2020 Kia Soul: Wildly Successful Box Matures … Cautiously

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
2020 kia soul wildly successful box matures 8230 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]

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2 of 44 comments
  • 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.

  • ScarecrowRepair Too much for too little, unless you treat it strictly as a toy.
  • DedBull Mk2 Jettas are getting harder to find, especially ones that haven't been modified within an inch of their life. I grew up in an 85 GLI, and would love to have one in as close to stock configuration as I could get. This car isn't that starting point, especially sitting 3-4 years in the NY dirt. It's a parts car at best, but there might still be money in it even at that price, if you are willing to take it down to absolutely nothing left.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I bet it has some electrical gremlins as well. Nonetheless it might make an interesting El Camino pickup truck conversation with one of those kits.
  • GrumpyOldMan "A manual transmission is offered, as is a single-clutch auto. "What is a single clutch auto?
  • ToolGuy It is raining super-hard outside right now.