Kia’s endearing and enduring Soul subcompact gets a big makeover for model year 2020, including interior and exterior styling changes, a new platform, new trim grades, an increase in driver assistance technologies, infotainment system upgrades, and a new Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT) for its four-cylinder base engine.
For 2020 the Soul is stretched just a tad in wheelbase and overall length. Its distinct boxy shape remains intact but there’s more external flair up front and in the back. The C-pillars are designed to look like airplane wings and are embellished with an attractive “Soul” graphic.
The 2020 Soul is available in LX, S, X-Line, EX, and GT-Line trims. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is standard on all versions, generating 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque.
All versions also have an automatic transmission, but if you prefer to do your own gear shifting, look no further than the LX model. It’s the only one with a choice between the IVT automatic and a six-speed manual.
A 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is optional, available only on the high-end GT-Line. It’s rated 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. No worries if you’re a special features hoarder but don’t want the more powerful engine. Kia planned for that, and has provided a GT-Line with the regular four-cylinder.
Pricing ranges from $18,485 for an LX with manual transmission ($19,985 with an automatic) to $28,485 for a GT-Line with the turbo engine. These prices include the destination charge of $995.
All versions are front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is not available.
I drove a Soul GT-Line model equipped with the turbo engine. The considerable amount of extra power from the new engine definitely comes in handy for practical as well as superficial reasons, but it includes the inevitable reduction in fuel economy. In this case, 27/32/29 mpg instead of the standard engine’s 27/33/30 mpg. Not a huge difference, but still. A special note to those considering the manual transmission: It’s rated at the even lower level of 25/31/27 mpg.
The GT-Line includes sporty fascias and side sills with red accents, 18-inch alloy wheels, burly tires, and integrated front fog lights. Turbo models add a center exhaust with chrome tips, sport-tuned suspension and bigger brakes. Other added features include: forward collision avoidance, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, smart cruise control, power sunroof, UVO link with navigation, push button start, and a Harman Kardon premium audio system.
I could keep going but the complete list of desirable standard features on my test car is so long and impressive I’d never get finished here.
Changes to the Kia Soul for 2020 make it more appealing than ever, but its basic worthiness has been present all along. The amount of room inside the cabin is miraculous for such a small car. All passengers have abundant leg room and head room, and there’s still enough space left over for a good-sized cargo area in back. Rear seats fold down, not flat, but it still works well to accommodate bigger items.
Soul’s compact size means it’s a shoo-in for urban driving and that’s no surprise. So, I did very little of that during the test week and just put the new Soul to my usual use on our good old Snohomish County highways and backroads. In a segment and price range that can be cut some slack for not being fantastic at freeway speeds or on bumpy roads, for feeling and sounding somewhat cheap under those circumstances, the 2020 Soul was not like that at all.
2020 KIA SOUL GT-LINE 1.6 TURBO
Base price, including destination charge: $28,485
Price as driven: $28,710
Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.