By on September 9, 2019

2020 Kia Soul profile

2020 Kia Soul X-Line

2.0-liter inline four, DOHC (147 horsepower @ 6200 rpm, 132 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm)

Continuously-variable transmission, front-wheel drive

27 city / 33 highway / 30 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

29.3 (observed mileage, MPG)

2020 Kia Soul not yet rated in Canada

Base Price: $22,485 (U.S)

As Tested: $22,615 (U.S.)

Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States. Kia doesn’t sell the X-Line trim in Canada, so we’ve reached out to Kia for information on similarly-speced Canadian trims. We will update this section if and when we hear back. UPDATE: Kia Canada says the X-Line would be between the base LX and next-level-up EX trim.

Names and categories used to matter when referring to cars. Coupes used to have two doors, period. Porsche got a bunch of flak last week when they called their electric sedan a Turbo. Tesla uses the term Supercharger for a device that isn’t connected to a crankshaft with a big belt.

Click through to Kia’s website (open a new tab, please – don’t leave me here alone!) and you’ll note five distinct categories. Sedans, hatchbacks, minivans, and hybrids/electrics all follow the hot one – SUVs and Crossovers. Unsurprisingly, this 2019 Kia Soul sits right atop that list, though by any traditional automotive taxonomy this box is a hatchback. Peel back the sharp edges, however, and the Soul offers many of the advantages of a popular crossover without the compromises.

2020 Kia Soul front quarter

Kia is leaning into the crossover-lite theme with this X-Line trim, which has plastic cladding on the lower edges along with fog lights. It’s not garish, just a touch of garnish – and it’s easily overlooked especially when the car is a dark hue like this Gravity Gray. I didn’t realize that Kia was going for an offroad-inspired look with the X-Line until I read the marketing materials.

2020 Kia Soul front

Otherwise, the Soul looks very similar to those that have come before, though the new narrow headlamps take away some of the playful look of the predecessor. Notable is the disappearance of Kia’s signature “Tiger Nose” grille treatment, replaced with a narrow strip connecting the headlamps and a yawning trapezoid below.

2020 Kia Soul rear

Out back, Kia’s yielded to the floating roof trend with a flat black strip extending from the quarter light to the vertical taillamp assembly. It’s not as convincing as many others, especially with a Soul logo embossed in the plastic.

2020 Kia Soul front seat

Open the door, and I’m delighted to see a hardy textile lining the seats. I’m a bit put off by the presence of leather-ish seat covers in otherwise budget-friendly cars, as it’s easier to keep cloth looking good over years of ownership. Plus, cloth is so much more pleasant on shorts-clad thighs in warmer weather.

[Get new and used Kia Soul pricing here!]

I apologize to anyone who just had a mental picture of my legs.

2020 Kia Soul rear seat

The seats are comfortable enough, though I’d appreciate a longer lower cushion for more thigh support. The plastics throughout the cabin are hard to the touch, though they look to be long-wearing. I’m OK with that – just like the cloth seats, I’d like to have long-lasting materials in a budget car that will likely find homes with many young, first-time buyers.

The rear seats offered plenty of room for the kids, including the ever-growing 13-year-old, who is at last check five-foot-eight and likely to shoot past her mother any day now. She doesn’t get to call shotgun until she’s over six feet, however – kids gotta know their place. Her knees were never pressed into my back, thankfully. Headroom front and rear is another appealing feature of the high-roof box from Kia.

2020 Kia Soul interior

This X-Line trim sits somewhere in the middle of the Soul lineup. Rather than a nifty 10.25-inch touchscreen, this gets the entry-level 7-inch screen that works incredibly well in many other Kia models. Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are always nice to see. Interestingly, this X-Line still uses a traditional key for engine start – a step up to the EX or the GT-Line is needed for a push-button start. It’s a minor thing, but I’ve been spoiled by so many cars that allow me to keep my keys in my pocket and simply drive away that it’s something worth noting.

