My Thoughts Exactly: 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line Turbo

Since this website is approaching its ninth anniversary, I think it’s time for a little story.

Prior to the rebranding of V&R, I would write up reviews of vehicles I rented. That way, I can wrap my head around how to approach each vehicle and evaluate it. It meant putting it through its paces and letting it live with me for the tasks each vehicle had to do.

Just like I do today.

The year was 2010 and I rented this green Kia Soul + from National Car Rental at MSP. It wound up in Duluth to see some friends. I must say that it was an odd little vehicle for the time.

Yet, it became a strong seller for Kia over the past decade. They were affordable and cheerful. I know a few of you who own (or used to own) one. And, you love them!

We could thank the hamsters that helped market this small crossover to the masses.

Kia’s marketing folks retired the hamsters and replaced it with a chameleon to market this third-generation Soul. I can see why. The lineup for the new 2020 version has grown to fit many people’s budgets and interests. It can be what it wants to be while sticking to its roots as an upright little crossover that can do anything you want it to do.

Last year, I had the 2020 Soul X-Line for review for another publication. It was fine, except it came when I was not feeling my best. I’ll spare you the play-by-play of last May/June.

Now, I get a second shot with the 2020 Kia Soul. This time, it’s the GT-Line Turbo. My expectations were higher on this one. After all, how much self quarantining and social distancing can you do when you have a red turbocharged Kia Soul at your disposal?

While the overall shape looks familiar – the signature boxy look with curvatures smoothing out the profile – you will notice a few differences from Souls of yore. The first thing you will notice is the front end. Kia has changed the lighting signature completely, bring the main headlamps to the same level as the large lower grille. The upper lamps have narrow bulbs for the headlights and LED daytime running lights. In some models, fog lamps are integrated into a lower light housing on each end of the lower grille. The GT-Line tester had a unique grille texture that stands out from the other Soul trim levels.

Another visual change is the integration of a floating roof design that cuts off the usual triangle C-pillar glass and lets a black applique bridge the glass silhouette with the rear end. The taillights form a boomerang-L shape that frames half of the liftgate in the rear. In all, the Soul looks as youthful as it matures into this third-generation model.

These chameleon-like changes continue inside. The first thing you notice is the sculpted red appliques that frame the door latches. Red is present in many places – around the speakers, the stitching on the seats, instrument panel, and the door cards. It does break up the black upholstery and finishes throughout the Soul.

The instrumentation looks normal to Kia’s standards, as does a lot of the controls. However, the steering wheel is funky, as well as the upper center stack oval that houses the UVO-driven infotainment system. On the GT-Line model, we got a wide 10.25-inch touch screen that has three panes of information standard. Apple CarPlay works very well with this screen. Harmon Kardon brought the sound to the Soul’s turbocharged party.

Seating was very supportive and comfortable. I had power adjustments for height, rake, recline ad lumbar support to fine turn my position behind the wheel. There’s plenty of headroom in the rear, but those of us with longer legs may want to negotiate with the person up front for space. The Soul always had a square space for cargo, which has been increased for 2020 to a maximum of 62.1 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down. There is a trick where you can remove the floor panel behind the rear seat for a deeper cargo well.

The last 2020 Soul I reviewed had the 147-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and the new continuously variable transmission, which was responsive and quick. However, this GT-Line Turbo has – you guessed it – a 201-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter engine. It is quite powerful for that tips the scales at 3,036 pounds.

This engine is coupled with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. It feels just fine when in Normal mode. When you put the Soul GT-Line into Sport mode, then you have to engage with the transmission more by working the paddles behind the steering wheel. If you leave the transmission alone, the gears will hang up and not shift unless you do so. For some, this is inconvenient. For those of us who understand automobiles a bit deeper than most, then we know how to manipulate the shifts to our advantage.

In terms of fuel economy, I was surprised to see what I was averaging whilst in my care. Average fuel consumption came to 30.0 MPG, which is much better than the Soul I rented and reviewed 10 years ago.

As you probably figured out, the Soul GT-Line Turbo has two drive modes. Both Normal and Sport work to specific advantages. If you want a smoother ride, leave it in Normal. If you want a heavier steering feel, flatter cornering, and a firmer ride, put it into Sport. The result is two distinct driving experiences that may or may not be right for everyone. There is no compromise setting in the Soul GT-Line Turbo.

However, you do get a steering system that offers tight turning radiuses, but a detached feel overall. The brakes are good with solid stopping power in normal and panic situations. The pedal feel is on point. I was happy to see that the GT-Line offers adaptive cruise control for better highway pacing.

Didn’t I talk about that on the Dave Nemo Weekends show (SiriusXM 146) a few weeks ago?

Anyway, you can get a 2020 Kia Soul starting from $17,490 – a bargain these days! That gives you a base LX model with a manual transmission for the “save the manuals” crowd. My GT-Line Turbo tester came with a sticker price of $28,710.

There is a trailer load of questions that may come up from this review? Should I get the GT-Line Turbo to overcompensate for the Kia Soul. Is it worth the extra $11,000 for the turbo and the driver assistance kit? Because it is only available in front-wheel-drive, should I get something else with all-wheel-drive instead?

The answer simple: If this fits with what you want out a car, that decision is entirely up to you. But, if you want a quick small urban-sized crossover-ish car and like the Kia Soul in the past and present, just take a look at this one.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Kia Motors America

All photos by Randy Stern

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