Small and square accommodates urban Hipster and Hip Hop Hamster pegs when Kia casts the cute ute hole. Where others have failed at mini vehicular cubism, the Korean brand has propelled its Soul to the top of America’s cute small utility sales charts.
A little less cute in this sub-compact box on wheels could certainly broaden the appeal. The new 2020 Kia Soul X-Line treatment blends a manifestly more athletic look with calmer hip-hopping rodents under the hood.
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WHAT: 2020 Kia Soul X-Line 3rd generation (SK3) of the 2-Row personal urban Crossover Utility Vehicle. New GB platform = shared with Hyundai Kona.
Standard Power: transverse 2.0L DOHC 16V DI gas I-4 w/ idle start stop = 147 hp/ 132 lb-ft + continuously variable automatic transaxle. (6-speed manual transaxle available only on entry LX trim.)
WHAT [A] STYLING [DIFFERENCE]: new Soul focuses on detail to slightly detour from its 2nd generation predecessor.
EYE SPIES: Previous farfalle pasta grille replaced by a thin chrome band gap; √ Dark honeycomb mid bumper to lower fascia stark trapezoid intake adds prominent foglamps; √ Razored LED upper DRLs displace headlamps to mid-bumper inward arrow housings; √ C-pillar Hoffmeister kink attached to roof with “SOUL” lettered dark band for “floating roof” effect.
SOUL CLUES: √ Clam shell hood overlaps fender; √ Acute angled front door windows; √ Low cowl visibility coupled with rising belt-line and fastback declining roof; √ Tall vertical rear lamp housings converted from “C” to boomerang, connected by matching reflectors.
NEWBIES: √ Front row doors upper motion creases; √ Punched out rear bumper corners with lower cover license plate crater; √ Thinner lower tailgate panel; √ Wheel arch cladding; √ Distinctive matte silver lower body skirts match up with fore and aft pseudo skid plates.
WHAT HAPPENED TO: -1 Exhaust outlets (hidden beneath bumper cover) and -1 liftgate grab pocket?
WHY: 3rd Edition “Cute-Ute” to beat, draped athletic, hip hop hamsters running low energy.
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Spring 2020
WHERE: Kia new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Gwangju, South Korea
HOW BRISK: A detuned but direct injected 2.0L naturally aspirated gas 4 cylinder is hooked to a torque converter controlled continually variable transaxle for smooth stepped handoffs, seldom rev hanging. Brisker throttle response arrives with sport mode. Fuel economy = 32 miles per gallon
Over 300 lbs. leaner than the Mk. 2 Soul equipped with a planetary automatic transaxle, the slightly detuned for efficiency twincam 2.0L gas inline-4 powerplant sings smoother to these ears. A torque converter endows new manumatic continually variable pulley box with a semblance of real cog swapping. Go brutal on the accelerator pedal, though, and in true to CVT character the engine revolutions will momentarily hang in hesitance. Commuting and committing weekend errand runs is this cute ute’s forte.
HOW AGILE: An increase in track improves rear torsion beam locating narrow sidewall wrapped 18″-inch alloys. Responsive damping and motion tautness aren’t over-caffeinated. A natural if not overtly sporting resistance permeates steering experience. Sticky Hankook Ventus Noble’s won’t phone in a lot from the surface. Eagerly larger front brake rotors are only hampered by non-linear pedal feel; No exception to rule that Hyundai/ Kia GDI engines sound raucous, but here concealed by hushing cabin susceptible to minimal side mirror wind whistle at excessive speed.
HOW FAR: 32 combined miles per gallon. 471 miles highway range, 87 AKI unleaded fuel.
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: √ Despite a fractional rear seat legroom loss Kia Soul still leads the segment in cabin space and welcomes 5 adult occupants. +1 Still a rare cute ute that won’t graze taller scalps on Row 2 ingress!
Wheelbase: 101.2″ = 1.6″ > Honda HR-V; 1.9″ < Nissan Kicks; 2.7″ < Toyota C-HR
Row 2 legroom: 39.1″ = 1.5″ > Honda HR-V; 5.9″ > Nissan Kicks; 7.4″ < Toyota CH-R
HOW USEFUL: √ Chrome metal load floor skid plate; √ near flat folding 60/40% split 2nd Row tilting seatbacks; √ Low cowl & tall rear backlight = +1 Forward & rear visibility; +1 Generous door pockets; +1 Low, 3 foot wide load floor w/ nearly as tall load height! Tow Rating: Not Rated.
SOUL’s Grown in Capacity: +1 Cabin volume / minimum cargo capacity = 5% / 30% > Kia Soul Mk. 2
Max Cargo Volume: 62.1 cu. ft. = 18% > Honda HR-V; 17% > Nissan Kicks; 71% > Toyota CH-R
HOW SAFE: √ 6 airbags; √ Rear camera; sonar front & rear Park Assist, Roll Mitigation, √ Blind spot, rear cross traffic warning, lane change assist.
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: The 2020 Kia Soul cabin continues in the artfully accented ways of its predecessors. While only top trims boast the music altering color LED speaker housings, and monochrome pervades nothing seems blatantly nor ill fitting. Analog instrumentation is incapable of confusing. Switchgear is shared with the Forte line. Hence most are sensibly shaped and located.
+1 Front seat cushion comfort improvement.
√ Manual 6-way driver, 4-way passenger front fabric seats; √ Tilt, telescoping steering wheel with smooth surface spoke integrated redundant controls; √ Overhead console retracting sunglasses bin; √ Airconditioning; √ Power windows x 4; √ 2nd Row privacy window tint; √ Cup, bottleholders x 6.
+1 Deep rear seat seatbelt receiver pockets = usable mid seat section.
Cool Gizmo(s): -1 ONLY AVAILABLE only on upgraded EX or GT Line trims √ Key-fob proximity hands-free power folding wing mirrors; √ Panoramic roof; √ Audio genre selectable 5-color illuminated front door loudspeaker housings.
Details Done Right: √ Comfort tipped door switchgear; √ Upper door panel embossed metallic applique meets fan shaped outboard dashboard vent, audio speaker housing; √ Piano gloss black appliques.
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Exposed seat brackets; -1 Red night illumination = reading glasses dependent.
HOW “APP” -LICABLE: √ 7″ matte capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen; √ +1 Large icons; Voice command hands-free communications; ; √ Complimentary UVO telematics includes Park Minder, Geo-fencing; √ Android Auto, Apple Car Play, Siri-Eyes; √ Voice notes app; -1 Base audio in need of vibrance.
√ USB x 1, 12V x 2; +1 Generous lower center stack mobile device connectivity/ storage
HOW MUCH: $22,615 = 2020 Kia Soul X-Line suggested retail price
WHAT’S MISSING: 2nd Row power supply; native SMS messaging; AWD
ANY COMPETITION: FIAT 500X: +1 road clearance, opt. AWD; Honda HR-V: +1 Swiss Army knife 2nd row Magic Seat, fuel economy; Nissan Kicks: +1 Two tone color schemes, fuel economy; Toyota C-HR: +1 two-toned color scheme, standard comprehensive driver assist safety suite.
(Contributing Editor: Susan Frissell, Women With Wheels.com, ChicagoNow.com “Girls Go Racing”)