By Nauman Farooq
The Kia Soul was introduced at a rather interesting time – 2008 to be exact – a time when many manufacturers were offering cool and interesting subcompact and compact segment vehicles.
There was the Mini Cooper (which had been on sale for a few years by this point), and the Smart for two (which was getting its second generation model), and then came the Fiat 500, to do battle with the car that kicked off the cool small-car craze, the Volkswagen Beetle.
When Kia launched the first generation of the Soul onto the Canadian market, it met with a vehicle that was pegged as its main rival, the Nissan Cube.
Over a decade and a bit later, almost all of the Soul’s competition has been killed off, except for the Mini Cooper. So, Kia has not only outlasted just about everyone else, but they’ve just introduced the third-generation model of the Soul.
Is it any good?
Time to find out!
Styling: From an aesthetic point of view, yes, it is very good. I think every generation of the Soul looked good, but this latest offering is the most sophisticated and stylish one yet!
Would you call it beautiful?
Well, that depends on each individual. Some love it, while some hate it. I like polarizing designs, and I think Kia got this one just right!
Interior: The same carries through to the interior. There is a lot of style in this cabin also, and what I loved most about it is the fact that Kia has made so many unique bits for the Soul.
Typically, a manufacturer is going to raid their own parts bin to come up with interior pieces, but the Soul has so many details that are uniquely its own, that even the borrowed bits don’t look out of place.
Than there are the features. My GT-Line Limited tester was so well equipped; it could put a few luxury cars to shame! It had power seats, that were heated and cooled, plus a heated steering wheel. Wait, there more! You also get a heads up display, a comprehensive infotainment system, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, forward collision warning, rear cross traffic alert, automatic climate control, sunroof, and much, much more!
In short, this is the most feature laden compact car I’ve ever come across, and I like that.
Powertrain: Not much to love under the hood, though. In Canada, we only get the Soul with one engine and transmission, and neither are aimed towards a spirited driver!
Under the hood lies a 2.0L inline-four cylinder engine that features four valves per cylinder, double over-head cams, and variable valve timing. It produces 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque – not very exciting numbers, and things only get worse!
You see, that unexciting engine is mated to an even more unexciting gearbox, a CVT automatic – or IVT (as in, Intelligent Variable Transmission) in Kia’s language – so any thrill you could have gotten from a manual or a dual-clutch gearbox, has been squashed by this transmission. Either Kia knows its customers well, or they just want to discourage anyone who likes sporty driving, to keep their distance from the Soul.
Performance & Driving Dynamics: So, as you’d expect from the specs, the Soul is not going to be the vehicle you’ll turn to, for a spirited drive. It’s not quick, or fast, and nor does it sound good when you jump on the throttle.
There are typical dynamic limitations to a front-wheel drive layout, but couple that with soft suspension and feelless steering, and you do end up with a vehicle that would never encourage you to go for a drive, just for the joy of it.
In the city, it does ride well enough, and seems well insulated, too. That changes on the highway, as there is quite a bit of road and wind noise to deal with. The unpleasant noises are not the biggest issue however, its crosswinds; given the flat sides of the vehicle, on windy days the Soul acts more like a sail.
Fuel Economy: In my fuel economy test (where I drive a vehicle 170 km on the highway + 130 km in the city) the 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line averaged 9.7 L/100 km – which is a lot for a car of this size and power. For example, a similarly sized and powered Mazda3 averaged just 8.4 L/100 km. So, there is a price to pay for the cool looks of the Soul.
Pricing: The 2020 Kia Soul has a base price of $21,195. The fully loaded GT-Line Limited model (as tested) is yours from $29,595. Given the style and features of this vehicle, that’s pretty good value.
Verdict: If you’re looking for a compact family vehicle that would also give you thrills; look elsewhere!
However, if you don’t do a lot of highway driving, and want a stylish vehicle that also has lots of luxury features, than the Soul might just be what you’re looking for. Me, I wish the turbocharged model that is offered for sale in America, will also one day be offered here in Canada.