2020 Kia Soul center stack

Driving the Soul shows that it doesn’t have much soul behind the wheel. One-hundred forty-seven horsepower is perfectly adequate, but it doesn’t light up the tires. The ride is improved over previous models, with less choppiness over expansion joints and less wind and road noise intruding into the cabin. Steering is light, but a bit numb. For the type of driving this Soul will see, it’s perfectly adequate.

I’m going to sing the praises of Kia’s continuously-variable transmission. I never felt like the trans was hunting for the ideal ratio – some CVTs from other automakers tend to cause a rubber-banding feel and sound as the engine races under acceleration. Never here. It simply fades into the background, which is ideal for any powertrain.

2020 Kia Soul cargo area

I’m still disappointed by the fuel economy. While 33 mpg highway and 30 mpg EPA combined isn’t bad considering the cargo space, this same 2.0-liter and continuously-variable transmission is rated for 40 mpg highway and 33 mpg combined in the more conventional Kia Forte. In my testing, I managed 37.2 mpg in the Forte earlier this year, compared to 29.3 in this Soul. It’s certainly not easy to push a massive box through the air, which likely accounts for much of the difference.

It’s fair to say that I like the Soul, and I have for all three generations. If not for a bout of sudden unplanned underemployment literally a week before I planned to sign a note, I’d likely be the owner of a first-generation Soul right now. It’s a practical, rational package with plenty of style and fun baked in. This latest model, with plenty of style and substance upgrades in a familiar package, is yet another win – no matter what category you slot it in.

2020 Kia Soul rear quarter

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn]

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54 Comments on “2020 Kia Soul Review – A Crossover by Any Other Name Would Sell as Sweet...”

  • avatar

    No more manuals??

    • 0 avatar

      I had to check – looks like a 6-speed manual is available on the base LX level. And it comes with the 2.0 versus the old 1.6.

    • 0 avatar

      “No more manuals??”

      Why do you need manual? No one reads manuals anymore. I am certainly not. If have any question – ask Google.

    • 0 avatar
      DJ None

      there is a manual version, its on the base LX version with steelie wheels and when you choose it. it brings the colors down to only three choices, white, black or silver. none of the fun colors that even the LX Automatic can choose from.

      atlest the other generations the manual version could get fun colors

  • avatar

    I sold Kias for a short time, and the Soul was the ideal vehicle for any number of buyers–many of whom simply would not consider it. If you need to use the backseat, it has excellent leg and head room. Visiblity is great. Some buyers loved it. Most hated it. The warranty is another asset, especially to the financially strapped buyer who shopped this price point.

    • 0 avatar

      Coworker got to test out the limits of the 10 year 100k mile warranty on her ’12 Soul with 88k miles and an “undiagnosable” electrical fault (most likely a simple short in the wiring harness). After a battery, multiple PCM replacements, and three months of frustration, the car would still randomly completely cut out while driving. The best the dealership offered was a $2500 buy-out option, corporate Kia was initially helpful with making the local dealer provide a rental car, but was no use after that. Seeing this unfold second hand, my low opinion of dealership service in general was reinforced. Beyond following a factory flowchart, their diagnostics capability is basically nil.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Other than that how was her ownership experience?

        Am seriously leaning towards a Soul as our next vehicular purchase. Notice that it actually has a real ’emergency brake’ lever. And thankfully a ‘flat’ roofline allowing for some rear headroom.

        As for the CVT, it looked like Hyundai/Kia were going to be among the last holdouts using regular transmissions. For many of us, that would provide them with a competitive edge.

        • 0 avatar

          We have a Gen2 ’18 Turbo, fully loaded, about 13k miles now. It replaced the wife’s Mazda3, which she never fully warmed to, and was quite weezy at altitude (we moved to 5000 ft shortly after she got it). She loves the thing, and I’ve been quite impressed with it too. The roads are pretty crappy out here yet the thing is still squeak- & rattle-free. Yes the ride is a bit choppy due to the short wheelbase, but taking that into consideration, it’s quite good. Gas mileage has been great, the infotainment system is great, the only real complaint I have is the DCT gearbox the turbo sticks you with (they really should offer a manual with it). Having owned a VW DSG-equipped Jetta TDI for 5 years, Kia’s effort is no comparison. It’s sloppy off the line and generally confused at low speeds. Seems like programming more than funky hardware. But other than that, it’s a great package for the $$ and zero problems to this point.

