What’s in the box?
With the Soul, Kia’s always had a stylish answer, and not just a bunch of goop. The 2020 Kia Soul is the latest in the line of roomy, practical hatchbacks for first-time buyers and penny pinchers.
This year, the Soul has us thinking style on a budget like Marshall’s. Available for less than $18,500, the Soul’s secret is that behind the wild colors, light-up interior, and outré flash, it’s just a good hatchback.
The exterior of the 2020 version is just as recognizable as the outgoing Soul it replaces, but it’s more grown-up. The split grille looks better and the rear boomerang lights are classier, but the Soul’s boxy profile is unmistakable. Inside, the Soul’s look-at-me style with light-up speakers covers up the Kia’s economy-car roots. It’s flashy and fun, but not overwhelming and clichéd. We like it.
The 2020 Kia Soul offers a 10.3-inch touchscreen on top models and automatic emergency braking on most models. (Nathan Leach-Proffer/For The Car Connection)
Under the hood is a base 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 147 horsepower paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) or a 6-speed manual that’ll be hard to find. Despite the modest power output, the base engine is the one we prefer: it returns 30 mpg combined, and it keeps a cheap car cheap. An optional 1.6-liter turbo-4 that makes 201 hp is available in top trims, and it’s expensive, but its dual-clutch automatic transmission gives us fits—we’d skip it for now. The Soul drives just its front wheels only, no all-wheel drive at all, and that’s just fine for us.
What warms our hearts about the Soul is the way it goes about shuttling up to four (even five) adults with plenty of space for cargo. With both rows of seats in place, it holds up to 24 cubic feet of cargo—or more than 60 cubic feet with the second row folded.
If one arrives as your Friday night ride-share don’t fret, 6-footers can sit behind other 6-footers easily.
The IIHS called the Soul a Top Safety Pick+ when equipped with optional automatic emergency braking and headlights on top trims. We’ll take exception with the lack of standard automatic emergency braking on every model, but we don’t have many gripes beyond that.
Base cars skip that life-saving tech, so we skip them.
The low-priced 2020 Kia Soul is spacious and connected, but is it enough to be our Best Car To Buy 2020? (Nathan Leach-Proffer/For The Car Connection)
Our pick is the 2020 Soul EX that includes automatic braking, active lane control, two USB ports, a 10.3-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, heated front seats, 17-inch wheels, navigation, wireless smartphone charger, and all that interior space for $23,735, including destination.
There’s a lot in the box, it seems. Is it our Best Car To Buy 2020?
Check back with us on Jan. 2 when we announce the winner of this year's award. We'll also announce the winners from our sister sites, Motor Authority and Green Car Reports. The Car Connection will also reveal the best vehicles in 15 categories to help you choose the best the cars, trucks, and SUVs for your needs. Finally, be sure to vote for our annual Driver’s Choice awards and tell us what you think is the best in every category.