Kia Soul Problems: 7 Common Issues (Explained)

The funky, boxy Kia Soul has outlasted its cubic competitors from the 2010s, like the Nissan Cube, the Scion xB, and the Honda Element—its 2022 remake means it’s still going strong.

However, despite the Soul’s popularity, it has had reliability issues, particularly with the mid-2010s releases.

So if you’re hunting for a used Soul, look out for these problems.

We also wrote extensively about how long the Kia Soul will last – check that out also!

1. Blown Engine/Engine Failure in the 2016 Kia Soul

A “blown” engine is the most common issue with the Kia Soul.

A blown engine is simply a failed engine that is damaged beyond repair—a failed engine still might have the possibility of being fixed.

Kia issued a recall of the 2016 Kia Soul on April 17, 2019, because it tended to experience engine failure or blowout.

This problem is most common in the 2016 Soul out of any model year of the car, but it also affects the 2012 and 2015 models.

The 2016 Soul’s catalytic converter is susceptible to high exhaust temperatures, which causes hot exhaust components to fail, creating abnormal engine combustion and ultimately a damaged engine.

This can cause any components in the engine to fail—piston rings, gaskets, seals, and even lead to a fire hazard.

Kia Soul engine problems start to present themselves at 70,000 to 80,000 miles of use.

This kind of unpredictable engine failure is one of the most dangerous problems a car can have because it can happen at any time—even when someone is tailgating you on the highway.

If a car company recalls a product, you can typically get the faulty part replaced for free within a certain time frame which varies according to the year the car hit the market.

If you own a Kia Soul affected by this recall, you should contact the nearest Kia service department as soon as possible to be as safe as you can be.

Causes and Solutions

All blown engines are failed engines, but not all failed engines are blown.

The term “blown engine” doesn’t refer to any specific cause of engine failure, just the engine becoming irreparably broken.

If your engine is blown, it’ll cost thousands of dollars to replace, and a new engine for the Soul costs $7000.

Repairs to replace a single, specific part can cost anywhere from $1000 to $5000, depending on how invasive and difficult the repair is.

If your engine blows out, you’ll certainly notice it happening, one tell-tail sign is your warning light.

However, you may not be able to immediately diagnose it. Here are the telltale signs of engine blowout or failure:

  • Clouds of white smoke coming from the hood
  • Black smoke coming from the tailpipe
  • Loud, unusual banging sounds
  • Check engine light
  • Sudden deceleration

While 2012 through 2016 Kia Souls have their specific reasons for their engine blowout tendency, it’s worth mentioning these ways you can prevent engine blowout or failure from happening in general:

  • Never run your car at a low oil level—manually check the oil every 3,000 miles
  • Don’t run the car at a high RPM for long periods
  • If you hear unusual knocking sounds while driving, pull over immediately

2. Engine Knocking Sounds

The 2012 through 2016 Kia Soul model years are known for experiencing engine knocking as well, which can be a prelude to engine failure as their most common problem.

However, Kia Soul owners have found this problem most applicable to the 2014 model

Car engines are complex beasts, and every misaligned component or out-of-sync mechanical process can cause its strange thump or odd click.

Some owners of 2012 to 2016 Kia Souls have reported that while on the road, they heard strange banging sounds coming from the hood, followed by a sudden loss of response from the gas pedal.

After pulling over, some drivers quickly realized that there was a risk of a fire under the hood.

Causes and Solutions

Kia issued a recall in December 2020 to deal with this problem, which extended beyond the Soul to other models like the:

  • Optima
  • Sorento
  • Sportage

This issue occurred along with full-on engine blowout and fire in some cases, while in others, the problems were reversible.

Here are some frequent causes of engine knocking sounds:

  • Carbon accumulation in cylinder walls or connecting rods
  • Disrupted combustion timing
  • Incorrect fuel octane
  • Poor fuel quality

If your engine is knocking, your repair cost will depend on the severity of the damage to your engine.

Some engine repairs are as cheap as $1000, while others require you to buy a whole new engine. Further, you should be aware of the best and worst Kia Soul years.

3. Clicking Sound When Turning

A common issue with certain vehicles, including the 2012 Kia Soul, is a clicking sound that occurs during turns due to a faulty constant velocity joint (CV joint).

This joint plays a critical role in transferring forces from the steering column to the wheels, but if it malfunctions, it can result in an unpredictable clunking sound in the steering column.

Some drivers have reported noticeability of the noise at specific speeds or while making turns.

According to an investigation conducted by Kia, the cause of this issue lies in the improper application of adhesive by employees at the supplier’s South Korean production facility.

As a result, the pinion gear may become detached, leading to the risk of a crash and loss of vehicle control.

Causes and Solutions

Kia released a TSB, or technical service bulletin, in 2018 offering guidance on troubleshooting this issue, and the TSB saw updates in 2020 and 2021.

You can obtain the TSB for this problem by contacting your local Kia dealership, or by searching online.

