2020 Kia Soul GT-Line 1.6 Turbo Review

Losing the some of the cute on this mini-ute


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Redesign provides more refinement and sportiness, still surprisingly large inside, well-crafted interior, maintains spirit of fun.
Negatives: Still no all-wheel drive option, still a bit juvenile inside.
Bottom Line: The new Kia Soul is better than the versions that came before it, and it continues to be one of the best small crossovers despite the fact that it doesn't have AWD. It's fun to drive, well-built, and fresh in its design.
The Kia Soul is proof that a carmaker can build a quirky vehicle that straddles at least three segments (hatchback/wagon/crossover) and be truly successful. The 2020 marks another redesign that's more mature than ever before while retaining its easily recognizable look. It also continues its skill in terms of roominess and everyday utility. Buyers, howevever, will still have to contend with the fact that the Soul still doesn't have all-wheel drive, even as an option. They will have to contend with a lot of confusing trim names, including LX, S, X-Line, GT-Line, EX, and GT-Line Turbo. We drove the sporties trim level, the upgraded GT-Line Turbo for a week. Read on for our full review.
 

Driving Experience

8.2

 

The Soul is one of those cars that's deceptively fun to drive, and its taut and nimble nature now gets backed by an upgraded 201 hp engine. Too bad the more powerful mill gets hampered by a transmission that can't keep up.

Ride Quality: In our GT-Line Turbo trim, the suspension is a bit rigid and results in a harsh ride. It doesn't feel unsettled over bumps, but you feel it through the suspension and chassis.

Acceleration: 0-60 comes in the mid-sixes, but the DCT's shifting is lackluster and feels clunky.

Braking: The brakes are abrupt rather than progressive, making it tough to brake smoothly. At least stopping distances are good.

Steering: The steering is light, but the effort builds while turning. It's responsive and precise with good on-centeredness.

Handling: The GT-Line is taut with good balance and minimal oversteer. It keeps its body in check, and it's actually quite fun to take through the turns.

Technology

8.6

 

We continue to enjoy Kia's easy infotainment system and solid car tech that's easy to use and simple rather than overly styled and fussy like so many others. The GT-Line Turbo also has a nice Supervision Meter instrument cluster that provides relevant driving data in an easy-to-read format, and the great head-up display is very nice.

Infotainment System: The wide 10.25-inch screen is well-sized and clear. Menus on the UVO system are intuitive, and the system responds well to inputs.

Controls: The single line of infotainment buttons is right underneath the screen and is very easy to use. The audio knobs, steering wheel control buttons, and climate control knobs are similarly simple to operate while driving. Drive mode and seat heat buttons than flank the shifter are big and well-placed.

Styling

8.9

 

The redesign smartly kept the same shape the Soul has had from its inception, but the look is more refined and mature while exhibiting a sportiness that's fresh.

Front: The slim grille and headlights are the nicest feature up front. Interestingly, the brand's "Tiger Nose" grille shows up on the lower fascia with a Y-pattern mesh that's bold but tasteful and unique.

Rear: The tail of the Soul has always been distinct, but now it's more mature. The taillights no longer just flank the rear glass but now descend and curve into the base of the glass. They're also thinner and incorporate the backup lights at the bottom, versus on the inside of the c-shape like before. The floating slab is now curved at the bottom edges versus rectangular, and the circular reflectors are now thin slits in the bottom.

Profile: More improvement shows up in this view thanks to the thinner wraparound headlights, the addition of a tasteful floating roof, more prominent body and fender creases, as well as the removal of the fender trim.

Cabin: The interior is still playful but a bit more grown up with a newer steering wheel and improved center stack. The most noticeable change is the LED panels in the doors that pulse when music plays (versus the old model's light-up speakers). The overall kitschiness is still there, but it's less in your face than before.

Comfort

8.5

 

The Soul is surprisingly big inside for both front and seconr row occupants. The 2020 gets a longer body (2.2 inches) and wheelbase (1.2 inches) but loses some rear legroom while gaining front legroom.

Front Seats: The seats are comfortable and laterally supportive. The legroom gets bumped up by a small 0.2 inches. Headroom is plentiful, and the seating position is good. Doors also open a little wider, making for even easier ingress and egress.

Rear Seats: Rear legroom is actually down 0.3 inch, but it's still roomy back there. The seatback angle is just about perfect, too.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Soul is well built, but due to its shape, there's a lot of wind noise at higher speeds, and the sportier tires on the GT-Line Turbo also contribute to cabin noise.

Visibility: Big glass all around contribute to good sightlines.

Climate: The climate system works well with ample heat and AC along with some quick-working heated seats in front.

Safety

9.2

 

For this price point, the Kia Soul is about as safe as it gets. It ranks at the very top for the main crash testing body, and it now comes standard with advanced safety technology that should put owners and their families at ease.

IIHS Rating: The new Soul gets the Top Safety Pick+ rating, the highest score. In some models, though, it gets "poor" headlight ratings.

NHTSA Rating: Not tested, but the previous model (2019) received 5 stars.

Standard Tech: Our tester came with a big set of standard safety features like Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Blind Spot Collision Warning, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, and even Smart Cruise Control.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

8.8

 

The capacity is impressive for something this small, but it's what the Soul has been known for.

Storage Space: The cubby in the center stack is large and convenient, as is the armrest.

Cargo Room: 24 cubic feet behind the second row and 62 cubic feet make for excellent cargo capacity. The rear hatch opening is also bigger than before, making it convenient for loading. Our only issue is the fact that the second row doesn't fold down completely flat.

Fuel Economy

7.2

 

The GT-Line's numbers are a bit lower than the naturally-aspirated versions, but it's still pretty decent. We weren't able to replicate the 24/32 EPA rating, but we also weren't really trying since we kept it in Sport mode 100% of the time.

Observed: 18.9 mpg

Distance Driven: 93 miles

Audio

8

 

Our tester came standard with the Harman Kardon premium audio system, and it's a good one. The sound system emits clear music and news, and there's a good amount of base. It's a nice feature to have at this price point from an audio firm that also outfits premium brands.



Final Thoughts

The Kia Soul has achieved a lot for a niche crossover that doesn't offer all-wheel drive. Most of the appeal comes from its fresh styling, fun driving experience, and interior practicality. The newest design proves the brand can improve on an already great automobile. It's too bad the transmission in the GT-Line is a bit clunky, but the rest of the car is brilliant. Ample space, solid safety, and a new body that's the best it's ever been. Those who want crossover space in a car that's better to drive than most in the segment should seriously consider it, on top of one of the industry's best warranties.
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