With its boxy exterior and compact proportions, the Kia Soul was the first truly stylish vehicle from the Korean automaker, and is still being imitated by competitors. The Soul remains a distinctive design to this day, so Kia had a big challenge before it when it set out to launch a new version. The completely redesigned 2020 Kia Soul debuts at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show and goes on sale in the United States in 2019.
When it comes to exterior styling, this is one situation where designers didn’t want to think outside the box. The 2020 Soul retains the previous two generations’ crate-like proportions, but with some updates to keep the design fresh. The front end gets a more streamlined headlight design, which also makes the Soul look a bit like a sad robot. The 2020 Soul is also slightly longer than before, with a wider and lower tailgate meant to make loading and unloading cargo easier, according to Kia.
The 2020 Kia Soul will be available with three powertrains — two gasoline, one electric — with front-wheel drive across the board. Base models get the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine from the Kia Forte, which produces 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. That engine is available with a six-speed manual transmission or continuously variable transmission (CVT). An optional 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces 201 hp and 195 lb-ft, and is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The all-electric Soul EV also returns for the 2020 model year. Its electric motor produces 201 hp and 291 lb-ft of torque. The 2020 Soul EV boasts a 64-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, which is much bigger than the previous generation’s 30-kWh pack. That should lead to a major increase over the previous generation’s 111-mile range, but we don’t know for sure. Kia said the 2020 Soul EV is still undergoing testing, and that a range figure will be published closer to its 2019 launch. Also unclear is whether Kia will continue to sell the Soul EV in low volumes in a handful of states, or whether it will expand sales nationwide.
On the inside, the Soul gets a major infotainment upgrade, including an available 10.25-inch central touchscreen with split-screen function, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and an available 8.0-inch head-up display. The car also gets a mood lighting system with options that include “Hey! Yo!,” “Party Time,” “Traveling,”Romance,” “Midnight City,” and “Cafe.”
The 2020 Soul will also be available with a long list of driver aids, including adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, driver attention monitor, blind spot monitoring, and automatic high beams.
The 2020 Kia Soul goes on sale in the U.S. in the second half of 2019. Pricing will be announced closer to the launch date. Alongside the Soul EV, Kia debuted an all-electric version of its Niro pseudo-crossover at the 2018 L.A. Auto Show.
Updated on November 28, 2018: Added live photos.