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At 10 years old, the 2020 Kia Soul has entered its third, and potentially best, generation yet. To get here, it fought off other boxy hatchbacks such as the Scion xB and Nissan Cube. But now it faces all new competition: subcompact crossovers. They offer similar sizes, prices and flexibility as the Soul, but with a veneer of ruggedness. But the Soul is ready with its own rugged trim, the X-Line, plus the return of its powerful turbocharged variant. To see how the Soul stacks up to the fresh competition, we've compiled vital stats on all the tall hatches.

Considering the prodigious size of the subcompact crossover segment, we've limited our selection to a few options that are similarly priced and sized to the Soul, and that offer a bit of funky styling. They include the Toyota C-HR, Nissan Kicks, Hyundai Kona and Honda HR-V. There are of course many more options, and you can create your own comparisons using our Compare Cars feature. (You can also check out our Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross comparison that includes a few larger choices). In the meantime, though, check out all the numbers on our selected vehicles in the chart below, followed by analysis after.

2020 Kia Soul subcompact crossover comparison chart

Performance, fuel economy and drivetrains

The crossover segment is diverse when it comes to powertrains, with all different displacements, induction systems and drive wheels. A surprising number of these supposedly rugged and off-road-oriented vehicles (at least more than normal cars) are front-drive only. These include the Nissan Kicks, Toyota C-HR and Kia Soul. But the Kona and HR-V offer all-wheel drive, with the Hyundai offering it on both engine options.

Speaking of engine options, only the Kia and Hyundai have two possibilities, either a base 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine, or a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine. The base engines have identical outputs of 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque, but the turbo engines differ. The Soul has 201 horsepower to the Hyundai's 175, but both make the same 195 pound-feet of torque.

The Kicks, C-HR and HR-V all offer just one engine option, and they're all naturally aspirated. The Nissan's engine is the smallest and least powerful: a 1.6-liter engine making 125 horsepower and 115 pound-feet of torque. The HR-V is next with a 1.8-liter engine making 141 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque. The C-HR rounds out the trio at 144 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque from a 2.0-liter engine. Interestingly, all of these are less powerful than the Korean options, with only the Toyota beating them on torque.

All of these vehicles send power through CVTs with the exception of the Soul and Kona. The Soul has an available six-speed manual transmission on the 2.0-liter engine, and the 2.0-liter Kona uses a traditional torque converter automatic. Both turbocharged variants also use seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions.

Hyundai Kona cargo area
  • Hyundai Kona cargo area
  • Image Credit: Hyundai
Honda HR-V cargo area
  • Honda HR-V cargo area
  • Image Credit: Honda
Toyota C-HR cargo area
  • Toyota C-HR cargo area
  • Image Credit: Toyota
2020 Kia Soul GT-Line Turbo
  • 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line Turbo
  • 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line Turbo
  • Image Credit: Autoblog
2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • Image Credit: James Riswick

Passenger and cargo space and fuel economy

Of course the other big reason people like hatchbacks and crossovers is for their practicality. Starting with passenger space, the Nissan Kicks is the king of noggin clearance, just edging out the Soul. The Kicks also offers the most front leg room, followed by the C-HR. But for rear passengers, the Soul and HR-V are the places to stretch out. Broadly built people will also appreciate the shoulder room leaders Soul, Kona and HR-V.

When you need to carry stuff and things, the ultimate winner is the Soul. It's only about one cubic foot behind the Nissan's cargo space behind the rear seats, but has nine more cubic feet with the seats down. With the seats down, the Soul even beats the next most capacious crossover, the HR-V, by about three cubic feet. The C-HR is by far the least capable at carrying cargo, with less space than any other crossover with the seats up and down.

Fuel economy is a practical consideration, too, and the Nissan Kicks wins here at 33 mpg combined. The Kia Soul in EX trim comes in second with 31 mpg combined. The losers at the frugal game are the manual-equipped Soul, and the all-wheel-drive Kona models.

Editors' Reviews


How they compare in pictures


2020 Kia Soul

2020 Kia Soul X-Line
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2020 Kia Soul X-Line
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2020 Kia Soul X-Line
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2020 Kia Soul X-Line
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2020 Kia Soul X-Line
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2020 Kia Soul X-Line
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2020 Kia Soul X-Line
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2020 Kia Soul X-Line
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2020 Kia Soul X-Line
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2020 Kia Soul X-Line
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2020 Kia Soul X-Line
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2020 Kia Soul X-Line
  • 2020 Kia Soul X-Line
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2020 Kia Soul X-Line
  • 2020 Kia Soul X-Line
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2019 Hyundai Kona

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2019 Honda HR-V

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2019 Toyota C-HR

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2019 Nissan Kicks

2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • Image Credit: James Riswick
2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks SR
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