Although its cubelike shape suggests otherwise, the Kia Soul EX has better handling than we expected, making it more fun to drive than one might assume. Credit the good handling to a properly tuned chassis and competent steering, the combination of which gives the Soul the sort of body control that encourages more precise lane changes, quicker on-ramp speeds, and the occasional jaunt down a favorite wiggly road.
It won’t be confused for a hot hatch, but the Soul EX offers a connectedness and composedness that is mostly absent among its competitors, such as the Nissan Kicks, Toyota CH-R, and Hyundai Venue. This fact didn’t escape our judges at last year’s Car of the Year, many of whom applauded the Soul’s handling. Car of the Year guest judge Chris Theodore said, “It has deceptively good handling abilities, perhaps masked by the high seating position, which accentuates body roll.” Ed Loh noted that it is “surprising how much speed it will carry through turns with absolute calm and no stress.” The Soul’s handling prowess was also called out in our recent comparison test with three aforementioned opponents, in which its superior driving dynamics contributed to a first place finish.
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During that comparison, MotorTrend contributor Derek Powell said, “The Soul has astonishing ride quality that belies its price point. The steering, in particular, is fantastic.” It’s fair to say that the Soul offers a reassuring level of driving performance when pushed, which, for the most part, just isn’t found in similar vehicles. At speed, the steering is weighted nicely and is nimble and direct, helping point the vehicle exactly where the driver intends to go. And although the competent handling might contradict the Soul’s unconventional shape and its purpose of intended function, it is a welcomed addition and makes the Soul greater than the sum of its parts.
Yet the Soul’s respectable handling and short wheelbase also contribute to a ride quality that can sometimes be less than ideal. Big pavement cracks and road bumps tend to transmit shudders through the chassis. Driving over a patch of rough road or unexpected undulations can jostle the whole car and send shivers and shakes reverberating through the seats. The culprit is likely a spring rate and low-profile tires that, on this EX trim, combine to make for a stiff and busy ride that allows the driver to feel every bump along the way. The suspension lacks a suppleness that would certainly be welcomed by most drivers (and their passengers). It would be interesting to see how much the ride might improve by temporarily swapping to the 16-inch wheels from the Soul LX. The taller tire sidewall might be just the fix needed to smooth things over inside the cabin.
Read more about our long-term 2020 Kia Soul EX:
- Update 1: Is the 2020 Kia Soul Designed to Look Like a Range Rover?
- Update 2: 5 Simple Joys That Make the 2020 Kia Soul EX So Good
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