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2020 Kia Soul Performance

U.S. News Best Price Program

2020 Kia Soul Performance Review


Performance: 7.4

The 2020 Kia Soul is no threat to lead the class when it comes to athleticism, but that shouldn't scare away potential buyers. The Soul still offers satisfactory powertrains, including an electrified version, and it delivers composed handling. The ride is generally comfortable, but fuel economy is a bit worse than you'll find with class rivals.

  • "The GT-Line's extra torque is apparent on the road, but not overwhelmingly so. It's sporty and actually pretty fun to drive, but only if you don't expect 'sports car' levels of performance from this budget-friendly box." -- CNET
  • "The best news under the new Soul's hood is that last year's entry-level engine has been banished and replaced by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that's good for 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. These are welcome improvements over the pokey 1.6-liter that was once standard." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Although it might not be a certifiable hot hatch, the turbocharged 2020 Soul features moves to match its power and doesn't embarrass itself in the corners. Better yet, the 1.6T is almost as economical as the less powerful 2.0, scoring a near-identical 27/32 mpg. Sport-tuned suspension or not, the Soul delivers impressive ride quality, dispatching mid-corner bumps without drama or complaint." -- Motor Trend

Acceleration and Power

The Soul comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 147 horsepower. It's paired with a standard six-speed manual transmission. Kia's intelligent variable automatic transmission, a type of continuously variable transmission (CVT), is available. An available turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine produces 201 horsepower, and it's mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The base engine delivers enough power for most driving situations, but the acceleration is leisurely. The turbocharged engine feels more energetic, and it's more powerful than a lot of rivals' engines. The CVT works extremely well, and it does a great job of simulating a conventional automatic.

According to EPA estimates, the Soul gets 27 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway with its base engine and the CVT. Those ratings are a little below average for a nonhybrid small car, but they're about average for a subcompact SUV. The turbocharged engine gets nearly identical ratings: 27 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

  • "The four-cylinder engine is about par for the segment. Acceleration is sluggish with plenty of noise, but throttle response is snappy, and the sounds it does emit is pleasantly growly." -- Autoblog
  • "Later in the drive, I switched to a Soul X-Line. The CVT is much smoother and feels very much like a traditional automatic. Throttle response is more natural, but you do give up the enviable thrust provided by the turbocharger. At full throttle, the transmission simulates gearshifts, which eliminates the drony engine sound exhibited by many other CVT-equipped cars. This powertrain combination works well in the Soul, and we think most buyers will be happy with it." -- Edmunds
  • "Like many new-age CVTs, Kia's boasts a direct feel and will even fake fixed gear ratios to prevent the engine from revving too far out of sync with the car's acceleration, as less adroit CVTs do. Use less than half throttle and you'll barely notice it working, the transmission smoothly changing ratios as the car builds speed." -- Car and Driver

Alternative Fuels and Charging

The Soul EV features a 201-horsepower electric motor that also produces 291 pound-feet of torque. Instead of a traditional transmission, the Soul EV employs a gear reduction unit, which transfers power directly to the wheels. You can charge the battery in about 9.5 hours, or you can use a DC fast charger to give you an 80 percent charge in about one hour. There's also a low-level, 120-volt charging method that gives you a full charge in about 2.5 days, but we'll assume you're not into that. And if you're charging at home, you can actually schedule when you want the Soul EV to charge.

The Soul EV earns the mpg-equivalent of 127/101 mpg city/highway, and it has a range of 243 miles.

Handling and Braking

The Soul provides responsive, composed handling and a fairly smooth ride in most situations, making it right at home as a daily driver. This Kia isn't sporty like the Mazda CX-3 or Honda Civic, though the GT-Line trims and their sport-tuned suspensions are more athletic than the other Soul models. There are a few flaws, though none are severe enough to be deal breakers: The ride sometimes seems a bit rough over uneven pavement, and the steering doesn't feel that sharp. Additionally, the boxy design means that Soul is affected more by crosswinds than most of its competitors. Front-wheel drive comes standard, and all-wheel drive is unavailable.

  • "The Soul rides more stiffly than other small crossovers, and driving over harsh bumps and dips results in noticeable shocks transmitted into the cabin. However, the upside is that Soul feels more in control. Rivals are often too softly tuned, resulting in a ride that can feel floaty and disconnected at higher speeds. The GT-Line, when optioned with its upgraded engine and suspension, has an even firmer ride, but driving enthusiasts won't likely mind." -- Edmunds
  • "In the … handling department, the Soul feels fairly light on its toes with a responsive steering and a comfortable suspension tune that is soft, but never sloppy. It's not the most engaging ride, but I'm mostly okay with the laid-back feel. There's a fair amount of noise at highway speeds, which was easily overcome by the stereo. And while the Soul always feels stable, the boxy crossover seems sensitive to strong crosswinds, requiring a bit of extra attention at highway speeds during a blustery morning drive." -- CNET
  • "The only drawbacks are numb, imprecise steering, and a bit of busyness over bumps that may be a side-effect of the Soul's torsion beam rear suspension. Neither were annoying enough to put us off the Soul." -- Autoblog
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2020 Kia Soul

MSRP: $17,490 - $27,490

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