The Kia brand, launched in Canada in 1999, is celebrating its twentieth year.
While the brand did not exactly set the world on fire right out of the gate with the Sportage and Sephia models, Kia has seen consistent year-over-year growth in the Canadian market and achieved over 73,000 units sold in 2018 across eleven models. They have achieved success by placing emphasis on younger buyers with trendy looking cars and playful advertisements, along with a focus on build quality, as witnessed by the 2018 J.D. Power “Highest Ranked Mass Market Brand, Midsize SUV, and Small Car in Initial Quality in U.S.” award.
One of the vehicles that contributed to its youthful brand image is the Kia Soul. To show they are serious about attracting young buyers, the first generation Soul’s optional audio package came with lights in the speakers that pulsated with the music being played. Fast forward to 2019, Kia announced the release of the brand new third generation 2020 Kia Soul and invited us to downtown Toronto for a preview.
The first thing you will notice when you meet the 2020 Kia Soul is the front end design that resembles face of a Stormtrooper. The ‘eyes’ you see from afar actually house the slim-design daytime running lights, LED headlights and turn signal indicators, and below are the fog lights. A large grille that connects all the way down to a front valance completes the Soul’s futuristic look.
The rest of the Kia Soul retains the classic boxy body style and looks as funky now as it did over a decade ago. Below the flat roof is a distinctive C-pillar that features the “Soul” nameplate etched into it. The C-pillars, according to Kia Canada, are designed to resemble airplane wings, along with the three-dimensional wraparound boomerang-shaped taillights, add extra element to the Soul’s fun-loving personality.
The 2020 Kia Soul comes with a 2.0L four-cylinder engine producing 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft. of torque. Power is transferred to the front wheels only using Kia’s own Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT), which essentially is their version of a continuously variable transmission. Although it is not a fast car by any measure, engine response is linear and there is enough power to get anywhere without feeling the need to push too hard. The IVT is smooth and does a good job simulating an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The Soul’s handling is on-par with other subcompact crossovers in the segment. Steering feel is light and the car is easy to maneuver even in tight urban environments. Kia Canada was confident enough about the Soul’s handling ability that they set up an autocross section for us to put the funky little “crossover” to the test. The Soul handled the course well with minimal messy moment to write home about. The brakes also held up well for the challenge and we were able to stop the Soul accurately within the box at the finish line.
The interior design of the Kia Soul is far more conservative than the exterior suggests, with monotone colour scheme and a practical design focus. Of course, the Soul’s signature mood lighting system is available, which can synchronize the ambient lighting with the music being played as well as the ability to tailor its personality to a variety selectable moods. These moods are interestingly named ‘Hey! Yo!’, ‘Party Time’, ‘Traveling’, ‘Romance’, ‘Midnight City’, and ‘Cafe’. A party is not complete without music of course, and the Soul has an available 10-speaker 640-watt Harman Kardon audio system for buyers, which is twice as powerful as the system in the outgoing model.
Infotainment is provided using either a seven-inch, or an available 10.25″ Display Audio system that supports Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Bluetooth Multi-Connection connectivity. A heads-up display is available, showing important information such as the speedometer, turn by turn navigation, traffic, radio and media information, and driving assist information. There is a dual level centre console tray below the climate control system for drivers to put a smartphone.
A positive trend in the compact car segment is the emphasis on safety technologies, and the 2020 Kia Soul is no different. It offers a suite of available Kia Drive Wise features, such as Advanced Forward Collision Avoidance, Lane Keeping Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Blind-spot Collision Warning, Rear Cross Collision Warning, and Smart Cruise Control systems.
The 2020 Kia Soul comes in seven available trim levels (LX, EX, EX+, EX Premium, GT-Line Premium, EX Limited, and GT-Line Limited). Prices start at $21,195 for the base LX and top out at $29,595 for the GT-Line Limited. The trim level sampled here is the EX Limited, which comes with the full Kia Drive Wise system, heads-up display, power adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and the Harman Kardon premium sound system.
Major rivals for the Soul at its price point include the Toyota C-HR (reviewed here), Nissan Kicks and forthcoming Hyundai Venue. The newly designed 2020 Kia Soul, with its distinctive styling, good driving dynamics, and an interior that can be turned into a party room, makes for a great option for those who are in the market for a subcompact crossover. It’s especially good for those who want to show off their youthful and eccentric personality. Kia Canada is poised to continue its recent market success and should continue to see its young fan base grow in 2020 and beyond.