If you picture rhythmic, life-size anthropomorphic hamsters, it is (let’s hope) because of Kia’s catchy marketing effort for the Soul subcompact crossover. We won’t judge you if it isn’t. Perhaps the Soul is familiar because one recently whisked you away from a bar after being summoned by a ride-hailing app. Or maybe you or someone you know owns one; Kia has sold more than a million of the toaster-shaped things since 2009.
Instantly recognizable and increasingly ubiquitous, the Kia Soul is almost iconic. Kia thinks it is iconic, hence why its 2020 redesign is as careful an evolution as, say, the latest Porsche 911’s. The Kia is still affordable (prices start at $18,485), and its seating remains tall and chairlike, as in an SUV. The slab-sided, boxy profile and snub nose are unmistakable, and some additional funkiness is provided by taillights that now practically encircle the back window and a scowling face that resembles a Star Wars stormtrooper helmet.
Solidly, and Similarly, Packaged
The Soul is a two-time Car and Driver10Best Trucks and SUVs award winner as much for its intelligent price as its clever interior packaging. There remain gobs of head- and legroom front and rear, even though the new model’s 1.2-inch-longer wheelbase and additional 2.2 inches of length fail to translate into much more usable space. Rear legroom is actually down 0.3 inch, while front legroom is up just 0.2 inch. Still, the rear seat in particular is spacious and comfortable, with a pleasantly angled seatback. Folding those back seats expands cargo capacity from 24 cubic feet (the same as before) to 62 cubic feet (a little more than before). The doors also open a little wider, and the rear hatch opening is slightly bigger.
Like many similarly priced cars, the Soul uses hard plastics throughout its interior, although pricier models have more soft-touch bits. Assembly is impeccable, however, and the overall style feels more aspirational than before. Kia maintains a level of quirkiness inside, upgrading the old model’s light-up door speakers—which could pulse to the beat of music—for available LED-backlit panels mounted higher on the front doors that can put on the same show but are now visible in the daytime.