A TSB is designed by a car company for a mechanic to learn how to fix a specific, known problem. The problem costs around $800 to fix.

4. Faulty Catalytic Converter

The Kia Soul struggles with a noticeable design flaw in the form of its catalytic converter, which repeatedly causes problems for vehicles produced between 2014 and 2015.

As a vital component, the catalytic converter relies on a valuable metal filter to convert harmful nitrous oxide emissions into harmless substances.

However, when the converter encounters issues, it can lead to several consequences for the Soul, such as increased risk of fires and decreased fuel efficiency due to raised backpressure.

Moreover, if left unattended, metal degradation inside the converter can cause improper gas emissions, ultimately resulting in failed emissions tests.

Causes and Solutions

To prevent these problems from arising, it’s essential to identify the telltale signs of a faulty catalytic converter, which symptoms may manifest as:

  • Erratic idling
  • Engine stalling
  • Abnormally high exhaust temperatures
  • Poor performance during emissions tests
  • O2 sensor issues

5. Cruise Control Surging

The 2018 Kia Soul in particular experiences cruise control surges, which are caused by electrical problems.

The surge occurs at around 40 to 50 mph and makes the car lurch forward when the car suddenly reduces to 3mph.

Oddly, the problem goes away when cruise control is engaged.

Causes and Solutions

This issue is not very common, but worth mentioning because of the danger associated with sudden speed changes.

As of right now, Kia hasn’t issued a recall or a statement about the problem.

It’s rare enough that there’s not much data out there about the repair cost or cause of the problem.

6. Feeble or Weak Suspension

Many Kia Soul owners have reported various suspension component faults. These issues were so widely complained about that Kia significantly modified the suspension.

The following components are more likely to break down:

  • Suspension springs
  • Front-wheel bearings
  • Steering pins
  • Tie rod system

Pay attention to your car – if you notice these issues your vehicle may have a weak suspension:

  • Uneven and rough driving experiences
  • Vehicle leaning to one side when stationary
  • Issues with steering, such as drifting during turns
  • Noticeable dipping while braking

7. Electrical Issues in the PCM Unit

The Kia Soul models from 2019 – 2021 have had some electrical issues, particularly with the PCM failing. The PCM is the brains of the vehicle that is called a Powertrain Control Module.

A failure in the PCM can result in:

  • The car shuts down while driving
  • The car shuts down while taking a turn
  • Not restarting after stopping (models with the start/stop function)

If there is even the slightest fault with this unit it will cause the vehicle to do of things or even cause major failure. This significantly increases the risk of an accident if it fails while driving.

Pros and Cons of the Kia Soul

The Kia Soul is reliable and will last up to 200,000 miles if given regular maintenance, and its odd shape confers some advantages.

On the other hand, some of the Kia Soul’s problems stem from its odd shape.



Lots of seating adjustments for a user-friendly experience Non-aerodynamic design reduces gas mileage
Boxy, spacious body for comfort and openness Engines lack power, ranging from 100 to 200 horsepower
High safety rating due to unique body shape Rear seats don’t fold flat, limiting additional cargo space
Attractive, easy-to-use dashboard and infotainment No all-wheel-drive option available
The turbocharged engine option adds performance

What do the Reviews Say?

The Kia Soul has garnered generally positive reviews.

The Soul’s mild reliability problems for some model years are not a prominent part of its reputation, and drivers generally think of it as a mini-SUV that’s practical and roomy.

Its only drawbacks are its weak engine and lack of some features that are usually standard on subcompact SUVs.

“It’s the Kia Soul’s purity of mission that snagged it a 10 Best Trucks and SUVs award for 2017. The boxy crossover embodies what small SUV shoppers want most: a handy, spacious, well-made, high-riding trucklet that is efficient and fun to drive.”

“The 2022 Kia Soul sits near the top of our subcompact SUV rankings thanks in part to its abundant cabin and cargo space and straightforward infotainment technology. However, it’s less engaging to drive than some competitors.”

Resale Value of the Kia Soul

This chart shows an example of the current resale value for each model year of Kia Soul since 2005, along with its mileage.

The baseline price of a Kia Soul is around $19,000, with the most expensive variants reaching up to $26,000.

This should give you a rough idea of how well the Kia Soul holds its value.

Model Year


Current Price

2021 8,255 $25,699
2020 26,974 $22,999
2019 27,099 $20,999
2018 79,786 $14,999
2017 79,457 $14,990
2016 47,886 $16,499
2015 47,261 $15,999
2014 126,071 $8,999
2013 123,381 $9,988
2012 119,469 $8,499
2011 80,565 $13,990

Final Thoughts

While you won’t be putting yourself in any imminent danger by driving a 2012 through 2016 Kia Soul, it’s not a bad idea to avoid buying one if you can.

There’s always a chance that engine failure could rear its head.

But don’t stress too much; the Kia Soul has a four-out-of-five star NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

GO BACK: Problems for all Kia models.

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ⓘ  The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.