2020 Kia Soul GT-Line First Drive Review: Zippy Fun for Everyone

Will this be Kia's best-selling model to date?

If you follow the simple philosophy that a fun car is a good car, then the 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line is a great car. Why? It’s a kick to drive, there’s good utility and it puts a smile on your face – simple.

But there’s more to it than that. When Kia brought us out to San Diego, California to drive the 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line, we thought that we would be sitting in traffic so long time. Nope, traffic was pretty good. We expected to get an hour-long lecture on how amazing the vehicle was. Nope – it took ten minutes.

What makes it so much fun?

  • Its turbocharged 201 horsepower, 1.6-liter engine that makes a healthy 195 lbs-feet of torque. That engine is hooked up to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Sorry, no manual is available unless you opt for a base model non-turbo.
  • Its suspension and Goodyear tire combination. While it has a twisting-beam rear suspension, which is not a performance-car preference, it is beautifully dampened. The Goodyear tires, mounted on slick-looking 18-inch wheels, have great grip and the larger brakes are outstanding.
  • Its interior is just as good, if not better, than the competition – even the Volkswagen GTI. While I think the sporty front seats’ side bolsters are a tad tight, I’m a chunky dude. Most people will be more comfortable. The interior layout is good and the flat-bottom steering wheel (with flappy paddle gear selectors) is one of the best in class. The back seats are excellent for two adults and a squeeze for three.
2020 Kia Soul GT-Line. [Photo: Kia]

All in all, the combination makes for a fun package that’s very practice. Utility is even better with slightly more space than before. It’s 2.2-inches longer and it has up 24.2 cubic feet of cargo space. Bigger door openings and a more utilitarian cargo area too.

It’s fairly thrifty with an EPA estimated 27 mpg city, 32 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined – on regular 87-Octane fuel. Interesting that it is higher off the ground (6.7-inches vs 5.9-inches) than the vehicle it replaces. It’s a lot lighter too – over 300 lbs lighter.


Everything comes together on the drive. During our brief tour, we braved San Diego city traffic, back canyon roads and long highway slogs. It was a truly enjoyable run with a car that responded quickly to inputs, changed directions rapidly and was resolute with its grip.

It reminded me of an older Ford Focus SVT for some reason. Except, the Ford had better steering feel. It’s not as powerful as a GTI and it can’t out-corner a Honda Civic Si. Even its distant cousin, the Hyundai Elantra Sport handle a bit better. Still, it’s rewarding to zing around a corner and, unlike those other vehicles, the 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line feels like a better-sorted commuter and small family car.

We know that it will be in dealerships in the next few weeks and that a base-model 2020 Kia Soul starts at $17,490. The Hyundai Elantra Sport, which has the same engine and similar performance feel, starts at $20,600.

Just announced, the 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line with the 7-speed DCT and 1.6-liter turbo starts at $27,490