Best & Worst Kia Soul Years

We've taken a detailed look at every Kia Soul until this years model and categorized the best & worst years in this guide.

In this guide, I’ll analyze all Kia Soul generations, unveiling Soul’s best years to buy and the worst Kia Soul years to avoid.

With rigorous analysis of reliability records, cost data, and safety scores from trusted sources like NHTSA and Consumer Reports, we investigate what makes a Kia Soul year best – or one to avoid.

Our focus sharpens on the details that define the best and worst of Kia Soul years, pinpointing what sets them apart, common problems, recalls, and standout features.

Let’s dive right in.

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Table of ContentsShow

Kia Soul Generations

The Kia Soul emerged as a distinctive competitor in the compact crossover segment, with its first generation debuting in 2010.

Known for its boxy design, spacious interior space, and customization options, the first model of the Kia Soul introduced a fresh take on urban mobility with a focus on style and practicality.

Here’s an at-a-glance view of the Kia Soul’s generations from 2010.

GenerationYears
1st generation (AM)2010-2013
2nd generation (PS)2014-2019
3rd generation (SK3)2020-Present

Generational design, technology, and performance changes are crucial as they often influence reliability and owner satisfaction.

Kia Soul Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

When evaluating Kia Soul’s best and worst model years, our categorization is informed by a comprehensive analysis of factors. These include:

  • Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
  • Annual maintenance costs
  • Safety ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability scores
  • Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
  • NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
  • Edmunds owner ratings
  • JD Power owner ratings
  • Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
  • VehicleHistory owner ratings
  • Cars.com owner ratings

The forthcoming graph combines these ratings to illustrate the trends in owner experiences with the Kia Soul’s various model years.

Kia Soul Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

In the accompanying table, we have categorized all Kia Soul model years into best, neutral, and worst years based on the metrics above.

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
1st generation (AM)2010
2011
N/A2012
2013
2nd generation (PS)2017
2018
2019
N/A2014
2015
2016
3rd generation (SK3)2021
2022
2024
N/A2020
2023

“Neutral Years” typically don’t possess the same consistent high marks as the best years but don’t suffer from the pronounced issues that characterize the worst years.

The factors listed contribute to our rankings, with negative aspects like NHTSA recalls indicative of potential reliability issues.

Let’s dive into the Kia Soul’s best, neutral, and worst years.

Best & Worst Years for Kia Soul 1st Generation (2010-2013)

Kia Soul 1st generation 2010 model
The 2010 Kia Soul

The Kia Soul first appeared on the automotive stage in 2010, captivating the compact crossover segment with its distinctive boxy aesthetics and youthful vibe.

Facelift years of the generation – 2012 and 2013 are the most problematic Kia Soul years you should avoid at all costs, while 2010 and 2011 are the best 1st generation Kia Soul model years to buy.

The Best Years: 2010, 2011

The pre-facelift years of the Kia Soul, particularly 2010 and 2011, stood out as the best years for their reliability and diverse offerings.

With engine options that included a 1.6L Gamma MPi inline-4 with 122 horsepower and a more robust 2.0L Beta II inline-4 with 142 horsepower, these models balanced power and fuel economy, achieving around 26 city/31 highway mpg.

These years offered several trim levels – from the basic Base to the feature-rich Exclaim (!) – catering to a range of consumer preferences.

Solid safety features like multiple airbags and stability control complemented Tech amenities such as Bluetooth and a high-quality sound system.

Despite some recalls, they were mainly for non-critical issues, allowing these years to maintain good reliability scores.

The Worst Years: 2012, 2013

Conversely, the 2012 and 2013 Kia Soul models became problematic with introducing the new 1.6 Gamma GDi engines.

The 2012 and 2013 Kia Souls were plagued with severe engine problems, including seized engines that often necessitated costly overhauls and steering issues marked by failing steering couplers, resulting in noise and loss of steering precision.

Fuel economy figures remained like previous years; however, reliability suffered due to these pervasive issues.

Additionally, these models were subject to critical recalls, including overheating catalytic converters and Hydraulic Electronic Control Unit short circuits that presented fire risks and steering faults that undermined vehicle handling.

Consequently, the 2012 and 2013 Kia Soul model years are generally advised to avoid.

