2020 Kia Soul: Retro Refined

The original Kia Soul was the retro-looking box boy in a class of mostly squared-off competitors from the likes of Honda (Element), Nissan (Juke) and Scion (xB), but those competitors are all gone now. Still, I’m glad the all-new third-generation Soul — debuting at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show — retains at least some of its original quirky personality, even if the design gurus at Kia have clearly had their way with both the interior and exterior.

Related: More 2018 L.A. Auto Show Coverage

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As soon as I got my first in-person look at the new Soul in its show debut, I was immediately struck by the new, more stylish grille and clamshell hood. There’s nothing zany about the front end or even the monster roof versus earlier generations that makes it unrecognizable as a Soul.

Much of the new styling is defined by a squatter, more aerodynamic look, and I have to say, the more I look at it, the more I like it. As detailed in our preview, the Soul has two new distinct flavors in the form of the performance-oriented GT-Line and rugged X-Line, plus there was a new Eco electric version on display. I had the chance to see all three lined up together, and each offers distinct front- and tail-end design to better amplify its unique personality. My favorite was the GT-Line with the custom alloy wheels, center-mounted dual tailpipes and flat-bottom racing steering wheel.

img1221464466 1543519998808 jpg 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line | photo by Mark Williams

Inside the GT-Line, Kia keeps the compact feel to the smallish seats but allows for better side bolstering as well as providing a better articulating tilt/telescoping steering wheel. The fit is tight but doesn’t feel cramped. Graphics on the widescreen navigation system has been updated, we’re told, but I wasn’t allowed to turn on the show-floor vehicle for a look.

Related: Kia Offers Second Glimpse Into 2020 Soul

img 611453556 1543520034271 jpg 2020 Kia Soul X-Line | photo by Mark Williams

Visibility is quite good to the sides with the larger mirrors, but the rear window is still small and provides only a long-way-off line of sight. Visibility from the backseat is also challenged with the signature high beltline of the Soul still an important design cue. Rear seatback angles and cushioning have been improved. I’m guessing both the front and rear seats have dropped a touch to provide more headroom for all occupants because I had plenty of ceiling clearance for a hat (baseball cap, not a cowboy hat).

img 518394135 1543520035968 jpg 2020 Kia Soul X-Line | photo by Mark Williams

We like that Kia is sticking with the Soul and finding new ways to inject more and different kinds of personality into the subcompact market. We’ll know more once we get behind the wheel to try out the new powertrains, as well.’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

Photo of Mark Williams
Former Editor Mark Williams lives in Southern California with his wife and enjoys camping, hiking, skiing, big trucks and towing, and backcountry 4x4 driving. Email Mark Williams

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