Behind the Wheel

2020 Kia Soul GT-Line Turbo Review: Redesign (mostly) hits with tech, misses with driveability

The Kia Soul GT-Line Turbo is the top model offering from Kia.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Riddle me this. When is a concrete block not a concrete block? The answer is simple. When you equip it with a fun and funky interior, an underpowered and unresponsive engine, and a price tag as high as a well-equipped SUV. Then, it's called a 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line Turbo.

The Kia Soul was redesigned for the 2020 model year. It's shapelier and more modern than it was before. Those are all positives. The Soul still retains much of its identity that customers have come to know and expect. It breaks with conformity in a world of increasingly similar design attributes, something that Kia has also done with the 2020 Telluride with much success.

2020 Kia Soul GT-Line Turbo Kia has kept the Soul's signature boxy look as part of this redesign.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Still, there's no escaping its powertrain and handling.

In its highest GT-Line Turbo grade, the front-wheel drive Kia Soul is powered by a standard turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that is paired with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. It delivers 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque … eventually.

It is with excitement-quenching trepidation that the Soul waits on the line for its turbo to kick in and engine to start pumping once the accelerator has been sent toward the floor. Doing the Soul's version of peeling out is frustrating.

2020 Kia Soul GT-Line Turbo The Soul's turbo engine is hesitant beast.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The exercise in patience gets on one's nerves rather quickly. Once the turbo kicks in and the engine starts going, the Soul is great, until about 45 mph when it completely loses its will to try to excite.

Let's face it though, the turbo wasn't great when it was in the last-gen model either. It's a shame they carried it over into the new model.

The handling the 2020 Soul is only marginally better for the 2020 model year versus the last-generation model. Piloting the car brings to mind words like "numb" and "disconnected". The experience behind the wheel is rather soulless.

Now, if driving isn't your thing, you'll probably be perfectly satisfied with the Soul as an around-town grocery getting. The Soul's upright seating is like sitting in a chair at the dinner table – lots of visibility but a little hard after more than an hour.

2020 Kia Soul GT-Line Turbo The car features a D-shaped steering wheel and red accents throughout the cabin.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The car's cargo space is good for a vehicle its size and the shelf in the rear increases the space's functionality but can be a bit of a pain to maneuver when you're loading in the goods from your latest Costco run.

Kia has equipped the Soul with the modern technology consumers are craving these days from Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to Bluetooth and tweeter speakers. Wireless device charging, a 10.25-inch HD color touch screen, 8-inch head-up display, and 640-watt Harman Kardon audio system are available. The car's infotainment system is responsive and easy to navigate. The large 10.25-inch screen is a good size to display multiple functions at the same time without feeling crowded or too big.

2020 Kia Soul GT-Line Turbo The Soul GT-Line Turbo's interior features red stitching and premium accents.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The Soul GT-Line Turbo comes with mood lighting. Selectable moods include Hey!Yo!, Party Time, Traveling, Romance, Midnight City, and Café. The moods pair with the music being played in the car, pulsing LED lights throughout the cabin in rhythm. No one will miss this feature if it is suddenly discontinued.

2020 Kia Soul GT-Line Turbo Specialized LED lighting flashes in time with the rhythm of the sound system.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Kia's safety and driver assistance technology continues to be one of the best in the business. It's effective without being intrusive. The Soul is available with a good list of the tech most buyers are seeking including lane keeping assist, rear cross traffic collision warning, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and high beam assist.

Where the Soul GT-Line Turbo really loses the buyer is on $27,490 price tag. It's hard to climb into it and think that you're getting a lot of bang for your buck. The compact car and SUV market has reached such a fever pitch that there's just better options out there worth considering, even within the Kia family.

Kia Motors has given insight into the company's future product plans.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Kia is charging ahead with an aggressive electric vehicle (EV) implementation plan that includes 11 new vehicles in the next five years. The strategy, called "Plan S" starts with the company's first dedicated EV in 2021.

Plan S is a dual-focus shift for the company. On one side they will be progressing toward an EV-centric product strategy while in the other hand Kia will be focusing on customized mobility solutions. They will also be focusing on autonomous vehicle development.

By the end of 2025, Kia plans to offer a full line-up of 11 battery electric vehicles. The company is aiming to have 25 percent of its vehicle sales outside of China come from what they call "eco-friendly cars" by 2025 on their way to achieving a 6.6 percent market share in the global EV market (500,000 annual EV sales excluding China). According to a McKinsey & Co. analysis published April, the U.S. EV market almost doubled to 360,000 EV units in 2018, mainly because of the strong sales performance of Tesla's Model 3.

From 2022, Kia plans to add EVs in the passenger vehicles, SUVs, and MPVs categories. They further outlined their electric vehicle development:

The dedicated EV model to be launched 2021 will be built on a unique platform specifically engineered to accommodate the car's world-leading EV powertrain and technologies. It will offer a crossover design which blurs the boundaries between passenger and sport utility vehicles, a future-oriented user experience, a single-charge driving range of over 500 kilometers, and sub-20-minute high-speed charging time.

