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2020 Kia Soul Review

The fully redesigned 2020 Kia Soul ranks near at the top of the subcompact SUV class. It's spacious and comfortable, and it has plenty of personality, but the Soul isn't as agile as many of its competitors.

Pros & Cons

  • Large cargo capacity
  • User-friendly tech features
  • Comfortable, roomy seats
  • Middling interior quality
  • Rivals are more athletic

Rankings & Awards

The 2020 Kia Soul's #1 ranking is based on its score within the Subcompact SUVs category. It was the winner of our 2020 Best Subcompact SUV for the Money award and the winner of our 2019 Best New Cars for Teens award. Currently the Kia Soul has a score of 8.5 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 18 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.




Critics' Rating: 8.1
Performance: 7.4
Interior: 8.4
Safety: 9.5
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 4.5 for reliability is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.

Is the Kia Soul a Good SUV?

Yes, the Kia Soul is a great vehicle, whether you prefer to think of it as a compact car, a hatchback, or a subcompact SUV. The Soul stands out for its generous passenger and cargo space (which is more in line with a small crossover than a small car), and it has a comfortable interior and lengthy available features list. On the road, the Soul is easy to drive, and its powertrain options provide adequate performance. But some rivals are more agile.

We named the 2020 Soul our Best SUV for Teens $25K to $30K because of its overall quality, high crash test scores, and lengthy list of available active safety features. The Soul also won our 2020 Best Subcompact SUV for the Money award for its combination of quality and value.

Should I Buy the Kia Soul?

The Soul's positives far outweigh its negatives, making it a strong candidate for anyone shopping for a small car or an SUV, particularly if cargo space is a priority. This Kia is a solid value as well because it costs less than many of its classmates. Still, there are many great options among the subcompact SUV and hatchback ranks, so it's worth checking out how the Soul stacks up against alternative options like the Volkswagen Golf or the Mazda CX-3.

Compare the Soul, Golf, and CX-3 »

Should I Buy a New or Used Kia Soul?

Kia rolls out a completely redesigned Soul for the 2020 model year, marking the start of the model’s third generation. For 2020, there's a revamped trim lineup and a new base engine that has 17 more horsepower and better fuel economy by about 2 mpg combined. The 2020 Soul also gains Kia's intelligent variable transmission, a type of continuously variable automatic transmission, that you can opt for in place of the six-speed automatic transmission.

The new Soul gets a larger standard touch screen (7 inches, up from 5 inches) and more standard features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There are several new available features as well, including wireless device charging, a 10.25-inch touch screen, a head-up display, lane keep assist, and driver drowsiness monitoring.

You can likely save thousands of dollars buying a used Soul instead, but you'll miss out on the many updates that come as part of the redesign. If you are interested in a used model, check out our reviews of the 2018 and 2019 Kia Soul, and scroll through our Used Car Deals page to learn about the savings and incentives available on used vehicles.

Compare the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Soul »

We Did the Research for You: 18 Reviews Analyzed

Our car reviews include everything you need to know before heading to the dealership. We combine the opinions of the automotive press with quantifiable data like crash test results and reliability ratings to form a complete picture of every vehicle we rank.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking vehicles since 2007, and our team has more than 75 years of combined experience in the automotive industry. Our car reviews are objective. To keep them that way, our editorial staff doesn’t accept expensive gifts or trips from automakers, and a third party handles all the advertising on our site.

How Much Does the Kia Soul Cost?

The Soul's base price sits just under $17,500. That's one of the lowest starting prices in the class. There are plenty of more expensive trim options, with the GT-Line Turbo trim starting just under $27,500. That's less than the starting price for many competitors' top trims.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Kia dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Kia deals page.

Kia Soul Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Kia Soul or Volkswagen Golf?

The Volkswagen Golf is one of the most athletic small cars, particularly if you opt for the performance-oriented Golf R or Golf GTI. The VW is more agile than the Soul, and it doesn't feel as jittery over rough roads. Inside, the Golf is more upscale, and it has two rows of adult-friendly seats. However, it doesn't have nearly as much cargo space as the Soul. The Volkswagen costs a few thousand dollars more than the Kia, but considering its perks, you may find it’s worth the money.

Which Is Better: Kia Soul or Mazda CX-3?

Like the Kia, the Mazda CX-3 finishes near the top of our subcompact SUV rankings. This small crossover is nimble and energetic, and it gets slightly better fuel economy than the Soul. Unlike its Kia rival, however, the Mazda does not offer a turbocharged engine or an EV model. The CX-3's cabin wouldn't look out of place in an entry-level luxury vehicle, and that’s impressive considering its starting price is only a few thousand dollars more than the Soul. The Kia has much more cargo space and a roomier back seat, and it also comes standard with features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which aren't available in the Mazda. Buyers who want a more fun-to-drive vehicle should opt for the Mazda, but the Soul makes a better choice for just about everyone else.

