It always amazes me when an inanimate object can create emotion. The irony is that the inanimate object happens to be called the Kia Soul. I borrowed the 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line 1.6 Turbo for a very fun week. Now when you look at the exterior, the Soul should be renamed to the “Swole”, because it’s definitely bulked up. The funny phenomena that happens when you drive a Soul is that other Souls park next to other Souls. I didn’t realize it until they were next to each other, and I was able to see the larger evolution compared to its previous generations. It’s also the only model that has continued its original boxy shape, which virtually every manufacture released in the late 2000s. I personally enjoyed its shape, even though some friends still can’t get past the Kia badge. The Inferno Red-colored model, which is equipped with 18” alloy wheels, had a bright , bold presence in your face. This totally fits the Soul’s personality. The Soul’s look gives off a high schooler or young college student vibe, but it’s also great for a new family, too.
When you get into the Soul, you realize that it isn’t competing with luxury brands, but also that it wasn’t geared towards that audience either. Its main goal is to offer a very youthful feel and aesthetic— and it does it well. The first thing you notice in the interior is the sporty flat bottom steering wheel. This design made it felt comfortable and the size matched the perfect grip. The seats were leatherette with a cloth insert. The seat kept me fairly comfortable on a 300-mile road trip.
One of my favorite things about the Kia has to be that stellar sound system. Its philosophy wasn’t to offer some boutique, fancy, and snooty system to improve the sound experience. The loud, vibrant Soul attitude is best experienced with it pumping 640 watts through 10 speakers via the Harman/Kardon system. Play it loud in the Kia! Cranking up that system to 11 made me feel like a teenager blasting music in my room.
To add to the ambience to your parked, musical experience, the Soul offers lighting around the speakers that change to different color palettes. They’re even reactive to your music! It’s like having your own lava lamp—an actual Soul lighting option— effect in your car! To complete the concert effect, the Soul’s interior collectively recreates a special sensory experience. It’s a musical light show.
For a compact car, the interior size felt spacious in all directions. My only complaint is the trunk area. It’s a little on the small side, so for practicality, I tested out putting the seats down. Once I made this adjustment, I enjoyed having more space.
Turning on the car, it doesn’t give any indication of its true power. This little 1.6L turbo engine is packed with a punch. Pushing down on that gas pedal, I had no idea I was about to unleash the 201 hp at 6,000 rpm and the 195 lb.-ft at 1,500-4500 rpm with a big smile on my face. Even though 200 hp is not much, the power delivery kicked in instantly— especially when paired with a quick, 7-speed dual clutch transmission.
To add to the youthful mischief, the boost and torque gauge which become available in sport mode, encourages putting the pedal to the metal. The gauges acted like a college roommate, who is daring you to push it to the limit, but we had to behave, of course. My limit was 15 psi. Don’t expect to get the 27 city/32 highway/29 combined mpg, unless you mind your speed. However, this little engine and turbo combination makes it so hard to drive like Ms. Daisy. During the 300-mile trip, I decided not to drive like a speedy teenager and averaged a surprising 32mpg. It was the most painful 300 miles, since I wanted to get on the boost. I felt like it could use an “ECO” mode to encourage a more conservative approach to the mpg like the boost gauge works when moving a bit faster.
The traction control system needed improvement. Accelerating from a standstill caused the TCS to kick in, and it felt like if I had completely slammed on the brakes to stop the wheels from spinning. It wasn’t that big of a deal, but it had better results when I had the TCS off and the tires gripped after only slightly spinning. After exploring this feature, I felt safer knowing I had it on. I also felt a slip and engaging kick in the transmission. This happened when I would let off the brakes and conservatively accelerated from a red light. It could’ve been specific to the model that I had or an issue that Kia may want to look into investigating.
I’ve found the "Fountain of Youth”, and it’s the 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line! The fun and quirky exterior styling, the rock concert sound system, and the smile-inducing power makes this a youthful little car. Kia’s recent initiative to rebrand itself and offer more premium products is evident in its new Telluride. With this Soul model, I see Kia competing with the likes of the Toyota, VW, and Honda’s compact car models. Would you be willing to travel time and live your youthful days in a Kia Soul? It’s worth the test drive!