NEWS

2020 Kia Soul: More Flavors of Cute Non-Ute

Competes with: Hyundai Kona, Nissan Kicks, Toyota C-HR

Looks like: The distinctive flat roof now “floats” over a slightly tougher but recognizable Soul box. Most different are the new dropped headlights and a “unibrow” look at the front.

Drivetrain: 147-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder with six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission, or 201-horsepower, turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with seven-speed dual-clutch automatic; front-wheel drive

Hits dealerships: First half of 2019

Shop the 2019 Kia Soul near you

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2019 Kia Soul Base
18,366 mi.
$20,998 $1,000 price drop
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The boxy Soul has been a signature model for Kia, one that helped put the brand on the map in the U.S. market, and it gets a full redesign on a new platform for 2020. But even as Kia rolls out new models at the top end of the lineup, such as the hot Stinger sports sedan and big Telluride SUV, it seems clear with the evolution of the new Soul that Kia is hoping to retain the car’s quirkiness and friendly charm. Unveiled at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, the 2020 redo is a little tougher-looking, but it’s still cute and friendly, and hasn’t lost its soul the way Toyota frittered away the eccentric appeal of the original Scion xB.

Related: More 2018 L.A. Auto Show Coverage

That rival came and went, but the new Soul now will compete with Toyota’s C-HR and Nissan’s new Kicks among city-friendly, front-wheel-drive, small-and-tall hatchbacks that offer space and practicality without the size, price or pretense (or all-wheel drive) of trying to be a full-on SUV.

It may try to poach more shoppers tempted by those SUVs, however, with a new X-Line trim level that butches up the Soul’s inherent cuteness with more SUV-like styling cues. The X-Line will join five other trim levels, and the new trim names lose the quirkiness: Gone are the 2019’s base, Plus and Exclaim in favor of the more conventional LX, S, X-Line, GT-Line, EX and EX Designer Collection.

The 2020 Soul goes on sale mid-2019. In 2020, look for another all-electric version of the Soul that again will be offered only “in select markets with limited availability.”

Exterior

The new Soul keeps its city-friendly width and height and grows just 2.2 inches in length. It keeps the old model’s distinctive squared-off silhouette, flat roof and basic box shape, but modernizes it with trendier details and deeper sculpting.

The back pillar gets a more pronounced “hockey stick” shape and now sports a black divider that sets off the roof in the currently trendy floating roof style. Contrasting roof colors are available on some trim levels, joining the Kicks and C-HR with that personalization option.

In front, the Kia “Tiger Nose” grille has disappeared, but even more dramatic changes involve the lighting. A design element sure to be talked about is the new Soul’s funky low headlights where you’d expect to see foglights. It’s a debatable positioning tried and abandoned by Jeep for the Cherokee, now revived by Kia’s sibling Hyundai brand on its latest Santa Fe and Kona SUVs. The headlights flank a new version of the big lower grille, and above sit slim turn signal and daytime running light pods. Another eyebrow-raising detail are its skinny lights on the corners that connect to create a thin, full-width “unibrow.”

A similar coast-to-coast lighting design shows up in the back across the top of the liftgate, connecting more dramatic versions of the Soul’s familiar tall, boomerang-shaped taillights. The liftgate window, sculpting and bumper echo previous Souls, but the liftgate is wider and lower to make loading easier.

The more rugged X-Line trim level adds additional body and fender cladding, along with its own 18-inch wheels and accents. The new, sportier GT-Line adds more black trim, red accents, foglights and a D-shaped steering wheel.

Interior

Inside, Kia keeps things funky with textures, 3-D patterns and bright-color trim varying by model. Passenger room remains about the same as the current Soul, but better packaging has increased cargo space by 5 cubic feet, and it now offers a dual-level cargo floor to help with taller items. Door panel cutouts also increase interior storage.

The 2020 model keeps the Soul interior’s signature music theme and expands beyond those pulsing-light speakers with available sound mood lighting on the door panels in selectable colors as well as the ability to synchronize to the beat of the music. Selectable light “moods” include: Hey! Yo!; Party Time; Traveling; Romance; Midnight City; and Café.

Related: 5 Ways the 2018 Nissan Kicks Is Kick-Ass in the City

Upgraded features include optional wireless phone charging and dual-zone automatic climate control, multiconnection Bluetooth, an 8-inch head-up display and a 640-watt (double the current Soul) Harman Kardon sound system with 10 speakers including a center channel and subwoofer. There is standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality and top trim levels also offer a 10.25-inch touchscreen with split-screen capability. 

Under the Hood

The new base engine is a 147-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder mated to a six-speed manual or a new continuously variable automatic transmission developed in-house. The new CVT first appeared in the redone 2019 Kia Forte compact car. Dropped is the former base 1.6-liter and midrange 161-hp 2.0-liter.

The more-grins power upgrade is the carryover 201-hp, turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic that was standard on the 2019 Exclaim trim level. Kia was not specific about which trim levels will offer the turbo for 2020, though it did say that the sportier GT-Line offers the turbo as an option along with larger brakes and a sport-tuned suspension.
 
All models are front-wheel drive, putting to rest — for now, at least — rumors of an all-wheel-drive version, even though the new Soul now shares a platform with the Hyundai Kona subcompact SUV that does offer AWD. But the new platform does bring a new suspension setup that Kia promises will deliver improved handling, a quieter cabin and smoother ride.

Safety and Driver Assistance

The current-generation Soul offers advanced safety and driver assistance systems such as automatic emergency braking — but oddly only on the mid-level Plus model, with none offered on the base model and only blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert on the Plus and top Exclaim trim.

The 2020 Soul will offer the full bundle of such technology that Kia is rolling out in other redesigned models under the brand-name Kia Drive Wise. But it did not specify which trim levels would get the package (or parts of it) standard or as an option. The full Drive Wise bundle includes a forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, lane keep assist, lane change assist and blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert. 

SoulEV-53.jpg 2020 Kia Soul EV | Manufacturer images

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