DETROIT — Kia starting rolling out its models for 2020 recently and there were two new lines. We had the 2020 Soul X-Line, a more or less basic model. But basic does not mean what it used to years ago.
First, the Soul mystique was present. The test vehicle had that squared look with that slightly slanted roof that makes the Soul look as though it was cutting through the wind.
Under the hood was a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that made 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to what Kia called an Intelligent Variable Transmission, the automaker’s in-house version of a continuously variable transmission.
This combination gave the car plenty of power. It was smart, snappy and it had a little oomph. What’s more, we were hard-pressed to tell that the transmission was a CVT of sorts. The Soul X-Line was a pleasure to drive. It featured body cladding, overfenders for a chunkier look, offroad-inspired accents, unique 18-inch alloy wheels, roof rail-inspired accents, optional two-tone paint (ours was white) and fog lights.
In some sense, it was a throwback. This Soul had an actual key. There was a fob to lock and unlock the door, but there was no push button on the door nor to start or stop the car. We had to put the key in the ignition and turn the switch to start it. But once we did, there was a certain verve to this Soul X-Line, no matter the trim line.
Handling was surprisingly agile. Steering was very responsive to driver input, as a colleague used to say. Soul handling mirrored that of a go-kart. It took just a little turn of the steering wheel for the car to in another direction. Cornering was excellent and lane changes were effortless.
The ride was firm without being harsh. The suspension took minor lumps and bumps out of the rode. And the car was quiet; road noise was left outside and at times we could not hear the engine at all.
The only complaint we had during the weeklong test drive was the alarm. Or, more precisely, the beep of the horn that signaled the alarm system had been engaged. You know that beep you hear after a second push of the lock button on the fob. On the Soul, it wasn’t a bleep, it was blare of the horn. The reason for the decibel level of this feature escapes us. But it was intimidating enough, especially in a close space, that we didn’t engage the system because we wanted to escape that blare. We’re sure that was not the intent.
Still, the interior of the Soul X-Line was comforting, even though this was a basic car. However, that does not mean it was without creature comforts or safety equipment.
This 2020 Soul had blind-spot collision warning. The rearview camera had cross-traffic alert, it had lane-change assist, front fog lights, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, roof trim and exterior body cladding. There were also 18-inch alloy wheels.
And it had stop-start to save fuel. The EPA rating was 27 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg combined. Power windows were not automatic. Only the driver’s window went down with one touch, but it didn’t come up. The button had to be held.
This Soul had cloth seats, they were big and soft. There was a touch infotainment screen but no navigation system or satellite radio. However, Kia did an admirable job of giving this Soul entertainment options. It could stream music from a smartphone including Pandora because it did have Bluetooth as well as voice controls. Plug the phone in with a cord and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were available. And navigation via either service becomes doable.
There were two drive modes: normal and sport. The instruments were analog with a relatively small TFT screen between the odometer and the speedometer. The former had the fuel gauge at the bottom and the latter had the temperature gauge at the bottom.
Underneath the infotainment screen, there were two 12V sockets and a USB jack between them. That was a little surprising since the car is aimed at the young or the young at heart. There were no connections for external equipment in the back seats either.
However, there was a bunch of room in the backseats. The Soul had plenty of headroom and legroom in the back. With a virtually flat floor, we think three people could sit in relative comfort in the back where the seats were firm but not hard.
And though it doesn’t look like it, the Soul is and has always been a hatchback. There were a sizable 23.8 cubic feet of storage space. For $22,960, the 2020 Kia Soul X-Line was not a bad buy.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.