See NHTSA 2012, 2013 Kia Soul recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Kia Soul 2nd Generation (2014-2019)

Kia Soul 2nd generation 2014 model
The 2014 Kia Soul

With the second generation, the Kia Soul matured in its design and offerings, continuing to build on the successful formula established by its predecessor.

In its second generation, Kia Soul’s best years were 2017-2019 facelift model years, while due to persistent issues from the previous generation, 2014-2016 are the worst Kia Soul years to avoid.

The Best Years: 2017, 2018, 2019

Our research shows that the best years of the second-generation Kia Soul are widely regarded as the 2017 to 2019 model years.

These models refined the Soul’s drivability with updates to the powertrain, including an efficient 1.6L Gamma II turbocharged engine that delivered a lively 201 horsepower with 26 city/31 highway mpg.

The introduction of advanced driver-assistance features and improvements in material quality and ride comfort marked these as standout years.

Notably, these models also boasted an impressive range of technology options, including an updated infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, enhancing the overall user experience.

The Worst Years: 2014, 2015, 2016

Unfortunately, issues from the latest years of the previous generation persisted in the 2014, 2015, and 2016 Kia Soul model years, so it is wise to avoid them.

Owners reported problems related to premature wear of components, a burning odor inside the cabin, excessive oil consumption, headlight malfunctions, and persistent steering issues.

The 2014 Kia Soul faced significant problems with engine failures and inadequate acceleration, with some units requiring complete engine replacements.

Additionally, the 2014, 2015, and 2016 Kia Soul model years saw recalls for manufacturing defects that could lead to loss of vehicle control, such as faulty steering pinion gears and potential fire risks associated with the catalytic converter.

See NHTSA 2014, 2015, 2016 Kia Soul recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Kia Soul 3rd Generation (2020-Present)

Kia Soul 3rd generation 2020 model
The 2020 Kia Soul

The third generation of the Kia Soul aimed to capture the market with its distinctive boxy silhouette, now edged with modern lines and contemporary detailing.

2020 and 2023 are the Kia Soul model years advised to avoid, while the remaining years – 2021, 2022, and 2024 are Kia Soul’s best and most reliable years in its third generation.

The Best Years: 2021, 2022, 2024

For the third-generation Kia Soul, the best years begin in 2021 and extend to the present.

These Kia Souls have various powertrain options, including a peppy 2.0L Nu inline-4 and an available turbocharged engine, boosting fuel efficiency up to 28 city/33 highway mpg.

Notably, the 2021 Kia Soul introduced enhanced safety features, such as lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control, while the 2022 model brought further refinement to ride quality and cabin noise insulation.

Connectivity and infotainment systems saw significant upgrades, with more giant touchscreens and intuitive interfaces.

These years have been praised for their improved driving dynamics and have maintained high-reliability ratings, especially in Consumer Reports, with fewer recalls and consumer complaints than the launch year of this generation.

The Worst Years: 2020, 2023

Considering the large number of early owner complaints on NHTSA, 2020 and 2023 are undeniably the worst third-generation Kia Soul years you should avoid.

Early adopters faced issues with the CVT transmission, including jerky acceleration and, in some instances, complete transmission failure.

The 2020 Kia Soul models with 2.0L Nu MPi engines were subject to recall for potential fire risks due to improperly heat-treated piston oil rings.

The 2023 Kia Soul received recalls for digital instrument cluster malfunctions and electric oil pump assembly failures, increasing fire risk.

As a result, those in the market for a used Kia Soul are advised to consider the subsequent years, which offer better reliability and a more polished driving experience.

See NHTSA 2020, 2023 Kia Soul recalls and complaints.

Kia Soul Resale Values

Examine the graph showing how Kia Soul models sustain value over time across different model years.

Kia Soul Average List Price

Conclusion

Navigating the history of the Kia Soul, the best model years to buy are 2017 to 2019 models, the 2021 model, the 2022 model, and the newest 2024 model, while it’s wise to avoid the 2012 to 2016 range due to their notorious power train issues.

What features do you prioritize when choosing the best Kia Soul year? Reliability, safety, or tech advancements?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Jonathan Eckert

Jonathan is an ASE-certified mechanic with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the automotive industry. His expertise spans a wide range of vehicles, but he specializes in diagnosing and repairing Japanese cars. His previous workplace highly commended his meticulous attention to detail, and that's exaclty what he uses at Car Smite to craft the best guides for each purpose.