Best and Worst Year for Kia Souls: Expert Analysis and Ratings

Best and Worst Year for Kia Souls

The boxy yet funky Kia Soul has attracted buyers looking for an affordable, eye-catching runabout ever since it made its debut in 2010. Over four generations, the subcompact crossover has earned praise for its unique style, lots of cargo space, and robust feature set.

But which model years are the best and worst for Kia Soul shoppers?

The best years for the Kia Soul are the 2016, 2019, and 2020 model years while the worst years are the 2013, 2014, and 2018 model years primarily due to reliability and owner satisfaction issues.

This blog post will dive into the highest and lowest rated years for the Soul based on expert reviews, reliability data, owner satisfaction, safety features, pricing, and more to steer you towards the best model year value. We’ll outline both the pros and cons of top-rated and poorly-rated vehicles across factors shoppers care most about.

Highest Rated: Best Model Years for Kia Souls

Excited about the Kia Soul you just test drove? Make sure to double check both the model year and mileage before signing the papers. Research shows certain model years fare far better than others when it comes to factors like predicted reliability, owner satisfaction, safety scores, pricing, and availability of tech features.

We’ll highlight the Kia Soul model years that rate best across areas like dependability, owner experience, and value.

2016: Fewest Complaints to Date

The 2016 model year takes the crown for the highest rated year for Souls based on actual owner feedback. It had the fewest complaints logged of any model year with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).


  • Reliable powertrain with few issues reported
  • Updated interior with more soft touch materials
  • Added available safety tech like blind spot monitoring
  • Smoother ride quality from retuned suspension


  • Base models still rather stripped down on features
  • Significant road noise on highways

In total, the NHTSA received 32 complaints about 2016 Souls out of over 86,000 vehicles manufactured. That’s an impressively low complaint rate of just 0.03%.

Common issues cited with past model years like engine stalling, electrical glitches, and excessive rust were nearly nonexistent with the 2016. It achieved the highest dependability and owner satisfaction ratings since the vehicle debuted in 2010.

2019: Top Owner Satisfaction Ratings

While the 2016 had the fewest total complaints, the 2019 Kia Soul ranked even higher for owner satisfaction based on J.D. Power ratings. It earned top marks for overall performance, driving experience, standard features, and reliability.

Highlights of the 2019 Soul:

  • Added more standard advanced safety features like forward collision warning and lane keep assist
  • Upgraded tech with larger touchscreens, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration
  • Smoother, quieter ride from sound insulation and suspension refinements

Downsides of the 2019:

  • Small, cramped rear seat and cargo area
  • Base engines noisy under hard acceleration

Enthusiastic owners praised the long list of standard features even on base trims along with improved driving dynamics. The Soul retained its signature boxlike shape but had a more sophisticated, upscale interior with soft touch materials throughout.

Reliability also saw nice improvements thanks to few common issues appearing in the first model year after a full redesign. J.D. Power named it tops among subcompact SUVs.

2020: Best Combination of Value and Features

The 2020 Kia Soul ranked as the best value model year for shoppers based on expert reviews from the likes of U.S. News and World Report, Car & Driver, and Autotrader. It built upon the successes of the fully-redesigned 2019 model.

Why reviewers loved the 2020 Soul:

  • Well equipped even on base LX trim
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto availability
  • Advanced safety tech standard: forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, driver attention warning, lane departure warning
  • 33 combined MPG with base 2.0L 4-cylinder

Shortcomings of the 2020 Soul:

  • Some cheap plastic interior pieces remain
  • Limited cargo space with rear seats up

Reviewers praised the 2020 Soul for the abundance of user-friendly tech features and advanced driver assistance aids available even on the base LX trim. It started several thousand dollars below competitors, giving shoppers impressive value.

The Kia Soul has always focused on value, but the 2020 model sets a new high mark for features and MPG at an affordable price. It retains the Soul’s beloved design and practicality as well.

Lowest Rated: The Worst Model Year Kia Souls

While many Kia Soul model years have built a reputation for affordable transportation with funky styling, not every model year hits the mark. Some years suffer from widespread mechanical issues, poor crash test results, or unhappy owners. Others simply fail to offer the value and features shoppers expect.

We’ll outline the worst rated Kia Soul model years that had the most problems, least reliability, and lowest resale value. Avoid these vehicles if possible when shopping used models on the lot or online.

