The crossover SUV market in the United States has exploded recently, and Kia Motors released the Kia Soul to grab some of that market share. The 2010 Kia Soul was the first introduced in the United States, and the vehicle has had its fair share of problems. Customers have complained about many things — from cheap interior parts to total engine failure.
While thousands of these SUVs have been sold due to their affordability and styling, there are several common problems that are reported by Kia Soul owners. Keep reading as we tell you about the most common issues. We’ll also tell you which years you should avoid and which ones seem to be the most reliable.
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Common Kia Soul Problems
So, just what types of problems are common with the Kia Soul? Some issues are not that big of a deal, while others could potentially be very dangerous. Here are the most common issues reported by Kia Soul owners that you should be aware of.
— Engine Failure
Most car owners expect their vehicle’s engine to last for many years. Unfortunately, many Kia Soul owners have reported total engine failure on vehicles with as few as 60,000 miles. Some drivers even reported engine issues occurring while driving. They reported a sudden loss of power and a total engine breakdown.
The repair cost for engine failure is not cheap. On average, it is likely to cost you around $4,000 to fix this problem, as engine replacement was the only option in some cases. Many of these failures seem to be related to high exhaust gas temperatures. In fact, a Kia Soul engine recall affected nearly 350,000 Kia Soul models for this reason. The increased exhaust temperatures could damage the catalytic converter. Once the converter was damaged, engine combustion was affected and led to damaged pistons, piston oil rings, and connecting rods. Kia Soul engine problems have been an issue across many year models, and we will discuss the specific years to avoid in the next section.
— Cruise Control Surge
One of the biggest reasons to use cruise control while driving is to maintain a steady speed. However, some Kia Soul owners have reported big problems with their cruise control system. Instead of maintaining a steady speed, the vehicle would suddenly surge forward and increase its speed. Conversely, the vehicle would sometimes slow to a crawl while the cruise control was engaged. Either of these scenarios presents a dangerous situation to the occupants of the vehicle. The average mileage when this problem occurs is quite low, as some owners have reported the issue on almost brand-new vehicles.
— Clicking When Turning
Many Kia Soul models seem to have an issue with the steering system. This problem tends to cause a clicking sound — especially when turning the vehicle. Some owners have also reported a loud clunking sound from the steering column when attempting to turn the steering wheel. The problem typically starts at an average mileage of around 70,000 miles. In fact, the issue was so bad with the 2012 model year that Kia issued several technical service bulletins (TSBs) about the problem. A TSB is issued when the manufacturer is aware of a problem, and they can use the bulletin as a way to advise their dealerships on how to repair the problem. Unfortunately, most Soul owners still had to pay for the repair, and it cost them about $700 to $900 in most cases.
— Engine Ticking
Most people know that a ticking noise from your engine is not normal; however, it is one of the common engine issues faced by the Kia Soul. Owners have reported a ticking noise that later turns into a loud knocking noise. Soon afterward, owners often experience complete engine failure. If you notice a ticking sound from your engine, you should get the vehicle to your Kia dealership right away. On the plus side, many Soul owners found that the engine replacement was covered under an extended warranty. Since Kia issued a recall for some of the engine problems with the Soul, many owners were able to get the engine replaced at no charge. In most cases, the Kia Soul’s check engine light did not illuminate to warn drivers of an issue.
— Engine Won’t Start
Yet another engine issue with the Kia Soul. This problem is not as severe as the others most of the time, but many owners reported a problem where their car would not start. Some even report that the vehicle displays the “unable to start vehicle” warning message. This problem seems to appear around 10,000 miles in some cases, although some owners have reported the issue on brand-new cars. Thankfully, the issue seems to be a problem with the battery and not the engine itself. Replacement of the car’s battery usually fixes the problem. Since the problem usually occurs so quickly after purchase, the battery replacement is almost always covered under warranty.
— Airbags Fail To Deploy
While engine problems are irritating, this particular problem could create a seriously dangerous situation. There have been multiple complaints registered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about the failure of the airbags to deploy during a crash. In some cases, the airbags failed to deploy — even during a high-speed front-end impact. Airbags are a critically important safety feature, and a problem with the airbag could result in serious injury. Along the same lines, some drivers reported that the seat belt tensioners would not activate or that the seat belts would unlatch automatically. To make matters worse, there are usually no warning lights to make the driver aware of any problems.
