Stick Shift: 2020 Kia Soul X-Line

Popular as they are today, the concept of a subcompact crossover used to be a mere creative blip, percolating in someones brain somewhere. Cars like the Nissan Cube, Honda Element and Scion xB cropped up, blurring the lines between traditional automotive categories as we knew them to be. Amongst them was the Kia Soul. It’s important to note that the Soul is the only one left. Staying true to the formula thats helped it not only survive, but succeed, the little Kia is back for its third generation debut. 

For 2020 the Kia Soul isn’t just refreshed, its completely redesigned. To the point where it’s nearly unrecognizable. Like a concept car for a new Disney Tron film, its straight from the future. Razor slits for headlights. A gaping mouth flanked by large fog lights. 18” wheels and special X-Line body cladding to round off the visual package perfectly. Each angle and element is new and improved. Converting the cheeky little Soul into a crossover with serious attitude. Its retained its near perfect cube shape. While the new looks may not resonate with everyone, I found them be an enormous improvement. Easily the best part of the new model. So did the guy at the Starbucks drive-through. And the Sonic drive-through too. All in the same day. 

Photo via: Kia

A pesky downside of a car with almost zero aerodynamics, is all the wind noise that permeates into the cabin. This is especially noticeable at freeway speeds. Still, the interior space is roomier than most other subcompact crossovers. You’ll find headroom for days, and enough legroom for four adults to enjoy long distance drives in complete comfort. There’s smart use of cargo space, storage cubbies and hidden away compartments. Silver trim helps to break up the all-black cabin. Some leather-wrapping on the wheel and shift knob add an element of refinement in the otherwise plastic heavy interior. 

Photo via: Kia

Response from the eager 2.0L turbo engine is adequate. Unfortunately, the Intelligent Variable Transmission, IVT for short, is clunky and slow to respond to throttle inputs. In the handling department though, the new Kia Soul has, well… some real soul. It’s compact size and controlled handling over bumpy pavement make it ideal for urban jaunts. In a more rural environment, responsive steering and crisp maneuvering make the Kia Soul a fun-filled experience in many ways. 

In the end, the Kia Soul is the soul survivor of a unique group of category creating cars. All before the subcompact crossover dominated the roads. It’s roomy cabin, arresting new looks, nimble chassis and responsive turbo-charged engine make the third generation version the best by far. With such a strong offering for 2020, at this price, it won’t be going away anytime soon.

Price as tested: $22,615.00

By: Brandon Randall

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