11 Most Common Kia Soul Problems (Explained)

The Kia Soul is a small and boxy subcompact hatchback that was first introduced in 2010.

It’s a popular choice among those who want an affordable and practical commuter with lots of space for cargo.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the Kia Soul’s common problems and their solutions. 

1. Excessive Oil Consumption

Excessive oil consumption is one of the most common problems of the Kia Soul.

Many owners have reported having to add more than a quart of oil in between every oil change even before the car reached 100,000 miles.

Reports of oil consumption problems started with the 1.6-liter engine in 2012, but there were significantly more severe problems with the second generation Soul’s 2.0-liter engine from 2014 to 2019.

The 2020 to 2021 model years of the third generation Kia Soul with the updated 2.0-liter engine can also suffer from similar problems.

Common symptoms of excessive oil consumption in the Kia Soul include:

  • Low oil levels
  • Knocking or ticking noises
  • Blue smoke from exhaust
  • Reduced engine performance

Here’s how owners described their experience on KiaSoulForums.com:

“I have a 2014 Soul, 104,000mi, and in the last 3,000mi (ish) it’s been burning a lot of oil. I’ve had to add nearly 3qt.”

“My 2017 KIA Soul which had been running great all of a sudden at 58K starting going through oil, 3 quarts in last 4000 miles.”

“About 4 months ago, I took my 2015 soul+, which has about 88k miles on it at the time, into the dealership for an oil change. About 2k miles later, the oil level was barely showing on the dipstick. I took it back to them and told them. I did not see anywhere it could be leaking oil from also there were no signs of blueish smoke or any type of smoke coming from the tailpipe.”

“We have a 2013 Soul+ 1.6 it started using oil at 70k miles and by 85k miles it was using a quart of oil every 2500 miles.”

“I have a 2018 Kia Soul plus that has been losing oil. No leaks and not blowing smoke. The first time I noticed it was because it was ticking. I had the oil changed 3 weeks before that. This time the engine check light came on. The oil wasn’t even registering on the dipstick.”

“My 2021 LX manual is also burning oil now, it only has 8k miles. My dealership told me 1qt. every 1k mile is normal… I’ve driven old and brand new vehicles and never had “oil burning” issue. This will be my last Kia vehicle. I also notice it doesn’t accelerate as strong and fast as it used to.”

In some cases, replacing the PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) valve can fix the oil consumption problems.

After performing an oil consumption test, some dealers were also able to fix the oil consumption after performing a piston soak.

This helps loosen up carbon buildup that could be causing the piston rings to get stuck and is allowing oil to enter the combustion chamber where it gets burned up.

Lots of dealers also ended up replacing the engines if the previous repairs did not work.

If your car is already over the 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, getting a new engine or having your old one rebuilt can easily cost $3,000 to $5,000. If you’re the second owner, the warranty only goes up to 60,000 miles or 5 years.

You can get a used engine for much cheaper, but it can also suffer from similar problems down the road.

2. Rod Bearing Issues

Many first and second generation Kia Souls have had engine failures due to problems with the connecting rods.

The 2014 to 2019 model years with the 2.0-liter engine are more prone to engine failures, but the 1.6-liter engine from 2012 to 2016 can also suffer from similar problems.

When the rod bearing fails, the engine can completely seize up, but it can also continue to run with the following symptoms:

  • Stuck in limp mode
  • Engine Control System error
  • Check engine light
  • Knocking sounds
  • Low oil level

Here’s how a few owners described their experience on KiaSoulForums.com:

“I have a 2015 soul + 2.0 with a spun rod bearing, it was running and not smoking when I got to it.” 

“My baby threw a rod. I noticed the oil was low so I added oil. Went to work and on the way the engine started knocking. My Kia dealer has it and today thank God they said they will replace the engine… It’s the 2.0 and it has 58k on the odometer. I have been changing the oil at 5k, but I went over this time. Kia told me my engine was clean from sludge so they knew I hadn’t neglected it.”

“Already had rebuild on 2014 soul for bearing issue. No problems since until this software update. Car went into limp mode within 10 miles.” 

“Our 2015 Kia Soul has been well-maintained but at 69,000 miles showed the dreaded flashing check engine light and decided to limit its acceleration on the interstate a couple of weeks ago. We quickly realized it had gone into limp home mode… The manager said it was the expected culprit: Excessive/premature rod bearing wear.”

“I have a connector rod bearing failure in my 2012 soul (1.6L) at 90k miles. I didn’t take it in for that recall apparently (didn’t receive a 2nd letter, and took it in for the other one… but whatever) so I don’t qualify for the extended warranty (I’m the 2nd owner).”

