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Entry price: $17,490

Price as tested: $22,615

Likes: New generation “shoe box” design, roomy interior, more car per dollar spent

Dislikes: Turbo model too expensive, some road noise, LX lacks some safety features

This week, it’s the 2020 Kia Soul we’re driving, a new third generation model that Kia stresses is totally transformed, fun to drive and offers more advanced technology. Additionally, Soul now competes in a class all by itself, as the original compact “shoe box” class has been decimated.

Specifically, the Nissan Cube is gone, Honda Element is no longer available and Scion xB disappeared when Toyota decided to stop producing its low-cost line.

So, call it longevity or stubbornness, it’s the Soul that is the only one left of this compact, “box car” brand segment. Granted, other cars are now morphing back into a Soul-like motif, but Kia receives credit for outlasting the competition in what was once a very unique design that attracted a niche class of consumers.

And how niche is this class of buyers nowadays?

Surprisingly, the second generation 2019 Kia Soul is now outselling all other Kia models and ranks No. 1 as per May 2019, sales to date. (Talk about surviving and then thriving). Specifically, Kia Soul has sold 46,697 units (versus 40,165 last year), well ahead of the Forte, Sorento and Optima, all of which have sold 39,000-plus units for the first five months of 2019. (And this new 2020 model will probably do even better). 

Other than longevity, Soul’s sales success lies in its ability to attract consumers from all demographic age groups, be it young college student all the way to their baby boomer grandparents. It’s a good looking little car that offers much in its EPA categorized “small station wagon” looks that won’t break anyone’s bank account. 

The only thing Soul lacked was a 4x4 model, and that will change as a 4x4 Soul is rumored to be on its way by June 2020. 

This third generation 2020 Soul is redesigned both exterior and interior, but not enough to lose its overall appeal. Along with all-new high-tech safety features and visual upgrades, Soul now offers five distinct models instead of last year’s three, and an all-new GT-Line that includes Soul’s first ever turbocharged engine and unique GT additions like center exhaust outlets.

There’s also the new, more rugged looking Soul X-Line (our tester), proving Soul is ready to adapt to the needs of the many aforementioned consumer groups. 

Everything from the shape of the driver’s door panel to an expansive footwell has been reworked to ensure entering and exiting a Soul is fast, easy and non-cumbersome regardless of age.

Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media.

 

Auto Bits

How much safety tech
do teen drivers need?

When it comes to driver safety, parents want teens to be protected. Advanced safety technology such as automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning are all available, but do these features give teens a false sense of security? 

And when it comes to safety, how do seatbelts compare to the new technology? Getting behind the wheel is one of the most dangerous activities for a teen. Six teens of driving age die every day from motor vehicle injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Semi-autonomous, advanced safety technology is here to stay and only becoming more common. With new technology comes a rash of studies, and agencies report different and sometimes conflicting results.

For example, in 2012, when the industry was just starting to implement collision avoidance technologies, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute noted that such features were reducing crashes by 14 percent.

On the other hand, a 2018 study from the institute noted that such technologies had particular problems, including significant issues on hills and curves. Advanced cruise control performance was also singled out for too-abrupt braking or failure to brake in some tests.

 

Craig Fitzgerald
/BestRide.com

 

Did You Know

Teens have an 89.2% chance of being involved in a car crash during their first three years of driving.