This week we get two compact gas sippers that are fun to drive. First up is the 2020 Kia Soul. The top line model has a powerful turbo engine cranking 201 horsepower and hooked to a slick dual-clutch seven-speed transmission.
This has the less powerful 2.0-liter engine putting out 147 hp. A six-speed manual gearbox is offered, but this comes with the optional CVT unit. The price starts about $17K for a stripped car, but with this X-Line package providing lots of luxury goodies, the total tab is $23K.
The cabin is nothing fancy, but all controls are easy to reach and simple to operate. The glove box is huge, the gauge cluster shows lots of useful information, and the climate controls consist of only three knobs and a few buttons. The emergency brake is manually operated, and a spare tire is provided.
This Soul likes to be driven hard. It takes corners like a champ and has quick steering and strong brakes. On the negative side, the X-Line option issues large 18-inch wheels that look good but give a ride stiffer than many will like, especially on rough roads. Real world fuel economy was 25 mpg in the city and 33 on the highway. Overall, this is one of the better vehicles in the Kia fleet, and it’s easy to understand why they sell so many.
Next is the Volkswagen Golf. It costs a bit more at $25K base — ending up here with a tab of $28K. The older 170-horsepower engine has been replaced with a smaller 147-hp unit. To make up for this, the older five-speed manual is gone, giving us a six-speed. The six-speed automatic has been replaced with a modern eight-speed. Overall, the performance is the same, but fuel economy has increased to 29 mpg city and 37 highway. In heavy city traffic, we got 25 mpg, but cruising at 65 mph did move this up to 42.
This Golf is also fun to drive. The steering is a bit too light but quick and responsive. Cornering ability is very good, and the ride comfortable, which is great for long trips. As with the Soul, all controls are easy to use. The glove box is huge, and the emergency brake is manual. A spare tire is issued. VW also gives a six-year/72,000-mile warranty on its vehicles now, a good selling point.
Chad Haire, of Phoenix, test-drives vehicles for this feature.