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