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Staff Photo by Mark Kennedy / The 2020 Kia Soul features cool LED headlights.
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Staff Photo by Mark Kennedy / The interior of the 2020 Kia Soul features a heated, flat-bottom steering wheel.

A funny thing about the Kia Soul: The high school teacher who lives down the street from my house loves it, but her kids put the kibosh on a possible purchase.

When the Kia arrived in our driveway our kids did a little eye-rolling, too, which tells me that the polarizing bread-box shape which debuted about a decade ago is not captivating today's teens.

But I imagine this is taken with a grain of salt by Kia company leaders in Korea. Until teenagers start buying new cars — don't hold your breath on that — it matters much more what mature buyers think of the Soul. Soul sales peaked at 147,000 units in the United States in 2015 and have since settled in at just over 100,000.

I, for one, think the Soul is a roomy, fun-to-drive little runabout with an adult-friendly back seat and plenty of cargo area for a family-sized trip to the supermarket. And for 2020, the third generation Soul has just enough design tweaks to keep things interesting. (I see you, LED headlights.)

FAST FACTS

* Model: 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line 1.6 Turbo

* Exterior color: Inferno Red

* Interior color: Black

* Engine: 1.6-liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged

* Horsepower: 201

* Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic

* Fuel economy: 32 mpg highway, 27 mpg city

* Local Dealer: Kia of Chattanooga, 2136 Chapman Road

* Price (as tested): $28,710

Too, the zippy, turbocharged GT-Line version that arrived at my house for a one-week test drive was a hoot to drive. The way it charged up hills in downtown Chattanooga reminded me that the little 1.6-liter engine packs 201 horsepower.

In Chattanooga, Souls are available at Kia of Chattanooga on Chapman Road. Late this week the dealership had 33 Souls in digital inventory ranging in advertised price from $17,927 for a basic LX to $27,260 for a GT-Line turbo version like our tester.

 

WHAT IS IT?

The Kia Soul is a compact hatchback with seating for five. It's distinguished by its generous interior space, owing to a boxy exterior design. The Soul has been redesigned and improved for the 2020 model year.

 

WHAT DOES IT COST?

Our tester, provided by the manufacturer, has an MSRP of $28,710, although basic models sell for much less.

 


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WHAT WE LIKED

Our logbooks contained a host of "likes" including the surprisingly strong 1.6-liter engine, the 10.25-inch touch screen, heated front seats and full LED headlights. The Harman-Kardon premium audio system is killer.

 

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

Some of the interior plastics look cheap.

 

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

Handling and acceleration and first rate. The car is relatively quiet and the suspension adroitly absorbs road imperfections.

 

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Staff Photo by Mark Kennedy / The GT-line turbo has 18-inch wheels.

NOTABLE FEATURES

The GT-Line Turbo gets a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch alloys and upgraded brakes.

 

BOTTOM LINE

If a quirky, fun-to-drive hatchback is what you crave, it's hard to see how you could go wrong with a Kia Soul — no matter what the kids say.

Online: In the market for a new vehicle? To access hundreds of Mark Kennedy's Chattanooga Test Drive columns visit www.timesfreepress.com/testdrive.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

 

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Staff Photo by Mark Kennedy / The boxy body shape is a polarizing design.
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