What Are The Best Years For The Kia Soul? (Surprised by the answer?)


Thinking about getting a Kia Soul? Just how far back in its timeline should you go?

As it turns out, newer really is better with this boxy crossover SUV. Sure, the Soul looks like an odd duck, but when you get a 2017 model or newer, you can snag the zesty turbo engine. 

And that means the best cars are from 2017 and later. But you might want to stop at the 2019 model year since the 2020 and 2021 are experiencing a lot of engine and transmission problems at very low mileage.

What Are The Best Years For The Kia Soul?

The 2017 and newer models include a turbocharged engine that is able to produce 201 horsepower. The 2017 also saw the inclusion of many more tech features, such as smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. And it all comes at an affordable price since Kia priced them competitively right out the door.

Just how reliable is a Kia Soul though? What kinds of common problems do Souls have? Is it really worth it to buy a Kia Soul? 

Let us delve into those questions so that you can get the answers you need in order to make an informed decision.

What Year Kia Soul is the Most Reliable?

The Kia Soul is known for having a lot of reliability regardless of the model year. RepairPal.com assigns a reliability rating of 4.5 out of 5, which is considered excellent. 

Other subcompact SUVs average a 4 out of 5 on the reliability scale. 

Ownership costs are also excellent, as the Soul typically costs around $437 per year to repair and maintain. 

The severity and frequency of repairs are both lower than other vehicles in its segment, making the Kia Soul one of the most reliable vehicles around.

As far as model years go, the 2018 Kia Soul has some of the best reviews. There are only a few complaints being lodged by consumers, including early wear and tear on the seats. 

This is something that dealers can fix with new seat covers. Buyers are generally quite satisfied with the 2018 model year.

The Kia Soul is a capable people-hauler and can even tow a small pop-up camper. The Souls with manual transmissions can even be flat-towed behind RVs. 

What Problems do Kia Souls have?

The Kia Soul has a few common problems to be aware of before you buy. Unfortunately, the 2020 and 2021 Kia Souls are showing some major issues with their 2.0-L engine. 

The engine has an unreliable heat-treating process for the piston oil rings. This can cause damage to the engine and result in a loss of power. This creates the potential for a deadly crash. 

As of June of 2021, buyers have been able to get the problem remedied via recall at their local dealerships, which usually involves replacing the engine.

Looking at CarComplaints.com will show you that the worst problem to plague the Kia Soul overall is engine issues.

The 2015 Kia Soul has a grand total of 665 complaints, with NHTSA contributing 341 of those about the engine and others another 28 complaints. Complete engine failure is common, happening around the 75,000-mile mark. 

Most buyers who kept their cars had to repair the engine for an estimated $3,840.

For other drivers, the engine would shut down entirely while they were driving. Some drivers have experienced unexplained oil loss, and one person even reported that their engine caught fire.

The 2016 Kia Soul is known for blowing its engine as well, and the 2013 Soul tends to develop a ticking noise that can develop into full-on engine knocking.

Do Kia Souls have Transmission problems?

Aside from rampant engine problems, the Kia Soul does have some transmission problems – and it is not just with the older models. 

In fact, the 2021 Kia Soul is the one having these problems. Its newly redesigned continuously automatic variable transmission (CVT) has to be replaced as early as 5,000 miles for some unlucky drivers.

The problems with this CVT can include grinding, lurching during acceleration, or delays in shifting between gears. 

The car might start shaking at any given speed, and there might be a burning smell that accompanies it.

On the Kia automatics, there can also be harsh or delayed shifts between gears, failed gear shifting, jumping into neutral when it should not, shift flares, and vibrations while driving.

Is it Worth Buying a Used Kia Soul?

Buying a used Kia Soul is worth it if you go for a 2017, 2018, or 2019 model. 

The 2020 and 2021 Kia Soul are having too many engine and transmission issues for them to really be worth considering. And the older Kia Souls are also plagued by engine problems.

It seems that the 2017-2019 models are the sweet spot.

You will not have much in the way of repair bills on one of those Kia Souls. You also will not likely incur a lot of serious repairs.

How Long with a Kia Soul Last?

Like other vehicles being designed these days, the Kia Soul should ideally make it to 200,000 miles.

Treat the Kia Soul well, and it could easily make it closer to 300,000 miles. 

However, the Kia Soul model years with the engine issues might not even make it to 200,000 miles – at least, not on their original engines.

The Absolute Best Years For the Kia Soul

As already mentioned, the 2017-2019 Kia Soul model years are truly the best. They have excellent consumer reviews and do not seem to be plagued by engine and transmission issues like other years. 

They also pack in a lot of the desirable tech and safety features that modern buyers want.

As of 2017, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were made standard on the Kia Soul. 

There is also an optional Harman Kardon audio system that delivers crisp sound through the speakers and is easy to use. 

Even the navigation system delivers easy-to-read graphics that 20-somethings and senior citizens alike can appreciate. 

Also, if the single USB port is not enough for you, there is an option for a second.

The Plus and Exclaim each come with blind-spot warning and lane departure warning. 

They are bundled together with forward collision mitigation and adaptive cruise control. 

These features are known for working pretty well and keeping people safe while driving out on the open road.

Closing Thoughts

You really need to pick and choose your Kia Soul model year. Avoid the 2013-2015 and especially the 2020-2021. Snagging a 2017, 2018, or 2019 model will serve you a lot better. 

You will not get exceptional – or even okay – fuel economy, but you do get a lot of reliability from the good model years.

John Nelson

You can find John stringing a hammock from the back of his SUV to a tree camping in the outdoors most weekends during warmer weather. John loves the outdoors and the freedom four-wheel-drive vehicles offer.

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