Kia announced a recall for the 2014 to 2019 Soul with the 2.0-liter engine so it could update the KSDS (Knock Sensor Detection System). The 2012 to 2016 Kia Soul with the 1.6-liter engine also had a similar recall.

The KSDS recall allows the engine to detect issues with the rod bearing, as well as other engine knock issues, much earlier in order to prevent engine failures. Once the software update was performed, Kia also extended the warranty of the rod bearings to 15 years or 150,000 miles.

Although the recall doesn’t fix the actual problem, it allowed owners to get an engine replacement even after the standard powertrain warranty expired.

Related: Where Are Kia Souls Made? (Solved & Explained)

3. Cylinder Scoring

The 2020 to 2021 model years of the third generation Kia Soul with the 2.0-liter are susceptible to cylinder wall scoring which can only be fixed by replacing the engine.

These model years had issues with improperly heat treated piston rings that eventually scratched up the cylinder walls at relatively low mileages.

When the cylinders get damaged, owners can experience the following symptoms:

  • Excessive oil consumption
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Reduced engine performance
  • Excessive engine knocking or vibrations 

Here’s how owners on KiaSoulForums.com described their experience:

“Our 2020 Soul passed the initial recall inspection, so we felt we were in the clear by now with 14K miles. Then it just started shaking violently on startup, throwing the P0304 Code. Dealer scoped the cylinder walls and saw scoring in cylinder 4.” 

“Bought a 2020 with 6,200 miles on April 2021. At 8,000 miles, started consuming 1 qt every 800 or 900 miles. Dealer did 1000 mile test to confirm. Put camera into cylinders to confirm scratched seals & defective oil rings.”

“Bought a 2022 Kia Soul in May 2022, wife has been driving it for almost 5 months, it has 3k miles on it, wife just driving it out driveway a week ago, crazy engine vibrations, check engine light, stalled on side of the road. I waited a few min, started it up, check engine light on, drove it back 100 yds into my driveway. brought it to Kia dealership, 3 days later they told me cylinders are scored, needs a new engine.”

Kia recalled the 2020 to 2021 model years of the Soul to address the piston ring defect. Dealers would inspect the engine for cylinder wall scoring and replace the entire engine if any damage was found.

According to Kia this problem only affects around 1% of the cars they sold. Aside from the Soul, the Seltos was also part of the recall.

4. Catalytic Converter Failure

The first and second generation Kia Soul have had lots of reports of clogged catalytic converters.

Failures are more common in the 2012 to 2016 model years with the 1.6-liter engine, but there have also been many reports of failures with the 2.0-liter engine.

The 1.6-liter engine’s catalytic converter is part of the exhaust manifold. When the catalytic converter becomes clogged, particles can get sucked into the engine which causes severe damage.

Here’s how a few owners on KiaSoulForums.com described their experience:

“My 2015 Kia Soul broke down a few weeks ago. Using a loaner code reader from Advanced Auto Parts we were able to see the P0420 code. Because of this we sent it to our local mechanic. They saw the same code using their reader (checked twice), looked and confirmed that the catalytic converter was clogged.”

“My girlfriend’s 2016 Kia Soul 2.0L with 96k miles has been acting sluggish lately and a noticeable loss of power. The car struggles to get up to speed limit on highways. We took her car to the dealership today and they said she has a clogged catalytic converter and intermediate pipe. Replacement is ~$1,900.”

‘My 2015 Kia Soul is at my local Kia dealer. They say it’s a catalytic converter and it will be about $2,500.”

According to a recall announced by Kia, the 1.6-liter engine’s catalytic converter has a tendency to overheat and cause premature failures.

To fix the issue, dealers updated the ECU software of the 2012 to 2016 models to prevent the overheating problems. 

Excessive oil burning issues, which the second gen 2.0-liter engine is notorious for, can also lead to the catalytic converter becoming clogged due to the accumulation of dirty exhaust particles.

As part of the recall, dealers also replaced catalytic converters that were already damaged.

If the car has already had the recall performed and is already out of warranty (both standard and emissions warranty), a new catalytic converter from Kia will cost around $2,000.

You could also get cheaper aftermarket replacement installed by your local muffler shop for around $500.

5. Theft Problems

Kia Souls are a common target of vehicle theft because the lower trim levels sold in the U.S. don’t have an immobilizer and are very easy to start without a key.

