In 2003, an unnamed car maker started a youthful trend that mostly targeted first time car buyers – those in their teens and early twenties. Kia took notice to this movement and in 2008 we were festooned with the Kia Soul, a young, hipster vibe that was advertised by catchy hamsters. 12 years later, Kia has done what that other unnamed car maker couldn’t do, and that was to keep the market interested in their product. Now for its third generation, a new Soul has emerged and Kia, once again has turned a fashion trend, into a fashion statement.
Keeping true to its origin, none of the Souls boxiness has been lost. Exploring a more rounded geometrical shape, the Soul carries a very terminator stance while continuing to offer that funkiness we grew to love – hence why they had to be very careful with this new redesign. With six different options and pricing starting at $17,490, there is a Soul for just about everyone. Our test subject being the largest value seller arrived as the middle of the pack, Soul X-Line, starting at $21,490. Resembling some crossover-ish similarities, the X-Line carries a sort of ruggedness to its presence with beefier lower body cladding and 18-inch alloy wheels for those that want to do a little exploring beyond the paved parking lot. And with nearly 7-inches of ground clearance, let the soul searching begin.
With crossover resemblances, the concept of the Soul remains offering a tall upright interior with high-profile seating and enough trunk capacity for a trip to Cosco. The trunk lid has a wider opening than before and with a taller stance it’s easier to get things in and out. The interior offers bundles of head room and generous rear leg room for anyone that’s over the six-foot tall mark.
As with anything within this price range, the Soul carries its fair share of hard plastic surfaces throughout. However, the quality feels top notch and the overall styling structures a handsome, fun presence. Our budget oriented Soul X-Line was desirably equipped too with an appropriate sized, easy-to-use 7-inch touch screen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, blind spot monitoring, Lane Change Assist and automatic headlights. Upgrade to one of the higher priced models and the interior conveys softer materials throughout, a 10.25-inch touch screen with Navigation and the latest in accident avoidance hardware.
Performance isn’t quite the Soul’s motif unless you’re looking at the $27,490, GT-Line Turbo with a 201-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. Nevertheless, its newly re-engineered 2.0-liter four-cylinder transports a decent balance of efficiency and smoothness. Making due with 147-horsepower it missions out to seek 60 mph in nearly 9-seconds through a new intelligent variable transmission. Generating a façade of faux shift points in the rpm’s, there is a level of boosted feel to its hurrying manner. Once sport mode is engaged, this behavior becomes more noticeable; however, undergoing normal driving conditions, its highly unlikely the driver will know the difference.
Despite performance being adequate for the Soul, its chassis development conveys a different agenda. Our X-Line on its 18-inch wheels rode very well with decent road gestures and improved sound control. The Soul feels more planted and nimble with comfortable steering control. It demonstrates assertiveness in its handling providing energetic driving technique.
With nearly 1100 miles added to the odometer after sending our Soul on an exploration trip from Phoenix, Arizona to Santa Fe, New Mexico, fuel economy reported 30 mpg on the highway, 3-less than the EPA. This data however was recorded while going against gusty winds and the constant need to overtake tractor trailers during the duration of our journey.
The concept of a rugged non-crossover concept may be something that consumers never thought they needed, and yet, Kia has made the Soul X-Line look the part of a trusty back road companion. Despite the oddity in the Souls line up with the $20,290 ‘S’ supporting the latest technology in accident avoidance software but not available on the higher-priced X-Line, the Soul offers practically, functionality and attractiveness wrapped up at an affordable price.
Model: 2020 KIA SOUL
Starting Price: $17,490
As Tested: $22,615 (X-LINE TRIM)
Engine: 2.0-LITER FOUR-CYLINDER
Horsepower/Torque: 147-HORSEPOWER / 132 LB-FT TORQUE
Transmission: IVT AUTOMATIC
Drivetrain: FRONT-WHEEL DRIVE
Fuel Economy: EPA RATED: 27-CITY / 33-HWY / 30-COMBINED
(AS TESTED: 29.7 MPG COMBINED | 33 MPG-HWY – 200 MILE TEST)
Fuel Range: 370 MILES
0-60 MPH: ±7.0 SECONDS