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.

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The 2021 Ford Explorer Enthusiast ST gives buyers more performance at a lower price.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Explorer lineup is getting a three-model enhancement for the 2021 model year. The Explorer Enthusiast ST, Platinum, and Platinum Hybrid will be making their way to dealership lots later this year in a targeted attempt to identify customer desires.

The new models join the just-announced 2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch, also a new addition.

2021 Ford Explorer Enthusiast ST

The Enthusiast ST grade takes a lot of what customers like about the existing Explorer ST and delivers it at a far cheaper price. The Enthusiast ST has a starting MSRP of $48,750 as opposed to the ST, which starts at $52,830.

Setting it apart from there Explorers is the Enthusiast ST's quad chrome exhaust tips, 20-inch machined aluminum wheels with painted pockets, and sideview mirrors with ST projection lamps.

The new model comes equipped with the same 3.0-liter EcoBoost engine that's in the Explorer ST that churns out 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. A 10-speed automatic transmission completes the powertrain.

Ford has given the model a sport-tuned suspension and a top track speed of 143 mph. A standard Class III Trailer Tow Package provides towing capability of up to 5,600 pounds.

The cabin of the Enthusiast ST is complete with leather seating surfaces, unique Miko micro-perforated inserts, and City Silver accent stitching with the ST logo. There's a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, heated sport-style steering wheel with the ST logo, and paddle shifters.

The Explorer Enthusiast ST also features standard Ford Co-Pilot360 technology.

2021 Ford Explorer Platinum

2021 Ford Explorer Plat Ford has two new Platinum models coming to a dealership near you.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

2021 Ford Explorer Plat

The new Explorer Platinum is powered by a 3.0-liter engine and comes standard with rear-wheel drive. Four-when drive is available.

To make the Platinum version worthy of its upscale price tag, its packaging includes door handles with satin aluminum insert, liftgate appliqué, lower bodyside cladding insert, roof-rack side rails, a twin-panel moonroof, and a unique grille with satin aluminum finish. Its cabin is fitted with leather seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dashboard, door rollovers, and door and front console armrests.

The 2021 Ford Explorer Platinum has a starting MSRP of $52,480. The hybrid version of that model starts at $53,085.

All the models are currently available for order via Ford dealerships. Deliveries are expected to begin this summer.

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2022 Hyundai Kona N revealed, but the automaker isn't telling all just yet.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Hyundai is giving its highest performance Kona the same transmission that you'll find in the Veloster N. For enthusiasts, that's a very good thing.

The compact crossover is more and more being seen as the American successor to the hot hatch. The Mazda CX-30 Turbo recently piqued enthusiasm among true drivers who can't afford supercars and need something more practical to hoon around in.

Now, the Kona N is poised to deliver similar driving dynamics and performance. Hyundai has slowly been leaking out details about the 2022 Hyundai Kona N over the last year and the revelation that it will have an eight-speed wet-type dual-clutch transmission, known as N DCT, is just the latest tidbit to come to light.

2022 Hyundai Kona Hyundai has upgraded its wet DCT mechanics in recent years making it hard-wearing.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

2022 Hyundai Kona

The Kona N DCT is based on a modified version of its in-house-developed 8DCT. It's had enhancements in recent years that have made it more durable and ready to handle the demands of high-performance vehicles. The N DCT will be standard on the Kona.

Hyundai will pair the N DCT with a 276-horsepower, 2.0-liter direct-injected engine that has been tuned especially for the model. The transmission control unit is calibrated for N enthusiasts.

The wet-type DCT is structurally similar to a manual transmission but, instead of the typical dry-type gearbox, it uses two electric oil pumps that are designed to reduce friction between the moving parts, cooling the clutch, and allowing greater torque.

Other features of the N DCT include N Grin Shift, N Power Shift and N Track Sense Shift functionality. These settings have dedicated shift-logic management. N Power Shift engages when the car accelerates with more than 90-percent throttle. N Grin Shift maximizes engine and DCT performance for 20 seconds, providing a boost. N Track Sense optimized adaptive shift for the race track.

The N Grin Control System has five different drive modes: Normal, Eco, Sport, N and Custom. Unlike with a traditional automatic transmission vehicle, in Hyundai vehicles with N DCT, the driver can choose to turn off the creep function. When the creep function is turned "off" and the car is in gear D, the car does not automatically roll forward when the brake pedal is released.

Drivers can switch to manual mode for more control over shift points, utilizing the paddle shifters or gear knob. In manual mode, the downshift memory logic will avoid downshifting during high RPM operation. Memory functionality remembers the command and executes only when the acceptable RPM is reached.

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