This problem affects base model Kia Souls from 2011 to 2021, which don’t have a push start feature. But even higher trim levels can get broken into as thieves try to figure out if they can start the car or not.

Owners on the r/KiaSoulClub subreddit shared their experience:

“My 2013 Kia Soul fell victim to the Kia Boys this week. This is my first car, I bought it last summer. My back passenger window is smashed and ignition is messed up, wires cut.”

“My 2018 was just stolen and totaled last month! I was hoping it could be repaired, but it couldn’t.” 

“Our 2018 is a push button start and we still put the club on the wheel any time we park anywhere iffy (at home we park in our basement garage, thankfully). 14yo Kia Boys aren’t smart enough to tell the difference between key start and button start, but at least a highly visible club will tell them they have extra work to do.”

“I have a 2023 Kia Soul and mine was broken into two months after buying it. They couldn’t steal it, because of the push start and immobilizer, but if they’re dumb enough, it’s not going to stop them from trying. I had to replace a rear window that they busted in.”

2022 and newer model years of the Kia Soul come standard with immobilizers which lessens the chances of the vehicle being taken away.

Kia also updated the software for the 2020 to 2021 model years of the third generation Soul which lengthens the alarm sound and requires the key to be in the ignition to start the car.

For the first and second gen models, Kia also reinforced the key cylinder so that it couldn’t be easily removed and turned to start the car.

A lot of Kia Soul owners also use a steering wheel club whenever they park the car to deter thieves. Some also install aftermarket alarms and immobilizers to make stealing the car even more difficult.

6. CVT Issues

The CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), or IVT as Kia likes to call it, of the third generation Kia Soul has had many reports of failures at relatively low miles.

Early CVT issues and failures are more common in the 2020 to 2021 model years of the Kia Soul. 

Common symptoms include:

  • Surging RPMs
  • Hesitation to accelerate
  • Goes into limp mode
  • Complete loss of power
  • Check engine light

Here’s how owners described their experience on KiaSoulForums.com:

“I’m 1000 miles from home in my 2020 Kia Soul (23k miles) with a cvt, and I had to have it towed to a nearby dealership. It suddenly started surging and then about 3 minutes later the rpms shot up to 6k, even slowing down to 15 mph. I was on the highway but luckily managed to limp it to the next exit. No check engine light, which seemed bizarre.” 

I own a 2020 Kia Soul LX in Mars Orange that I bought certified pre-owned with 42,000 miles on… just had my transmission go haywire this last weekend

“My 2021 Soul died on the side of the highway at 2,994 miles. Had my first oil change scheduled for the next day! We had the car towed to the dealership. They had to replace the transmission.” 

“Have a 2021 Soul S trim. Bought in October 2020. At 4400 miles on it, started revving while I was trying to maintain speed. Stopped at red light and then it wouldn’t go anywhere.” 

Kia released a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) for the 2020 to 2021 model years of the Kia Soul to update their transmission software.

In some cases, owners were able to get their car running again after letting the car cool down for a while. However, there are also many cases where the car just becomes completely inoperable and needs to be towed away.

Dealers will often replace the transmission when it starts acting up. CVTs are not easy to rebuild and very few shops can fix them, so most just swap in a new or remanufactured unit.

7. DCT Issues

The 7-speed DCT (Dual-Clutch Transmission) equipped in the 1.6-liter turbo models from 2017 onwards is not very smooth at low speeds and needs more maintenance down the line.

Dual-clutch transmissions are more responsive and sporty than regular automatics, but they can be jerky and prone to hesitation/slipping when driving in stop-and-go traffic.

The clutch pack will also need to be replaced at some point in time which can only be done at the dealership because it requires special tools.

Here’s how owners on KiaSoulClub.com described their issues:

“I own a 2018 Soul turbo dct. Back in December the clutch pack failed leaving me stranded, fortunately I was able to get it off the road and into a parking lot… The car had 5k miles at time of failure. The dealer replaced the the clutch pack, they had the car for a little more than 3 weeks. I received the car back in good running condition and the car in good shape. The dct transmission never did feel right from the beginning. Some days it would be ok and some days it was total trash. I have owned an Audi dct trans in the past and that transmission was fantastic. Since the repair the dct has been better but still not as smooth as I feel it should be, I have also noticed a few slips here and there.”

“Over the last couple days I’ve noticed my DCT, for lack of a better explanation, slipping. Light acceleration from a stop, it will really stumble and hesitate. RPM is there, but the car doesn’t accelerate as per normal. Today I had the wonderful gift of being able to smell the clutch when it did it.”

