it moves on to civilian duty.

      • 0 avatar

        I had a factory-fresh (66 miles) Optima LX-FE rental and it got me 43mpg over a 4 hour trip including some NYC traffic, 40mpg on the way back. I likewise found the ride/handling balance to be excellent. I didn’t think the interior stood out as particularly cheap, perfectly mid-pack for the class, and it felt a bit better than its 2016 Sonata sister car I rented a few years prior.

        I think rental wear can strongly affect our perceptions of cars, I had an Altima with 40k hard, smoked-in miles and it left a substantially worse impression I think than if it had been a fresh unit like the Optima.

  • avatar

    I am big fan of cars like this. But man, GT 1.6Lt and no Manual? On the other hand, who wants to drive that manual if the clutch they use is pretty [email protected]? Stinger also – no manual. Kia just does not want us to have fun.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      Actually, they need to make profit…and there are too few of us three pedal phreaks to make any money with. I don’t like it, but I get it….

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t mean to parrot you, but maybe you speak about things I wish to speak about—

      Manual transmissions aren’t any good these days. My last 3 cars have all left me wanting for a better clutch/shifter and better gearing.

      2008, 2015 and now a 2018 model. The high point was the 1998 neon I drove in high school. Since that car, no clutch has been satisfying or easy to modulate.

      Modern traction control blunts engine power at-will. Clutch dampers make clutch engagement points a guessing game. Hill-hold assist and automatic, solenoid-actuated, parking brakes burn the clutches on every incline. Automatic AWD/4×4 systems do not know what to do with manual transmissions.

      The manual transmission isn’t what it once was, and it never will be again.

      • 0 avatar

        That still leaves it one, rather than perhaps two, orders of magnitude more desirable than a slush dispenser….

      • 0 avatar


        I don’t know what you drove but all my Mazdas have/had great clutches and transmissions. I drove ’16 Mustang GT- great clutch/tranny. My favorite MT – 10-11 Mazda3. my 240sx was pretty good too. Worst clutches I tried – ’11 Corolla, ’17 Elantra sport. ’11 Corolla tranny also as bad as it gets. In fact, I never had my personal vehicle with AT. So, I’ve seen many shifts in my life.

        • 0 avatar

          Anything remotely modern with a manual is going to feel the same.

          Mush take-up, vague engagement and jerky, unpredictable starts by all the geegaws.

          I’m 40 and have been driving manuals the whole while— it isn’t operator error. They universally feel terrible and seem ill-suited to their engines in modern cars.

          My current car has 3 overdrives lol 4th, 5th or 6th— they all feel/sound the same.

          Theres no reason to buy a manual now, and im a manual person.

          • 0 avatar

            FWIW, Hyundai and Kia are rapidly improving their manual transmissions. All of the journalists who have reviewed the Accent and Rio in base form with the 6MT say it’s excellent, probably the best the companies have ever offered(!).

          • 0 avatar

            Another new Mazda 3 owner, with a 6 speed. It’s easily the best manny tranny I’ve ever driven- and I’ve driven dozens of different cars, from the 1940’s through modern stuff, with manual gearboxes. I can take off as smoothly as any automatic, it easily manages stop-and-go traffic, or I can bang the revs to the stratosphere and leave headlights rapidly disappearing in the rearview. A 3-6 shift on the highway after a spirited merge feels as natural as breathing.

            I just got a 2018 Corolla as a rental car for a week- the slushbox in that felt like a jet boat sloshing around in a pool of petroleum jelly in February. And the car only had 9000 miles on it. I can’t wait to get home and back to my 3.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I like Soul. When I travel on biz, I frequently get one as a rental. I really like the forward view through that enormous glass, I like the headroom, and I like the shoulder room. Entry and egress is great. It is hard to find much to fault on such an inexpensive car. Yes, I would buy one.

  • avatar

    I like the evolution of the design and the vehicle in general , something Toyota really didn’t do well with the Scion Xb. I had a Soul once as a rental and while I wasn’t blown away by it, I was impressed enough to consider one as a purchase.

    Now, if only the Kia dealer near me would take down its giant inflatable “Hamstar” and sock monkey from 20 ad campaigns ago, maybe I’d set foot in a Kia showroom.

  • avatar

    What the Scion xB should of and could of been had Toyota given a crap.

  • avatar

    I always liked the Soul and the Juke, CUVs that made no pretence about being tough, off-road vehicles, but rather revelled in being urban runabouts.

    • 0 avatar

      This is correct. I don’t understand why everyone needs a daggone “lifestyle” vehicle. It seems that everyone has some sort of excercise fetish that requires them to carry dogs, bikes and kayaks everywhere. Can we please stop pretending that the majority spends every other weekend at a mountain or river and just deal with the fact that most of us commute to work and the grocery store more than anything else?

      I used to go camping in an s-class with roof bars and a cargo box up top; you don’t need a special car to pull into a campground or go canoeing! Maybe leave Fido at home now and again. Bicycles are the trifiling conveyances of children.

    • 0 avatar

      The Soul and the Juke had one thing going for them; they were unique in a sea of conformity. They tend to catch the eye for either good or bad, making them more attractive to those wishing to stand out from the crowd.

      Oh, there are other ‘unique’ vehicles, but with very limited exceptions most brands are me-too “pregnant roller skate” CUVs with very little to tell one from another. The Soul and Juke were recognizable from any angle at any distance.

  • avatar

    Hamsters. That’s all. I want the hamsters back. The robot battle commercial was just plain fun.

  • avatar

    I suppose it’s a decently manufactured cheap box – but this latest fluff is merely lipstick on a pig. And when I saw the Hamster campaign, that only gave me another reason to cringe.

    • 0 avatar

      “And when I saw the Hamster campaign, that only gave me another reason to cringe.”
      — Why? It was a great way to show it was a fun little runabout, able to appeal to young and old alike.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I agree , the hamster ad was genius. I honestly didn’t know the car existed until that ad campaign dropped. These cars have appeal to both Millenials and off beat middle aged folk .
    I know 2 people ,one in her mid 20s and the other in her late 50s and both swear by them after initial trepidation of the mark. The warranty and the looks got them in the car and the pleasant ownership experience got them into 2nd Soul purchases.

  • avatar

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

  • avatar

    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.

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