Compare the Soul, Golf, and CX-3 »

Soul Interior

How Many People Does the Soul Seat?

This Kia seats five people. The seats feel comfortable, and they provide a good amount of support. No matter where you sit, you'll enjoy plenty of head- and legroom, and drivers also enjoy a commanding road view thanks to the high seating position.

Soul and Child Car Seats

The Soul has two complete sets of LATCH car-seat connectors on the rear outboard seats, as well as an upper tether on the rear middle seat. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the setup the second-highest rating of Acceptable for ease of use because some of the lower anchors are set deep in the seats.

Soul Interior Quality

The Soul's interior is well-built, and the materials quality is OK for the price point. However, the cabin styling is a bit bland, and some rivals look and feel more upscale.

Soul Cargo Space

The Soul provides cargo capacities more like what you get in a small crossover instead of any other compact car, including hatchbacks. In fact, the Soul's totals are even better than many small SUVs'. You get 24.2 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, which is enough room for the family's vacation luggage or a cooler and some beach chairs. Fold the rear seats down, and you get just over 62 cubic feet.

Soul Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The standard UVO infotainment system in the Soul features a 7-inch touch screen, six speakers, a USB port, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Available features include a sunroof, wireless device charging, and an upgraded UVO system with a 10.25-inch touch screen, navigation, a Harman Kardon audio system, satellite radio, and additional USB ports.

Whether you stick with the base setup or opt for the upgraded version with a massive 10.25-inch touch screen, the UVO system works great. It's intuitive and user-friendly, and anybody can appreciate the sharp graphics and redundant physical controls for things like audio volume.

Read more about interior »

Soul Performance

Soul Engine: Turbo Brings the Gusto

You get two gasoline engine options with the new Soul: a 147-horsepower four-cylinder base engine or a 201-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder found in the GT-Line Turbo trim. Both get the job done as far as daily driving goes, but the turbocharged engine feels peppier and delivers quicker acceleration. A feather in the base engine's cap, however, is that you can pair it with a silky CVT, a type of automatic transmission.

If you're into alternative powertrains, there's also a Soul EV, which features a 201-horsepower electric motor.

Soul Gas Mileage: Not Great, but Not Too Bad

The Soul's fuel economy estimates are competitive with, though slightly behind, what many rivals earn. It gets 27 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway with its base engine. The turbocharged engine gets almost the same ratings: 27 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. The EV model earns the mpg-equivalent of 127/101 mpg city/highway, and it has a range of 243 miles.

For comparison to the Soul's numbers, the Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic both get 29/37 mpg city/highway. The most fuel-efficient subcompact SUVs earn marginally better ratings than the Soul. For instance, the Mazda CX-3 gets 29/34 mpg city/highway.

Soul Ride and Handling: Don't Push Its Limits

This Kia is perfectly enjoyable to drive, as long as you don't expect too much from it. The Soul rides smoothly most of the time, and it feels poised around turns. However, its vague steering and high center of gravity leave it well behind athletic rivals like the Mazda CX-3 and Honda Civic when it comes to agility and sportiness. Unlike a number of subcompact SUVs, the Soul is unavailable with all-wheel drive.

Read more about performance »

Soul Reliability

Is the Kia Soul Reliable?

The 2020 Soul does not yet have a predicted reliability rating from J.D. Power.

Kia Soul Warranty

The Kia Soul comes with a five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Soul Safety

Soul Crash Test Results

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the Soul a 2019 Top Safety Pick+, the organization's highest award. The Soul earned the highest rating of Good in all six crash tests, and models equipped with forward collision avoidance assist received the top rating of Superior for front crash prevention. In headlight testing, higher trims earned a Good rating for forward visibility, but lower trims' headlights received the lowest rating of Poor. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not crash tested the 2020 Soul.

Soul Safety Features

A rearview camera comes standard. Available driver assistance features include a head-up display, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, forward automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, lane change assist, rear parking sensors, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and driver drowsiness monitoring. Some of these features are part of Kia's Drive Wise suite of safety technology.

Read more about safety »

Kia Soul Dimensions and Weight

The 2020 Kia Soul is about 13.8 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 2,802 to 3,036 pounds.

Where is the 2020 Kia Soul Built?

Kia builds the 2020 Soul in South Korea.

Which Kia Soul Model Is Right for Me?

You get to choose from several trims when picking out a Soul. Most trims don't offer any option packages, so you'll need to step up to a higher level if you want more features. Even though the base trim has some nice infotainment features, you should skip over it and look at the Soul S, which comes with many more active safety features.