“I have the same issue 2019 Kia soul Turbo. Service manager and technicians drove and confirmed the problem. When starting from a stop, the car jerks several times before the ride soothes out. This started after about 17,000 miles, It never did this previous.”

“My 2021 Kia Soul 1.6 Turbo has a jerky start all the time.”

Another owner on the r/KiaSoulClub subreddit had this to say:

“I had an ’18 ! for about 8 months, and that transmission was a deal breaker for me. I do a lot of driving in traffic with slow, stop and go speeds, and it was always a challenge to feather the throttle so that I could have smooth acceleration.”

Unless you want a Kia Soul that can do some spirited driving, it’s best to stick to the regular non-turbo models that don’t have a DCT, which are much better suited for commuting and errands.

8. Start Stop Issues

Many third generation Kia Soul owners have complained about hearing a loud groaning noise when coming from a stop if the ISG (Idle Stop and Go) feature is engaged.

The noise occurs when you take your foot off the brake pedal and the ISG has just restarted the engine. It also tends to occur more consistently when the car is on an incline.

This issue affects all model years of the third generation from 2020 onwards.

Here’s how owners on KiaSoulForums.com described their issues:

“I’ve got the exact same issue (2020 Soul EX, 14500 kms)… When you come to a halt and the engine stops, then you release your foot from the brake and the engine restarts, you get a grinding, sort of moaning noise that sounds like it’s coming from the left front brake, almost like the brake isn’t releasing completely immediately but rather comes off delayed, dragging momentarily until it completely releases, thereby causing the grinding/moaning noise as it’s releasing. You only get this issue when using the ISG. If you switch the ISG off, it never occurs.”

“I have a 2022 Kia Soul and it has been making the whining/grinding noise for about 7 thousand miles now. I am just over 10k now and it started at around 3k. It has been serviced 2 times now for the issue and all they have done both times is bleed my brakes repeatedly.”

“My wife’s 2020 KIA Soul LX, bought in May, started doing this around Oct as well… Same symptoms. Stop, engine shuts off, foot off brake and it starts, grinding noise left front and then operates normally until the auto-start kicks in again.” 

Another owner on r/KiaSoulClub subreddit also shared their experience:

“I have a 2023 EX and have noticed a creak/groan sound when I take my foot off the brake, like at a stop light when the idle stop and go is on.”

Kia released a TSB for the groaning/honking noise which recommends bleeding the brake system.

Owners who had their brakes bled say the the noise initially went away, but returned after driving the car for a short while. 

The only way to get rid of the noise is to turn off the ISG feature every time you drive the car.

9. Front Camera Issues

Several third generation Kia Soul owners have had issues with the camera going bad and causing all sorts of errors and warning messages to appear.

When the problem occurs, you’ll see a series of messages on the dash which include:

  • Check High Beam Assist System
  • Check Inattentive Driving Warning System
  • Check Speed Limit System
  • Check Lane Safety System
  • Check Forward Safety System

Aside from the error messages, features like cruise control, lane assist and forward collision avoidance are usually disabled. 

This problem can affect all model years of the Kia Soul from 2020 onwards.

Here’s how owners described their experience on KiaSoulForums.com: 

“I have a 2020 Soul GT for a year and 3 months with 11,000 miles. I got the check Forward Collision system, Lane Departure and High Beam assist warnings. Front camera needs to be replaced. Getting it done tomorrow. Looks like it’s somewhat of a common problem.”

“My brand new 2023 Soul EX had the same problem which I discovered the second day after I bought it. Second day as I was going about 50, all these warnings and system failures kept popping up on the dash… Dealer “calibrated the front camera” and took it for a short drive on the freeway and told me the problem was fixed. Nope. For a couple days, I only drove short trips around town. Then took it on the freeway and after 18 minutes all those same front camera-based systems fail one after the other and post warnings on the dash. After about ten minutes the camera reboots (apparently) and works fine, but then crashes again over and over. Return to the dealer. Dealer orders a new camera.”

“This exact same thing happened to me on my 2023 Soul EX during the 2nd week I had it — has happened about 6 times in total and today I finally brought it in to the dealer to address. Car has less then 1,000 miles on it — it’s been in the shop all day today; they say it’s the camera but can’t seem to adjust or remount it in a way that doesn’t set off other sensors.”

“Not long after going through a car wash in my 2020 Soul EX with 19,830 miles on it, three warning lights came on and then a fourth a bit later and a a fifth a bit more later, and then a narrative warning at start-up… The lights are (1) Forward Collision Avoidance, (2) Master Warning Light, (3) Stability Control, and (4) ABS, and (5) Auto Stop Indicator.”

