The new 2020 Kia Soul retains the blend of personality and versatility that it has been known for, with its familiar boxy shape and focus on style.

Although the new Soul may look familiar, it rides on an all-new platform and gets a new engine and transmission combination. An EV model also returns.

Details were thin at the car’s LA Auto Show debut, but it appears that Kia is trying to remedy some of the problems we had with the outgoing car, including unexceptional fuel economy, acceleration, and ride comfort. 

2020 Kia Soul X driving

What it competes with: Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HRChevrolet BoltNissan Kicks, Nissan Leaf
What it looks like: A Kia Soul, but more modern. The boxy silhouette remains, but it’s now accented by narrower lights and a smaller grille at the front, and wraparound tail lights. The new X-Line trim gets rugged body cladding.
Powertrains: A 147-hp, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine; six-speed manual or continuously variable transmission. A 201-hp, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; seven-speed automatic transmission. A 201-hp electric motor, 64-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery. All versions are front-wheel drive.
Expected price: Not yet announced
On-sale date: Spring 2019

Outside

It’s a box, and that’s not a bad thing. We’ve always thought the Soul’s size and proportions make it a fun and frugal alternative to a compact SUV, and the new model appears to be no exception. It’s a bit longer than the outgoing model, and Kia says the exterior redesign allowed for a wider and lower tailgate and larger front-door openings.

More From The LA Auto Show

In addition to a wider grille and new front fenders, the Soul also has a new lighting design that puts slim daytime running lights up front and wraparound lights in the rear. Different trim levels offer different exterior accents—including the X-Line’s rugged body cladding.

Kia says the new car has a stiffer body shell than before, which could help with ride and handling. 

2020 Kia Soul interior

Inside the Cabin

A refreshed interior gets an optional 10.25-inch center touch screen. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility are standard. In tune with the Soul’s playful character, it comes with interior “mood lighting” options that have names such as “Midnight City” and “Hey! Yo!”

The new model has more cargo space, at 29.2 cubic feet with the rear seat up, addressing a shortcoming with the current Soul. That marks a 5-cubic-foot increase, based on Kia’s figures.  

2020 Kia Soul cargo

What Drives It

Buyers of entry-level Souls will notice the biggest difference between the old and new car’s specs: The 2019 Soul had three engines. The new model makes do with two.

The 130-hp 1.6-liter and 161-hp 2.0-liter have been replaced by a 2.0-liter that splits the difference at 147 hp. The base LX can be had with this engine and a six-speed manual transmission. Otherwise, the 2.0-liter is paired with a continuously variable transmission all the way up to the GT-Line version, which is available with a 201-hp, 1.6-liter turbo engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, like before.

The base engine should aid fuel economy, but those numbers don’t suggest invigorating performance.

However, the Soul EV has made prodigious gains. The 2020 Soul EV boasts 92 more horsepower, for 201 total. Yes, the same as the turbo engine. But where it shines is with 291 pound-feet of torque—enough twisting power to ensure that the small car feels quite lively.

This electric drivetrain is a similar to the one in the Hyundai Kona EV, and they both use a 64-kilowatt-hour battery pack. Kia advises that the Soul EV is undergoing range testing, but Hyundai has released a 258-mile range estimate for the Kona.

2020 Kia Soul GT

Safety and Driver-Assist Systems

The Soul offers a full portfolio of advanced safety and driver-assist features, but none are available on the base LX trim. The X-Line includes blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, and lane keeping assist. The third trim level, the S, gains forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane change assist, and driver attention monitor.

CR’s Take

Kia has remained faithful to the Soul formula, with its boxy appearance, easy access, and emphasis on entertainment. The livelier turbo powertrain and additional cargo space should add some appeal. And the Soul EV looks intriguing, though details remain sparse. We plan to buy and test a new Kia Soul as soon as it becomes available.

2020 Kia Soul EV
2020 Kia Soul EV