What witchcraft is this?
So much fun and tech in an affordable package? Every single person who hitched a ride with my in the 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line was impressed. Sure, some didn’t like the exterior boxy design, others complained about the lack of a manual transmission option for the turbo, but they all walked away impressed.
That’s because Kia is still basking in the secret sauce of making cars fun and meaningful for everyone from Baby Boomers to Millennials. Even without the powerful engine and extra kit – like the Kia Soul X-Line, this car is excellent.
The 201 horsepower, 1.6-liter turbocharged engine in this 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line churns out 195 lb-ft of torque. For a vehicle that weighs over 3,000 pounds, that’s pretty good for power to weight. That also helps with economy. On regular fuel, the EPA estimated 27 mpg city, 32 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined is impressive.
The turbo model only gets a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. At speed and when pushed hard, it’s a lot of fun. The paddle shifters respond rapidly to inputs and, in Sport mode, it’s downright aggressive to the redline.
In stop-and-go traffic, it can be a bit delayed and there’s a bit of lag between the turbo and transmission kicking in. This can result in a lot of power hitting those front tires when not wanted. It takes a light touch to prevent burning rubber.
Unusually, the 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line has a twisting-beam rear suspension, normally an independent rear suspension is preferred for a car of this caliber. Still, it’s well dampened, there is very little sway and the overall ride rivals the best in class.
Great looking 18-inch wheels covered in sticky Goodyear tires, along with beefy brakes (bigger on the GT-Line) help keep the Kia glued to the pavement. Steering is a bit soft for some, but the overall feel is decent and the flat-bottom steering wheel almost feels like it came out of a Porsche 911.
Comfort and convenience
There’s lots and lots of tech here. It’s like a sci-fi buff’s passionate dream, if you opt for all the goodies. Let me tell you about comfort and utility first.
This is also a nice place to spend time as the seats are pretty comfortable. The side bolsters are tight for big folk, but it’s easy to get used to over a few days. Back seat space is outstanding, both headroom and legroom are excellent. A third person can fit in the back, as long as the other occupants are not too girthy.
You get an impressive 24.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seat and a small-crossover-like 62.1 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded. That, along with the gobs of headroom, is where the boxy shape pays off.
The most impressive part of the tech is the 10.25-inch wide infotainment screen. It takes time to get used to using, but it’s handy, clear and challenges units in vehicles costing twice as much. The wide screen can be configured in multiple ways, from a large map to three blocks that have several options for display. I found it handy to have navigation on one, XM/Bluetooth on another and the weather on the third.
Yes, Apple Carplay and Android Auto are standard, as is bluetooth and a dizzying amount of custom settings. There’s also the separate head’s up display (HUD). It’s a slick little plexiglass panel that rises ahead of the driver. It has multiple display settings. The display is clear and it can lower if the driver chooses.
What truly stands out, and what is a ridiculous addition to the Soul in my book, is the light and sound display… it’s bizarre. I don’t understand why it’s there, but it is unique. Maybe kids and old folk like it. Kia explains:
“Available sound mood lighting emits soft light from the center door panels and a unique 3D pattern surface on the upper door panels, with the ability to synchronize to the beat of the music playing through the Soul’s audio system. Sound mood lighting features a rainbow of customizable colors.“
At $17,490 for a base Kia Soul, you’re already getting a great car for good money. This fully loaded 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line costs $27,490. While that’s not an economy car price, it’s an outstanding price for such an all-around performer.
Let me put it to you this way: I smile every time I drive it. I can fit my family of four and pets inside, no problem. The audio/visual punch rivals an Acura RDX I just tested. It performs nearly as good as a Honda Civic Si AND it has a killer 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty. It’s a top-ten car in my book, for sure.
2020 Kia Soul GT-Line 1.6L Specs
|Model Base MSRP||$20,035 (LX)|
|Price as tested||$28,710|
|Engine||1.6-liter turbocharged I-4|
|Transmission||7-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Curb weight||3,036 lbs. (GT-Line 1.6L)|
|Fuel Economy (EPA)||27 / 32 / 29 (city/hwy/combined)|
|Ground Clearance||6.7 inches|
|Length x Width x Height||165.2 x 70.9 x 63.0 inches|
|Cargo Volume (seats up)||18.7 cubic feet|
|Max Cargo Volume||62.1 cubic feet|
|Warranty||5-year/60,000 mile basic warranty; 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty|