When it first debuted way back in 2009, the Kia Soul didn’t quite strike us as the type to have tremendous staying power. It felt more like a gimmick to lure young drivers, and parents of young drivers, to the realm of new cars by packaging what was essentially an entry level car in a quirky exterior. To some extent, we were right. Kia has very modest and humble beginnings, and for a time, made no qualms about what it was and who they were marketing to — cheap, new cars with a warranty to those that could only afford low-end cars, but wanted something new. The Soul however, has stuck around a decade now, and new for 2020, it seems the latest edition actually embodies more than just frugality and quirkiness.
Fear not, Kia purists, if you’re out there, the signature boxy four door shape remains in full force with the latest edition of the Soul. The front end does get some tweaking and a slightly more aggressive and sporty front end highlighted by slick LED headlamps and a wide trapezoidal front grill. The profile remains mostly unchanged, with its trademark giant C-pillar still creating somewhat frustrating blindspots, while the rear gets slightly revised taillights and a trick new center mount exhaust.
The Soul’s stance looks a little different, and it is. The 2020 version rides on an all-new platform which helps it to an additional 1.2 inch longer wheelbase, and is 2.2 inches longer overall, which helps increase interior cargo space to a sizable 23.8 cubic feet. To better utilize all that new cargo space, Kia also opted to make the rear hatch wider and have a lower height to make loading and unloading that much easier.
There will be several trims to choose from including the EX Designer Collection (the stylish one), the X-Line (the tough one) and the GT-Line (the sporty one). Of course, when it comes downs it, the options won’t really change that much about the car itself. Under the hood, all trims get the same choice of engine. The base engine borrowed from its sister-model, the Forte, and is a 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes a reasonable 147-horsepower. Backing up that power is either a six-speed manual transmission or a slightly anesthetizing Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The optional 1.6-liter turbo inline-4 is the better engine choice in our humble opinion, and makes a much more serious 201-horsepower and is backed by a much more engaging seven-speed twin-clutch auto, though we’d still prefer the six-speed manual any day of the week. There is also rumors of an all-electric variation coming down the pike as well, much like today’s version, but with quite a bit more range and a significant bump in power output – 201-horsepower and 291 lb-ft of torque, which is an upgrade of 92-horsepower and 81 lb-ft over the current voltage-only model. Fuel mileage shouldn’t be too far a cry from the current best of 26/31 city/highway mpg.
The next Soul will continue to slightly up the standard of driving for entry-level drivers with things like a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen powered by Kia’s UVO on-board entertainment system. There will be Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay available, changeable ambient lighting that can be made to pulse with the tunes playing on the radio, and even a heads-up display for the higher end model trims.
Even entry level cars get decent safety upgrades in the future. Lane-keeping and lane-change assist, a very helpful blind-spot monitoring (to deal with that mega C-pillar issue), adaptive cruise, rear cross-traffic warning, and even a driver-attention warning system that monitors the drivers eye movements to determine whether or not he/she is not focused on the main goal of actually driving the car. The 2020 Kia Soul should have a base price of well under 20 grand for the base model, and could climb into the mid-20s for the higher end sportier trims.
So, a decade later, we can admit that we were wrong. The Soul is more than just a flash in the pan, unless that meal takes 11 years to prep in the kitchen. The boxy Kia does in fact have staying power, and while it still is an entry level car wrapped in a quirky shell, perhaps maybe, just maybe, the Soul is more than just another cheap car. Maybe, it does have some … wait for it … Soul, after all.