Across its EV line-up, Kia plans to operate two different types of EVs with different charging capabilities (400V/800V) -- high-performance dedicated models and derivative models with reasonable pricing -- to meet the diverse needs of customers.

Growth in global EV sales will be pursued in accordance with a customized, market-oriented strategy, which considers regional differences in environmental regulation, subsidies, infrastructure and more.

These EVs are expected to first be sold as a trim level option in Kia vehicles in the same vein as the Niro EV and Soul EV.

Additional Kia expansion is planned to come from car-sharing and e-commerce businesses.

"Plan S is a bold and enterprising roadmap for Kia's future business transition, buttressed by the two pillars of electric vehicles and mobility solutions," said Han-woo Park, president and CEO, Kia Motors. "Our approach is to put customers first, and Kia will reinvigorate its brand innovation by developing products and services that offer new experiences for customers."

Easily missed in this plan is Kia's proposition to raise the sales of internal combustion engined vehicles while at the same time establish the development system for EV architecture. Though they say that they'll focus those efforts on emerging markets, it's relatively safe to say that the Soul, Forte, and Telluride aren't going away any time soon.

Kia is activating recent partnerships and company share acquitions to get to this goal. Last year, the Korean automaker invested in Croatian performance EV manufacturer Rimac Automobili and IONITY, which specializes in building high-speed charging infrastructures.

They're also planning on building "Mobility Hubs", transfer stations between electric vehicles and internal combustion engine vehicles. Long term plans call for self-driving robotaxis and on-demand roboshuttles to also populate these Mobility Hubs.

Kia is part of a car-sharing services joint venture with Repsol, Spain's major energy corporation, in Madrid via its WiBLE brand.

The Chevrolet Silverado HD was redesigned for the 2020 model year.

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

It already proved capable at hauling and towing on long stretches of road up, on, and around Mt. Bachelor in Oregon. That was a confined test, however, designed by Chevy to show off the redesigned Silverado HD's best qualities. When tested, unrestricted, on the rural roads, historic city streets, and highways of the East Coast, the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD proved even more impressive.

The Silverado HD is huge. The 2500 that was delivered sat in the driveway towering over the Explorer parked next to it. The truck looks imposing too, especially with the large grille that faces a hood that is taller than this driver.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD The grille of the Silverado HD is quite large.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Thankfully there are grab handles and side steps to aid in getting in the truck. Without the steps, it's quite the pull-up to get into the 2500. Getting in the bed was also easy thanks to a sidestep and the bumper steps.

The Chevrolet Silverado HD just isn't as nicely appointed as the Ram HD. There's no getting around that. However, in its midgrade trim level, the interior appointment choices of the 2500 make good sense for its price point and likely utilitarian lifestyle.

That doesn't mean that it's not well-appointed. Its surfaces aren't plush like what you'll get in the Ram, but they're pleasant enough to look at and inoffensive to the fingertips.

The truck's seats are comfortable, even for 600 miles at a time, which is about the range of the 2500 when equipped with the 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8 engine.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD The Silverado HD is surprisingly well-mannered on the highway.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

On the road, the Silverado HD is much more impressive. Despite its enormous size, the truck is easy to keep between the lanes, even without the modern driver assistance technology you'll find on some regular-duty trucks. Driving the model on the highway isn't tiring.

Though it does feel its size when you're behind the wheel, the truck is reasonably nimble and easy to maneuver. That's helpful on small, historic streets of places like Charlottesville, Virginia, where the size of the lanes and availability of parking spaces will make you wish there was a "HD trucks" setting in the navigation system. At around 78 inches tall as delivered, the Silverado HD is too tall to fit in most of the parking garages in historic areas.

That being said, the truck's numerous camera angles and wide mirrors made it easy to back into a spot and parallel park when necessary.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD Mid-grade Silverado HDs, including this LTZ trim model, are the best balance of capability and value.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

The Silverado HD is tremendously more stable on the road and it soaks up most of the imperfections. It doesn't have nearly the amount of body lean when cornering that the Ram HD does.

The engine is just as competent as the handling. Despite being plenty beefy and brawny for the task at hand, the diesel delivered around 22 mpg in mixed traffic situations, including some stretches pushing the upper limits of allowable speed on the highway and idling in traffic several times in bottlenecks. That number makes the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 about 50 percent more fuel efficient than the 2020 Toyota Tundra in similar driving situations.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD The interior of the Silverado isn't as nice as the Ram HD, but it's good enough.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

The Silverado HD LTZ came with standard with an 8-inch infotainment system. It worked as advertised with the latest operating system running in the background, which isn't too much of a departure from the previous one resulting in a very shallow learning curve.

The Silverado 2500 made a lasting impression during a week of road tripping. Its comfortable seats and fuel efficiency were the biggest surprises and the only true disappointment was that its height made it incompatible with parking garages.

With the capability and appointments considered, its $70,000 sticker price seemed appropriate.

Chevy may not have hit it out of the park with the Silverado HD redesign, but they hit a solid double that keeps them in the game.