Kia released a TSB for this problem which recommends replacing the front view camera, which is located near the rear view mirror, and updating the software.

A new front view camera costs around $500 if you need to have it replaced out of warranty. 

Related: Kia Soul in Snow & Winter Driving? (Solved & Explained)

10. Steering Play and Noise

The first and second generation Kia Soul can develop lots of steering wheel play over time. 

Along with the loose steering, it can also make clunking noises when the wheel is turned left or right while the car is parked.

This problem can affect the 2010 to 2019 model years of the Kia Soul.

Here’s how owners described their experience on KiaSoulForums.com:

“I have a 2012 soul. The steering wheel has play in it when I turn it left to right and it feels like something is banging in the steering column.”

“My steering wheel makes a “clunking” sound when I am parked and turn the wheel right or left.”

“I have a 2013 Kia Soul and think its the “steering clunk” my garage estimates a couple of hours and a diagnostic fee putting the repair at $500.” 

“I have an issue with my 2015 Kia soul. I noticed a bunch of knocking/rocking noises. I hear them when the car is in park turned on. When behind the steering wheel at the 3 and 9 position I can shake the steering wheel like almost barely with 2 fingers and it moves almost and inch or maybe more with ease.”

The noise and excessive play can be caused by either a loose bolt at the bottom of the intermediate steering shaft near the pedals.

However, the most common cause is a worn steering coupler in the electronic power steering motor. Kia eventually released a TSB for this issue.

Some owners replaced the OEM rubber coupler with a more durable plastic one. Although the parts are only worth a few dollars, the labor involved can bring the total repair price to around $500.

Kia also recalled the 2014 to 2016 model years of the Kia Soul to fix an issue with the steering gear assembly pinion nut.

11. Headlight Issues

The second generation Kia Soul can have intermittent headlight problems where they suddenly start flickering on and off.

In many cases the headlights will flicker when the turn signals are used.

This was a common issue in the 2014 model year of the Kia Soul.

Here’s how one owner on KiaSoulForums.com described their experience:

“I have the flashing on and off of the headlights. It happens when I use the turn signals also. I also now have the dash lights dim when I turn on my lights. The lights around the radio will flash intermittently. I believe this all has to do with the headlight switch.” 

The headlight flickering issue is often caused by a problematic light switch. 

Kia eventually extended the warranty for the headlight switch on the 2014 Soul to 15 years and an unlimited number of miles.

Aside from the switch, electrical problems like faulty bulb connectors or broken light bulbs can also cause strange headlight problems.

Kia Soul Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Adorable styling
  • Roomy interior
  • Lots of cargo space
  • Nimble handling
  • Easy to drive
  • Great visibility
  • Long warranty

Cons

  • Slow acceleration
  • No all-wheel drive
  • Engine failures
  • Average fuel economy

What Do The Reviews Say?

“The Soul lost some of its quirky charm last year as part of a styling refresh, but it’s still a small, usable hatchback with a spacious interior offering stellar value.” 

“Maximum acceleration from the 2.0-liter engine is a little lacking, but the Soul feels perfectly spry around town. The steering is natural, and cornering abilities are better than expected. In most cases, the CVT automatic feels like a traditional automatic.”

“The steering features a light effort that builds up naturally when you move from center. The Soul has cornering abilities similar to sportier rivals such as the Mazda CX-30 and Mini Countryman.”

“From an ergonomic standpoint, the simple interior design means there’s not much to mess up. Navigating through touchscreen menus is easy thanks to an intuitive interface and physical buttons for high-level functions. A height-adjustable front seat and a generous range of steering wheel adjustment help accommodate drivers of all sizes.”

“The Soul has a deep cargo well that gives it more cargo room than other small SUVs. Though this configuration has impressive volume (24.2 cubic feet), there’s a large hump at the base of the rear seats when you fold them, which limits utility for larger items.”

2024 Kia Soul | Edmunds

What’s the Resale Value of a Kia Soul?

Here’s a quick look at used car pricing for the Soul on Edmunds at the time of writing.

YearMileagePrice
20238,614$18,411
202216,425$17,579
202127,070$16,273
202040,222$14,926
201952,768$12,450
201855,041$11,700
201763,512$9,900
201684,967$8,900
201590,335$7,999
2014111,567$6,495

Related: Best & Worst Years For The Kia Soul? (With Facts & Statistics)

Author:

  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...

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