If you're looking for significantly more than the S trim provides, you'll want to look at either the Soul EX or the GT-Line Turbo. Both come with the majority of features available in this Kia, and the GT-Line Turbo is the only trim with a turbocharged engine.

Another option that's sure to intrigue some buyers is the Soul EV. There are two EV trims, and both are loaded with features and get outstanding EPA ratings.

Kia Soul LX

The Soul LX carries a base price of $17,490. It comes with a 147-horsepower four-cylinder engine, a six-speed manual transmission, and front-wheel drive. Upgrading from the manual to a CVT costs $1,500.

Standard features include cloth upholstery, a rearview camera, and the UVO infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen, a six-speaker audio system, a USB port, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

Kia Soul S

The Soul S starts at $20,290. In addition to the base trim's features, the Soul S comes with the CVT, upgraded cloth upholstery, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, and driver drowsiness monitoring.

Kia Soul X-Line

The Soul X-Line sports a starting price of $21,490. Its features list closely resembles that of the Soul S, though the X-Line doesn't come with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, or driver drowsiness monitoring. It distinguishes itself from the rest of the lineup with unique styling aimed at making it look more rugged and trail ready, though these enhancements are mostly cosmetic – the X-Line trim does not have any added off-roading capability compared to the rest of the lineup.

Kia Soul EX

The Soul EX starts at $22,690. The EX comes standard with a power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, wireless device charging, and an upgraded UVO system with a 10.25-inch touch screen, navigation, HD Radio, and satellite radio.

Kia Soul GT-Line

The Soul GT-Line consists of two trims. The lower edition, known as the GT-Line, has a starting price of $20,290. Its features list closely resembles that of the Soul S trim, though the GT-Line also comes with a sport-tuned suspension, in addition to two additional USB ports, the larger touch screen, and unique exterior styling elements that add a touch of sportiness. Blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, and rear cross traffic alert are optional in the GT-Line, though they're standard in the S trim.

The base GT-Line is also the only trim with a notable option package. The GT-Line Sunroof package ($1,900) adds a sunroof, wireless device charging, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist, and more.

The Soul GT-Line Turbo starts at $27,490. This trim features a 201-horsepower turbo-four that's paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The GT-Line Turbo's features list contains everything that comes standard in the EX, but the GT-Line Turbo also comes with cloth and synthetic leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, a sunroof, a Harman Kardon audio system, a head-up display, pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control.

Kia Soul EV

The Soul EV features a 201-horsepower electric motor that transfers power directly to the wheels via a gear reduction unit. There are two iterations of the electrified Soul. The base Soul EV comes with adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, and the UVO system with a 10.25-inch touch screen, navigation, three USB ports, six speakers, and satellite radio.

The Soul EV Designer Collection comes with everything in the base Soul EV as well as leather upholstery, a power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, wireless device charging, a Harman Kardon audio system, and rear parking sensors.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Kia dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Kia deals page.

See 2020 Kia Soul specs and trims »

The Final Call

The Soul gets a redesign for the 2020 model year, getting some big improvements without losing any of the panache that has made this Kia unique. The Soul retains its boxy shape and quirky styling, and it's still a great choice for moving people and cargo. However, it now has more standard features, more available active safety technology, and a stronger base engine. The Soul deserves to be a serious contender for anyone searching for a small car or SUV.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "There are no shortage of options in the small-footprint, daily-driver segment, with rivals such as the Honda Fit, Toyota CH-R, and Mazda CX-3 each delivering their own mix of space, safety, and frugality. Still, there remains only one Soul, a vehicle that continues to combine a class-above cabin with gobs of features and respectable practicality without asking you to sell you own soul to afford it." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The perfectly practical, stylishly square and very much entry-level Kia Soul is all-new for 2020, even though you may have a hard time distinguishing that newness. The five-seat front-drive hatchback is Kia's biggest seller, hitting over the 100,000-mark in sales last year. It did that by striking the elusive balance of being both hipster-cool and still very affordable at the same time. Can the new model keep those sales going? Undoubtedly." -- AutoWeek
  • "For all that's new and improved with the third-generation Kia Soul, it's remarkable how much of the … familiar feeling is kept intact. This feels like the same Soul as before, but with more content, features and options. The size, style and performance stick closely to the formula established in 2009 -- a very good thing considering how much I've enjoyed the previous two generations. This new model will compete well with vehicles like the Honda HR-V and Nissan Kicks when it arrives in dealerships in the coming weeks." -- CNET


Expert Advice

Last Updated: February 6, 2020

Cooling Sales: While the Soul sold in the top third of the subcompact SUV sales race last year, dealerships moved 6.4 percent fewer Soul models in 2019 relative to 2018. The Soul ran neck and neck with the Honda HR-V and Buick Encore for sales last year, but fell just short of both.

Research more buying advice »
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2020 Kia Soul

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