        • 0 avatar

          Before this horrible experience with the electrical system from what I recall the car was basically flawless. This one was a 2.0L 5spd manual, They also have a ’12 Soul 2.0L automatic they bought for their teen son recently with a bit closer to 100k miles (prior to this fiasco). Their other family car is a 2011 Sorento with also near 100k and not many issues outside of a flaky rear view camera. They just bought a car to replace the problematic Soul… a 2016 Forte lightly used (lower trim stick shift).

          I think the gen 1s and gen 2s (circa 2015ish) had a bit of an unsorted ride: a bit choppy and bouncy, MPG not the best for the size given the aerodynamics. But they’re a very usefully shaped box and you’re able to sit at almost -CUV height at a much lower price point. I’d say I’m generally a fan. I just wish my brother lived closer, he’d have had that wiring issue traced and fixed in a few hours max.

        • 0 avatar

          I just got the 2020 Kia Soul last month. Absolutely love the feel of it, the space, and the way it maneuvers. Obviously, I don’t have the longevity of it but the warranty is definitely one of the best deals I saw looking around, and the quality of the ride is just outstanding.

          I think it has enough power and comfort. The CVT is smooth. They have put in artificial “shfiting” points to still give some of that feel of regular transmission. Though I still find it incredibly smooth.

      • 0 avatar

        I have heard many references to poor Kia/Hyundai warranty experiences. People buy into “America’s best warranty” but in reality it is not worth much.

      • 0 avatar

        Anecdotally, Kia and FCA have been really good at honoring long-term warranty coverage although that might depend a lot on what’s causing the issue and how big the problem is.

        There’s a family friend with a 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee bought under Chrysler’s old “Lifetime Powertrain Warranty”. It has actually been a fairly reliable ride for them, but its water pump went out last year and the dealer actually replaced it under warranty no questions asked. Now they did keep up on doing the 5-year free power train inspections, but other than those that vehicle hadn’t been a Mopar service center since 2010.

      • 0 avatar

        It is a sure case for lemon lawsuit. $2500 is not good enough.

    • 0 avatar

      My best friend and his wife have one as their family (and only) car with a 2-year old son. They are not car people. They bought it new for $15k or so. They’re happy with it. Plenty of room inside, decent MPG and full warranty for pennies on the dollar. Not bad at all!

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I am with our author. I too have always liked these. Practical, comfortable (well, a bit bouncy perhaps), well priced. When I travel on biz, and the rental lot allows me to choose my car, I will almost always chose a Soul if one is available. The stereo is decent, easy to pair up with my phone, and everything else just makes sense.

    Twice over the past several months I have recommended a used Soul to friends who had kids who needed a practical, reliable first car. From my perspective, Soul is the default choice for first time car buyers.

  • avatar

    >> the new narrow headlamps take away some of the playful look of the predecessor.

    The Kia Soul now looks like a disappointed friend. “You went out with her?”

  • avatar

    I think Kia missed an opportunity here by not offering AWD, at least as an option. Would create a cult following like the old Honda Element did….. only the Soul is a tad smaller.

    Nice car for its price nonetheless.

  • avatar

    I have a 2017 with the turbo. The transmission is a little weird but I’d recommend it. It’s perfect for around town, a little noisy and bouncy on the highways though. What isn’t with such a short wheelbase?

  • avatar

    Probably close to a perfect small car. But I can’t help feel that those early hamster commercials caused the Soul to become a bit of an embarrassment. The Soul is the butt of quite a few twitter jokes. I guess that shouldn’t matter, but it’d be hard for me to shake the stigma.

    Also, why do front seat cushions keep getting shorter? I thought it was an exclusive phenomenon to prior-gen Subarus, but at the auto show last year I learned it is an epidemic. I had a new A4 loaner when my 2015 was in the shop recently, and the new model’s seats were far shorter and less comfortable than mine.

    • 0 avatar

      A power driver’s seat can help compensate for a short seat cushion, at least it does in my 2010 Camry. But if it has a mechanical ratchet adjustment for the seating height, then it will not be good enough.

