Wednesday, January 27, 2021
First Reviews 2020 Kia Soul First Drive Review: The Hamsters Are Dead, But Their...

2020 Kia Soul First Drive Review: The Hamsters Are Dead, But Their Soul Lives On

We had the chance to drive the 2020 Kia Soul around Toronto to see what the new generation has to offer.

The Kia Soul brings me back to one of the first press cars I’ve ever borrowed, a first generation 2011 bright-red Kia Soul 4u model with a 5-speed manual gearbox. The Soul was part of the “cube” movement, along with the Honda Element and the Nissan Cube, of course.

A few years after, the second generation Kia Soul came, and so did the dancing Kia Soul hamsters …

Fast forward to this date. The “cube car” movement died, and so did the hamsters. After all, these little rodents only have a 2-year, maybe a 3-year lifespan with regular exercise in the wheel. And with the lifestyle these party animals were leading, we weren’t surprised when Kia told us they had checked out.

However, the Soul remained. Kept its shape and is still geared with funky ambient lights and advanced tech to please urbanites that need proper transport.

Of course, Kia wants to use the Soul to reach first time buyers, and selling cars to young people is – and always will be from now on – a tall order.

We drove to downtown Toronto, Ontario to drive the 2020 Kia Soul for a few hours around the city, and see what this new model has to offer.

A somewhat considerable evolution

2020 Kia Soul | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube

The Kia Soul sustained subtle physical changes from its 1st to 2nd generation. For this 3rd gen, designers went all out. It gets a whole new, meaner looking face with a taller grille, new headlights, and new wheels. It’s bigger too – 55 millimetres longer with a 30 mm larger wheelbase. This translates to more legroom, headroom and more room for luggage. Of course, the cube shape stuck – that’s the trademark.

The 2020 Kia Soul gets its motivation thanks to a four-cylinder, 2.0-liter naturally aspired powerplant rated at 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. It is bolted to what Kia calls an “IVT”, which is a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that utilizes a chain instead of the usual belt to transfer the drive torque along the conical pulleys. There is also an electric model available for 2020, but it wasn’t available on this particular event.

On the road

2020 Kia Soul | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube

Driving the 1st generation Souls was like riding a tiny, stubborn horse that couldn’t turn very well because its rider made it top-heavy. Needless to say, not only my 2011 Soul loaner provided a rocky ride, the steering was loose and when it finally turned in, it was body roll galore.  The 2020 Soul doesn’t get the turbocharged engine, but power is readily available upon pressing the accelerator. The CVT is quick, trading the belt for a metal chain seemed to make it react quicker, while providing a more linear acceleration. Finally, the eight simulated gear shift points are surprisingly well dialed in and help with the sensation, too.

The 2020 Soul doesn’t get the all-wheel-drive option in Canada, which is quite lame. However, handling is balanced; sharp turns are executed with confidence at high speed and steering is much more refined then what I’ve experienced in the past with the 1st gen Soul. A stiffer body structure makes it much less top heavy.

Inside, the interior is simple, yet impressively ergonomic. The “upright” space in the cargo hold was one of the predominant features on the 1st generation Soul and this space has been increased to load stuff like plants and already assembled IKEA furniture without having to unhealthily contort.


2020 Kia Soul | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube

Brass tax: the 2020 Kia Soul is offered in seven trims, from LX to GT-Line Limited. The cheapest Soul will run you $21,195$ and the most expensive one will cost $29,595. The EX is pretty well dressed, at $22,895 you get heated front seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a whole bunch of active safety like forward collision avoidance assist, lane keep assist, blind spot collision warning, rear cross traffic collision alert and avoidance assist, plus a wireless cell charger, among other tech features.

While the Kia Soul still sports a few somewhat useless gizmos like sound mood lighting to “get the party started” (standard on the EX Premium at $26,995), it is well-equipped for the price. Some of the gear included in the EX model above would be added on for a high premium by other manufacturers in many segments.

Even if you’re not into the whole mood lighting or box-like shaped cars, the Soul is a great deal for the price, whatever the age group you’re in. And the resale value is pretty solid nowadays with Kia, so you shouldn’t be worried when comes the time to… sell your Soul.

2020 Kia Soul Photo Gallery

2020 Kia Soul | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube

2020 Kia Soul | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube

2020 Kia Soul | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube

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Louis-Philippe Dubé
Louis-Philippe Dubé
Louis-Philippe Dubé has been contributing at for over a year, and for the NetMedia360 network for nearly three years now. His passion for everything automotive comes from a career as a mechanic, but also from the family vehicle collection that includes a 996 Porsche Turbo and a 2004 Ford GT. We've been bugging him to drive the GT, but he hasn't responded. Send L-P an email


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