Kia Soul GT-Line 1.6 Turbo Rocky Mountain Review by Dan Poler
By Dan Poler
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Rocky Mountain Review
The Auto Channel
It’s impossible to see a Kia Soul and also think … Dancing hamsters. At least, if, like me, you’re of a certain age. No matter how it’s updated and modernized, the unapologetically quirky Soul will always be linked to those cute, anthropomorphic hamsters.
And updated it is. Kia’s Soul is all new for 2020; immediately noticeable is the bodywork. Updates are tasteful and reserved. More evolutionary than it is revolutionary, the Soul retains the same boxy shape with updated lines and curves for a more modern look; A new grille and a thin profile surrounding the LED headlights lend a more aggressive and sporty affect to the vehicle. Although compact and tidy, the Soul boasts a surprising 6.7 inches of ground clearance, helpful in Rocky Mountain Winters.
There are several trim options available for the Kia soul; this specimen checked in with the top-end GT-Line 1.6 Turbo setup. This package contains an exhaustive set of features: upgraded headlamps, foglamps, a D-shaped steering wheel, a heads-up display - an unusual option to see at this price point - upgraded infotainment with 10-speakers and a 10.3-inch screen, wireless charging, adaptive cruise control, navigation… The list goes on.
Perhaps most importantly, the GT-Line 1.6 Turbo includes … A 1.6 turbo. The little engine puts out 201 hp and 195 ft-lbs of torque, and is mated to a seven-speed double-clutch transmission - again, highly unusual to see in this category. By modern standards, 201 hp may not seem like a lot, but it’s important to note that the little Kia carries a curb weight just a shade over a ton and a half, resulting in about 15.1 lbs per hp, which is a significant amount of power; more on that in a moment.
The cabin is pleasant, with a high seating position behind that D-shaped steering wheel. Materials used throughout are not top-of-the-line, but certainly a step up from the sea of hard plastics generally found in this segment. There is a fair amount of gloss black trim throughout, that does attract a significant amount of fingerprints. The panel is logically laid out; controls are low relative to the seating position, but easy to reach, and storage is plentiful. The big, bright wide screen of the infotainment system dominates the center console, positioned high enough to be in easy reach, yet not distracting. It’s here we find a bit of that fun Kia Soul quirkiness, too - color-changing lighting surrounding the speakers that pulse in time with the music, and a HUD that projects against a plastic panel that motors up from the dash.
Driving the Soul is fun - no other word for it. It darts around nicely, with great visibility; it’s small size makes for easy lane changes and simple navigation of suburban parking lots. When pushed, it darts around corners with ease. But not all is perfect - the double-clutch transmission is quick to upshift, slow to downshift, and generally exhibits little evidence of being a double-clutch transmission. Unfortunately a manual is not available with the 1.6 Turbo, which is a shame - it’d be good fun. Turbo lag from that 1.6 is significant, and once power gets to the wheels, the Soul has a tendency to wander and jump around, difficult to control under powerful acceleration. The Soul did manage 33 mpg during my time with it - decent, given the (relative) amount of power under the hood.
The Soul is well equipped with safety features, including emergency braking, lane keeping, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert; it rates an IIHS Top Safety Pick. In addition, it carries a 5 year / 60,000 warranty, extended to 10 years or 100,000 miles for powertrain.
Of course, with all the options added, the price very significantly increases; whereas the base Soul LX starts at $17,490, the GT-Line 1.6 Turbo checks in at $28,710 as-tested. It’s a significant increase, but still feels like decent value.
Despite its challenges in handling under acceleration, the refreshed Kia Soul GT Line 1.6 Turbo is a small package really well executed, thoughtful in its design. I’d like to think those hamsters would be proud.
Kia Soul GT-Line 1.6 Turbo
Engine Type: Turbocharged inline 4-cylinder
Engine Size: 1.6-Liter
Horsepower: 201 @ 6,000 RPM
Torque (lb-ft): 195 @ 1,500 RPM
Transmission: 7-Speed dual-clutch
Wheelbase / Length (in): 165.2 / 102.4
Curb Weight: 3,036
Pounds per HP: 15.1
Fuel Capacity (gal): 14.3
Fuel Requirement: Regular Unleaded
Tires: Goodyear Eagle Touring; 235/45R18 98V
Brakes, front / rear: 12-inch ventilated / 11.2-inch solid
Suspension, front / rear: Independent MacPherson strut with stabilizer bar / Coupled torsion beam axle (CTBA) with gas shock absorbers
Ground clearance (in): 6.7
Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - MPG city / highway / combined / observed: 27 / 32 / 29 /33
Base Price: $17,490
Base Trim Price: $27,490
Options and Charges
Option: Carpeted Floor Mats - $130
Option: Cargo Tray - $95
Freight and Handling - $995
Price as tested: $28,710