  • avatar

    While I have no experience with a CVT in a Kia, those I have driven in other cars I HATED and too many have exploded at 80K for me to be comfortable with the technology – other than than I think the Soul is a pretty kool little rig.

  • avatar

    I’m actually happy to see the Tiger Nose go away. It hasn’t worked for me in quite awhile, and I had a 2011 Forte for awhile. With that said the newest trend in front ends makes for some garrishly unpleasant cars.

    Narrow headlights + gaping grille + weird oversized lights of some sort…gross. It didn’t work on the Compass, at least for me, and it doesn’t work here. And what are those pinlights inside the grille supposed to be. I’m so confused by that front end.

  • avatar

    Although the basic shape is still the same, (IMO) the side profile has a goofy look to it, accentuated by the plastic cladding. And I am NOT a fan of the “squinty eyed/bottom feeding fish” look prevalent on a majority of current offerings.

  • avatar

    Party on the outside, dreary, black, and business on the inside. This car practically begs for some of the colorful, neon-infused upholstery of the 90’s.

  • avatar

    By far the best Soul is Soul EV. It is truly a wonderful car.

  • avatar

    As a serial car-flipper, I’ve owned examples of cars mentioned here. The current ’20 Soul is indeed a very nice car. In addtion to adequate power, Kia’s CVT (actually “IVT”) is probably the best CVT transmission out there right now. I’ve owned Nissan’s CVT in a Rogue Sport and a Sentra and it’s awful. I also agree that the Hyndai/Kia 1.6T + dual-clutch auto combo needs improvement; the engine is great, but the tranny is clunky. I few cars ago, I owned the last version of the Soul, and the ’20 is an improvement in just about every area. Anyone looking for a reasonably priced, comfortable small car could do far worse than buying a ’20 Soul.

  • avatar

    I know there will be a ton of disagreement.

    Same platform and basic size.

    Luxurify it.

    Call it a Genesis.


    • 0 avatar

      What would it compete against? The Buick Encore?

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Right. And the Buick Encore only *thinks* it’s a premium subcompact CUV. In reality, the Encore is mainstream, with sales helped along by steep discounts and lease deals…while the similar Trax is practically Geo-level, or an alternative for a deeply discounted used car.

        I daresay a Genesis subcompact crossover could command more money.

        Buick is going to offer a slightly-larger new model called the Encore GX. It’ll be at the top end of the subcompact segment in terms of size, kind of like the Rogue Sport, but even *it* won’t be a premium car.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not RWD.

      Genesis, according to Hyundai management, will only be RWD.

      • 0 avatar

        Never say never – alas there is no AWD option.

        But Kyree gets it above – they could get more money than the Encore and get boots into the Genesis showroom, which is a big problem that Hyundai/Kia has right now.

  • avatar

    Two comments I wanted to make about the 2020 Soul.

    1. I like the styling of the X-Line trim, but not its 235/45 R18 tires. I’d want more sidewall, so I’d probably go with either the LX or S trim level instead.

    2. Looks like the cargo floor is lower than the lip where the hatch meets the latch. Would prefer if the floor were flush to the lip, so one doesn’t have to lift and remove items from the cargo area.

    Other than that, this seems like a solid effort from Kia.

  • avatar

    How about including length, wheel base and width? Also cargo capacity? You told me nothing about the car I need to know.
    We rented a first generation once. Two carry on suit cases did not fit in the luggage area with the rear seats upright.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I wasn’t even aware that Kia marketed the Soul as a crossover until we got a new 2014 for my grandmother. Prior to that, I’d always thought it was a hatchback, especially since it does not and has never offered all-wheel drive.

    I agree with you on the fuel economy. Grandma’s 2014, which my sister recently inherited, delivered a disappointing 26.9 mpg on a 6-hour highway jaunt. And the 2.0-liter, which ours also has, still needs to downshift a couple of times on the highway. I can just imagine how bad the old 1.6 N/A engine was. If I ever got a Soul, it would definitely be the Turbo; I do not like loud engines with no low-end torque.

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