2020 Kia Soul X-Line — A new box full of driving pleasure

By Jim Prueter

(August 19, 2019) We’ve always loved the boxy five-passenger, five-door, compact hatchback/crossover Kia Soul since it was introduced a decade ago. Now, for 2020, Kia has introduced its third-generation Soul, keeping all the things we love about the vehicle and fixing the few things we were hoping they would — all to keep the Soul one of Kia’s best sellers.

For the record, Kia calls the Soul a crossover rather than a hatchback.

For our weeklong testing, Kia supplied us with the mid-level X-Line, a new model for 2020, with an appearance treatment meant to suggest a more rugged look. This includes the addition of body cladding, overfenders for a chunkier look, off-road-inspired accents, unique 18-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, fog lights and optional two-tone paint. Know that the name X-Line does not signify all-wheel drive; it is front-wheel drive with all-wheel drive not offered.

2020 Kia Soul X-Line

Outside, the Soul X-Line is instantly recognizable, with a boxy design that’s been refreshed, starting with a longer wheelbase. Up front, new slimmed down lighting separates the headlamps from the daytime running lights and a much larger two-tone grille. The side profile has also been updated, with a floating roof look and “Soul” graphics on the C-pillars that are designed to resemble airplane wings.

Out back, new three-dimensional wraparound boomerang-shaped tail lamps are LED lit on upper trim levels but not the X-Line. Added trim at the bottom of the rear valance adds to the more rugged look.

Inside, the Soul has a new style door trim and dashboard, and is roomier than expected thanks to its boxy shape and high roofline. The seats are comfortable with a good amount of adjustment and support. Tilt/telescopic steering column is standard. I’m unusually tall yet found legroom in both front and rear seats to be accommodating.

Big windows let you enjoy a commanding view of the road. Standard blind-spot collision warning, lane-change assist, and rear cross-traffic collision alert warning only add to the visibility and vehicle safety. There’s also two complete sets of LATCH car-seat connectors on the rear outboard seats, as well as an upper tether on the rear middle seat.

Cloth seats are standard in the X-Line trim but it does come with a leatherette shift knob and steering wheel. The seats are neither heated nor ventilated.

Cargo volume remains the same as last year’s Soul: 24.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat and 62.1 cubic feet when folding the seatbacks.  That’s more cargo space than several compact SUVs like the Mazda CX 5 and Jeep Cherokee. 

The standard UVO infotainment system features an AM/FM/MP3 with a seven-inch touch screen and rear backup camera. There are six speakers, a USB port, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Optional features include a sunroof, wireless device charging, and an upgraded UVO system with a 10.25-inch touch screen, navigation, a Harman Kardon audio system, Sirius Satellite radio, and additional USB ports.

Standard safety features include dual front and front-seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, and hill-start assist control. Optional safety systems include lane-change assist, emergency autonomous braking, adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, and collision warning.

The 2020 Soul gets a new 2.0-liter 147-horsepower four-cylinder engine with a continuously variable automatic transmission. For those who crave a little more, a 201-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is available as an option but only comes with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. The standard 2.0-liter engine powered our test X-Line.

Behind the wheel and on the road, we found the new Soul to be more refined than the previous generation Souls. Our zero-to-60 acceleration didn’t deliver as much punch as we would have hoped, taking just over eight seconds. Choosing the more powerful 1.6-liter engine option will drop that time to the mid six-second range. 

When it comes to handling, the Soul is as enjoyable to drive as any subcompact vehicle in its class, riding smoothly with a poised, comfortable and refined experience. But don’t expect it deliver athletic or sporty agility, because that just isn’t part of the package. However, if you do upgrade to the larger engine, it comes with a sportier tuned suspension as well improved handling capabilities, making it one of the best in the subcompact class.

One of the biggest improvements we noticed during our weeklong testing was the improved fuel economy. We averaged just over 32 mpg, a notable increase over the previous generations. That’s actually better than the estimated EPA fuel economy results of 30 mpg combined.

Overall, it’s easy to see why Kia Soul is such a big seller. It is, in fact, the number one seller in the compact hatchback and compact crossover segments and nearly outsells the Honda Fit and HR-V combined. It’s just an overall great little box that, for the new third-generation, is chock full of driving enjoyment with a terrific blend of content and value.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $21,490
Price as Tested: $22,615
Engine: 2.0-liter, 147-horsepower four-cylinder connected to a continuously variable automatic transmission.
Fuel Economy: 27-mpg City – 33-mpg Highway – 30- mpg Combined
Seating: 5

Where Built: South Korea

Crash Test Ratings: Highest possible Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Competes With:
Chevrolet Trax
Ford EcoSport
Honda Fit
Honda HR-V
Nissan Kicks
Jeep Renegade
Hyundai Kona
Toyota C-HR
Mazda CX-3

Fab Features
Roomy interior with ample cargo capacity
All-new 2.0-liter engine
Ample amounts of standard features