Kia Soul Problems: 4 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.

The most common problems with the Kia Soul are a blown engine, engine knocking, cruise control surge, and engine failure.

Here’s how to identify these problems, what you can do to prevent them, and what it costs to fix them.

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

The Kia Soul’s continued popularity doesn’t make it invincible, however.

The Soul has had reliability issues, particularly with the mid-2010s releases, so if you’re hunting for a used Soul, look out for these problems.

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

A “blown” engine is simply a failed engine which 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 of its tendency 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 cause it to fail, creating abnormal engine combustion.

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

This engine failure problem starts to present itself 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.

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, but 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
  • Sudden decceleration

While 2012 through 2016 Kia Souls have their own 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 of time
  • 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. This problem is most prevalent in the 2014 Kia Soul.

Knocking noises coming from the engine can have a wide range of causes.

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

Some owners of 2012 to 2016 Kis 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 fire under the hood.

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

  • Optima,
  • Sorento,
  • and 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.

3. Clicking Sound When Turning

This issue has to do with the steering column.

Particularly in the 2012 Kia Soul, a clicking noise can sometimes happen while turning, and the noise presents itself after around 70,000 miles of driving. The noise is also more likely to happen at higher speeds.

This clicking-while-turning problem is caused by a faulty CV joint, or constant velocity joint, so-called because it has to maintain a transfer of force from the steering column to the wheels.

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. Cruise Control Surging

This model year doesn’t suffer from crippling, dangerous engine problems, but from the almost equally bad problem of cruise control surging.

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

The surge occurs when 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.

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.

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 actually confers some advantages.

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

Pros

  • The Soul’s seating has lots of room for adjustment, making it extra user-friendly
  • Its boxy, spacious body is comfortable and open
  • It has a high safety rating, thanks in part to its body shape
  • Dashboard screen and infotainment center is attractive, easy to use, and compatible with the latest technology
  • Turbocharged engine optional

Cons

  • The Soul’s non-aerodynamic geometry reduces its gas mileage below that of a comparable subcompact SUV
  • Engines are not that powerful at 100 to 200 horsepower
  • Unlike many SUVs, rear seats don’t fold flat to allow for additional cargo space
  • No all-wheel-drive option available

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.”

https://www.caranddriver.com/kia/soul-2017

“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.”

https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/kia/soul

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 Mileage 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

https://caredge.com/kia/soul/depreciation

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 car has a four-out-of-five star NHTSA rating (the acronym stands for National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

Resources

https://www.caranddriver.com/kia/soul-2017

https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/kia/soul

https://www.carparts.com/blog/kia-soul-reliability-and-common-problems/

https://www.carcomplaints.com/Kia/Soul/2014/recalls/engine-damage-may-cause-fire-20v750000.shtml

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