— Electrical Problems
Electrical problems seem to plague both the first and second-generation Kia Soul models. In most cases, loose or faulty connectors are the root cause of the issue, and these connectors can cause all sorts of problems. Most of the time, the problem affects the car’s headlights. The problem might result in the flickering of the headlights, or the headlights might go out altogether. The issue can also affect turn signals and other lights on the vehicle. Malfunctioning headlights can present a safety hazard, so the issue must be repaired immediately. The fix is not overly expensive, although some owners have reported the cost to be as much as $400.
— Transmission Issues
If the engine issues weren’t enough, the Kia Soul has also had other powertrain problems that have been frequently reported. Some owners have reported metal fragments in the transmission, and others have reported bad gaskets that led to transmission fluid leaks. In some cases, total replacement of the transmission is required. Transmission repair costs are not cheap, and replacement of the transmission can exceed $4,000 in some cases.
— Faulty Air Conditioning
A bad AC could be a real problem, especially if you live in a hot climate. Some owners have reported moisture blowing from the vents or water dripping from the vents. The root cause of the issue is a clogged drainage line. If the problem gets bad enough, complete failure of the air conditioning unit can occur. At that point, you would have hot air blowing from the AC. On the other hand, some owners report the failure of the car’s heater as well. This combination of problems can lead to fogged windows and dangerous driving conditions.
Kia Soul Model Years With The Most Problems
If you are considering purchasing a used Kia Soul, you probably want to know which year models to avoid. Owners frequently report issues with the Kia Soul to the NHTSA, and the number of problems reported can be used to determine which models to avoid. The model with the most complaints is the 2014 Kia Soul. This model also had the most technical service bulletins issued. So, you should absolutely avoid the 2014 model as it seems to be the worst Kia Soul out there.
In fact, you should avoid any year from 2012 to 2016. There are significantly more complaints with the models in this range of years than with other years. Significant engine problems, transmission issues, and faulty airbags during these years should cause any potential buyers to think twice before purchasing.
Best Kia Soul Model Years To Purchase
Not all Kia Soul models are bad, so which ones are the best to buy? The 2019 Kia Soul is one of the most reliable Soul models available. Only a few issues have been reported with them, and the number of complaints registered for that year is quite low. The 2019 model consistently ranks fairly high in most reliability ratings. That model ranks near the top of the list for subcompact SUVs, beating out some competitors, like Hyundai. However, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV 4 still rank above the Soul in terms of reliability.
In addition to the 2019 model, the 2021 model also appears to have great reliability. Time will tell whether the 2021 and 2022 models will continue this trend as they begin to age and get more miles on them. For now, the new Kia Souls seem to be free of any major issues.
The Bottom Line
The Kia Soul blends a great combination of affordability, styling, and fuel economy. However, there have been some major issues reported with some year models. You should generally avoid the 2014 model at all costs as it often has engine trouble, transmission problems, and might have faulty airbags. If you are looking for one of the best Kia Soul models, you should consider the 2019 or 2021 models. These models have significantly fewer complaints than other year models.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Kia Souls have a lot of problems?
Some Kia Soul year models have a lot of problems, while others do not have as many. For example, the 2014 Kia Soul is riddled with issues — from engine failure to faulty airbags. In general, the Soul seems to have more problems than many of its competitors. However, there are a few year models that are pretty reliable. The 2019 and 2021 year models have experienced far fewer problems than in other years, and those models should be a good option if you are in the market for a used car.
What are the most common problems with a Kia Soul?
One of the most common problems with the Soul is engine failure. This problem might start as a simple ticking sound from the engine. The issue could worsen into a knocking sound from the motor, and total engine failure is likely to come next. Some owners have reported a sudden loss of power and engine failure without any warning signs. In most cases, the root cause of the problem seems to be excessively high exhaust gas temperatures that damage the catalytic converter. Once the converter is damaged, combustion problems in the engine occur, and things get worse from there. Other common problems include electrical issues, faulty cruise control, and a clicking sound in the steering column.
Is the Kia Soul a good car?
Whether or not the Soul is considered a good car really depends on the year model. Some year models, like 2014, have been given terrible ratings for reliability and customer satisfaction. However, the 2019 model receives high marks for reliability. In general, Kia Soul reliability is not the best. Overall, the Soul is a decent car, but you should be aware of the problems before buying one. Make sure to stay away from the problem models and always perform regular oil changes and other maintenance items.