Kia first introduced the Soul in 2008, aiming to produce a balanced cross-over vehicle with affordability and practicality. Currently, in its third generation, Kia has continued to update the Soul and its engine design. The unique styling of the Soul has been a huge determinant of its success throughout the years. Kia as a brand has held on to its reputation of producing economical and reliable everyday drivers.
Kial has accomplished its goal of showing that even the more affordable cars on the automotive market can be unique. First showcased at the 2008 Paris Motor Show, the Soul made headlines for its funky, dynamic design and low price point. Regardless of its initially reported overly plastic interior and rough ride, the Soul has updated and progressed its design over time to meet the standards of international buyers. These engines are not associated with power or performance yet primarily focus on affordable low-cost everyday drivers with decent longevity. Outside of its lack of performance, the different configurations of the Soul have provided durable options for hundreds of thousands of drivers. However, no engine is perfect, and the Soul does have its various associated flaws. Throughout this guide, we will dissect some of those most common issues that Soul drivers might run into over time.
With that said, let’s take a look at the different configurations and basic specs of the Kia Soul before diving into their most commonly experienced problems
Kia Soul Configurations & Basic Specs
The model has seen many different engine configurations throughout the Soul’s production years (2008 to present/2022). In 2022, the Soul is currently offered in four different configurations, including its electric e-soul adaptation. Now let’s take a look at the varying engine configurations that Kia has applied to the Soul throughout its production history.
- 1.6 Gamma II MPi: 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic options with 123 hp and 115 lb-ft of torque
- 2.0 Beta II: 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic options with 140 hp and 137 lb-ft of torque
- 1.6 U II CRDi: 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic options with 126 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque
- 1.6 Gamma II MPi: 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic options with 127 hp and 116 lb-ft of torque
- 1.6 Gamma II GDi: 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic options with 138 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque
- 2.0 Nu MPi: 6-speed manual with 164 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque
- 1.6 U II CRDi: 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic options with 126 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque
- 1.6 Gamma II MPi: 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic options with 122/130 hp and 115/119 lb-ft of torque
- 1.6 Gamma II GDi: 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic options with 122/130 hp and 115/119 lb-ft of torque
- Gamma II T-GDi: 7-speed dual-clutch with 201 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque
- 2.0 Nu MPi: 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic options with 151 hp and 137 lb-ft of torque
- 2.0 Nu GDi: 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic options with 164 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque
- 1.6 U II CRDi (2013 – 2014): 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic options with 126 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque
- 1.6 U II CRDi (2014 – 2019: 6-speed manual and 7-speed dual-clutch options with 134 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque
- 1.6 Gamma II MPi: 6-speed automatic with 121 hp and 111 lb-ft of torque
- 2.0 Nu MPi: 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic CVT options with 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque
- 1.6 Gamma II T-GDi: 7-speed DCT with 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque
- electric (e-soul): direct drive with 201 hp and 291 lb-ft of torque
With so many different engine configurations, Soul drivers have various performance options. Although the engines themselves don’t exert much power, they do have practicality and affordability. So let’s finally discuss the Kia Soul’s top 5 most common problems in the following section below.
The Kia Soul’s Top 5 Most Common Problems
Regardless of our listed problems below, Kia has done an exceptional job of maintaining its reputation of reliability throughout the different generations and configurations of the Soul. However, like any engine, the Soul does have its various commonly encountered problems. In addition, the varying engine configurations offer different types of offered flaws or issues, especially over time and higher mileage. Therefore, we will specify each year and engine type that is associated with our common problems below. With that said, let’s look at our first most common problem for the Kia Soul.
1. Oil Leaks
Unfortunately, the Kia Soul joins our growing list of cars prone to oil leak issues. The most direct sign of oil leaks is easily visible oil puddles underneath the vehicle. Furthermore, various oil system components or head gaskets can be nagging sources of oil leak problems. Practicing timely oil changes and using high-quality oil can significantly deter oil leaks or further high oil consumption issues.
If the aroma of burnt oil is emitting from the engine bay, then the leak is likely within the top of the engine and could be a product of a defective valve cover gasket. In contrast, oil puddles below the car are likely due to a leak located at the bottom of the engine. Due to the fact that many of Kia Soul’s oil pans break their seal, it’s also essential to check the oil pan for any potential broken seals or loosenings.
Kia Soul oil leak symptoms can include:
- The smell of burning oil
- Oil puddles gathering underneath the engine
- Engine running low on oil frequently
- Oil leaking from the block
- Oil leaking from the turbo
- Poor acceleration
- Rough idle
2. Catalytic Converter Failure
One of the most prominent problems within the Kia Soul’s design is the catalytic converter. Blown catalytic converters are reported commonly for the Soul, specifically a major issue for the 2014-2015 models.
The catalytic converter’s primary responsibility is to filter and clean exhaust air before exiting the vehicle and entering the atmosphere. Using a filter composed of different precious metals allows the catalytic converter to break down nitrous oxide through a chemical reaction. In lamens terms, this filter allows for harmful gases to be broken down into safer substances for the environment.
Defective catalytic converters can cause a series of various additional problems for the Soul (including fire hazards we further discuss below). For example, a clogged catalytic converter can increase back-pressure, decreasing engine efficiency and performance. Additionally, the interior metals of the converter can burn out, leading to improper gas emissions and conclusively a failed emissions test.
Catalytic converter failure symptoms may include:
- Rough idle
- Engine misfires
- Abnormally high exhaust gas temperatures
- Failed emissions test
- O2 sensor problems
3. Weak Suspension
Kia Soul drivers too often report various problems with suspension components. Initially, the complaint’s about the Soul’s rough ride, and weak suspensions were so common that Kia redesigned the suspension substantially. However, certain components such as front wheel bearings and suspension springs are prone to failure. Additionally, steering pins and tie rod system components can fail, leading to continued nagging suspension issues and pricey repairs. What the Kia Soul lacks in comfort and a smooth driving experience, it hopes to make up for in affordability and practicality. We’ll often make that point when referring to some of the Soul’s weak points. Yet, these models are popular for a reason, especially in the American automotive market.
The Kia Soul utilizes a basic D2 air suspension system. Struts are likely to need replacement between the 50,000 and 100,000-mile marks, yet some drivers might see more longevity depending on certain driving variables (such as road conditions and aggressive driving). Certain body integrity issues and faulty suspension components can lead to a rough drive for many Soul drivers. Thankfully, this issue is not extremely prominent, and the newer generations of the Soul aim to correct any problems associated with a weak suspension. Symptoms of a weak suspension will include:
- Bouncing and/or a bumpy overall driving experience
- Drifting or pulling when cornering/difficulty steering
- Dipping while braking
- The car sitting lower on one side while parked
Fortunately, weak suspension problems are generally easy to diagnose due to their blatant symptoms. However, due to the many different pricey components of the suspension, repairs may be more costly and time-consuming than expected.
4. Rough Transmission
In conjunction with the weak suspension problems, rough transmissions can also add to a poor driving experience for the Kia Soul. Transmission problems can be a significant source of headaches for any driver. In addition, the multiple different components and confusing construction of different transmissions can make it difficult to repair properly, regardless of the high cost of associated repairs. Luckily, many of the transmission problems for the Kia Soul are not catastrophic. However, it’s important to remember that putting off transmission repairs can lead to much more severe problems.
5. Piston Ring and Connecting Rod Failure
There are multiple potential causes for a piston ring or connecting rod failure. Varying catalysts from incorrect installation, fuel flooding, worn ring grooves, abrasive particles from engine oil, or improper fuel and air mixtures can lead to piston ring failure. Generally, when speaking about connecting rod failure, many of the causes can be associated with high mileage and wear over time. Rod bearing failure and the impact of high speeds on engine pistons can directly result in failed or defective connecting rods. Usually, rod bearing failures result from lubing problems or improper installation of the connecting rod. Many drivers might experience problems revolving around their piston rings and connecting rods with the various components that can defect or fail. Symptoms of a faulty connecting rod can include:
- Low oil pressure
- High oil consumption
- Knocking noise emitting from the engine
It’s important to note that you should never continue to drive on a bad connecting rod. Serious damage can occur quickly, and catastrophic engine damage will occur over time if not repaired properly and in a timely fashion. Fortunately, driving on a bad piston ring will likely not cause as severe damage and can be driven on for a short interval until repair. Some of the likely symptoms of a bad piston ring can be:
- Low power/poor acceleration
- High oil consumption
- Excessive oil intake
- White or light grey exhaust smoke
If not replaced, faulty piston rings will not be able to deter oil from leaking into the cylinders, thus causing a drop in the engine’s oil levels. Commonly, a wet compression test can diagnose the source of the issue and whether or not your piston rings need replacement.
Kia Soul Catching on Fire
Yes, the Soul has an issue with catching on fire. The media may highlight these cases bringing them more attention. However, Kia has had to make massive recalls and large civil settlements due to many Souls catching on fire. In August of 2020, a man passed away due to a rental Kia Soul catching on fire while driving. Kia recalled 534,000 Souls produced from 2012 to 2016 due to extreme exhaust temperatures and faulty catalytic converters creating fire risks. Additionally, Kia was forced to recall a further 253,281 Soul models produced from 2017 to 2019 and 147,249 produced from 2020 to 2021. Unfortunately, news stories continue to pop up even through 2022, highlighting many Kia Souls continuing to catch fire.
Kia Soul Reliability
Although many drivers may experience most of the problems listed above, the Soul is still considered to be a good option as a reliable daily driver. These issues are often a product of poor maintenance or simply high mileage over time. Overall, the Kia Soul is considered to have exceptional overall reliability. Kia has aimed to maintain high-reliability standards as a selling point for the Soul. J.D Power has reported an 87/100 score for the Soul, leaving it with a verdict of great reliability. What the Soul lacks in power and performance, it tries to make up for by being economical and somewhat reliable.
A Soul is a good option for a daily driver considering its price point. Yet, the various Kia engine configurations do have their design flaw. Therefore, we give the Soul a reliability rating of average to above average. However, it’s important to remember that these variables that affect the Soul’s reliability greatly depend on proper maintenance and repairs. Many of the problems in our list above are just too commonly reported to give the Soul a reliability rating of good. Yet, many drivers may find themselves upwards of 100,000 miles without experiencing major issues.
It’s easy to criticize the Kia Soul due to its infamous recalls and fire issues often mentioned in the media. Some drivers may find themselves content with the Soul. Yet many Soul drivers may find themselves with costly and time-consuming repairs before reaching the 75,000 – 100,000 mile mark, greatly reducing the model’s overall value. Again, the Soul prioritizes affordability and practicality first. With that said, the Kia Soul’s quirky design has created success for the brand, yet also headaches for the higher-ups dealing with recalls and civil settlements.
Let us know in the comments below your experience or opinions on the Kia Soul!