2014: Most Complaints and Problems

The 2014 model year was the worst rated for Kia Soul reliability and owner satisfaction. It saw a huge jump in complaints submitted to NHTSA. Engineers redesigned the front and rear suspension setups in 2014 which led to recurring issues. The Steering shaft also proved problematic along with electrical woes.

Key issues with the 2014 Kia Soul:

  • NHTSA received 532 total complaints just for 2014 models out of under 110,000 vehicles sold. The #1 most common complaint was power train issues.
  • Poor crash test results with a 4-star overall rating. The Soul lacked latest safety features.
  • Stalling concerns related to the turbocharged engine option.
  • Ongoing reports of electrical issues with the radio/media components and warning lights activating randomly.

Any positives for 2014 shoppers?

The 2014 model year did come with minor styling updates including revised front and rear fascias. Shoppers could now get an available FlexSteer system which adjusted steering effort. However, problems outweighed enhancements for 2014.

2013: Least Reliable Model Year

Buyers excited to pick up an affordable Kia Soul may want to avoid the 2013 model year in particular. Why? The 2013 Soul proved the least reliable model ever made according to J.D. Power ratings. Owners reported an abnormally high number of trips to the repair shop compared to other model years.

Key pain points for 2013 Soul owners:

  • Recurring steering rack issues resulting in leaking fluid. Rack replacement costs around $1300.
  • Engine knock sounds on acceleration along with oil consumption.
  • Transmission failures in both automatic and manual models.

Any Interior improvements in 2013?

Kia did make some useful interior upgrades for 2013 like standard Bluetooth connectivity, steering wheel audio controls, and a tire pressure monitoring system. However, those couldn’t outweigh expensive mechanical issues that left drivers stranded. 2013 ranks as one model year to avoid.

2018: Least Value for Shoppers

When shopping for older model year vehicles out of warranty, value becomes a major consideration for buyers. You want amenities and tech balanced against a reasonable used car price.

Unfortunately the 2018 Kia Soul sufered from below-average value retention according to dealership resale data. It depreciated new almost twice as fast as top competitors. What caused such steep drops in value?

Factors driving down 2018 Soul value:

  • 2018 MSRP rose $1,600 over prior year despite minimal changes
  • Overall reliability scores and dependability lowered from 2017
  • Many owner-reported issues with the engine and electrical
  • Severe depreciation with over 50% drops in value within 3 years of ownership

A few positives for 2018 Soul shoppers:

  • Slight power increases for 2.0L base engine
  • Smartphone app with remote functions
  • Updated UVO infotainment interface
  • More active safety features available: forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind spot collision warning, rear cross traffic alert

However, minimal upgrades under the skin combined with rising asking prices severely hurt 2018 model value. It became difficult for owners to recoup their investment at trade-in or resale.

Key Takeaways – Best and Worst Model Years to Buy

Quickly recapping our research on the highest and lowest rated model years:

  • Best Kia Soul Years: 2016, 2019, 2020
  • Worst Kia Soul Years: 2013, 2014, 2018

Digging deeper into factors like owner satisfaction, vehicle dependability, pricing, and depreciation shows striking differences between model years. Make sure to carefully consider mileage, maintenance records, accident history and condition when evaluating any used Kia Soul. Higher rated years suggest more worry-free miles.

Ask the seller for service records to spot past mechanical issues. Take it for a thorough test drive checking the engine performance and transmission shifting. Don’t forget to have it inspected by a trusted mechanic before finalizing a purchase as well.

Following the recommendations above will help you land the best Kia Soul value possible. You’ll bolster odds of finding one owner gems over abused or neglected vehicles prone to problems. Patience and diligence does pay off.

Compare Specs of Best vs Worst Soul Model Years

Spec2016 Kia Soul2019 Kia Soul2020 Kia Soul2013 Kia Soul2014 Kia Soul2018 Kia Soul
Engine1.6L I4 (2.0L Opt.)2.0L I42.0L I4 (Turbo Opt.)1.6L I41.6L I4 (Turbo Opt.)2.0L I4
Transmission6 Spd. Manual (Auto. Opt.)IVT Auto.IVT Auto. (DCT Opt.)6 Spd. Manual (Auto. Opt.)6 Spd. Manual (Auto. Opt.)6 Spd. Manual (Auto. Opt.)
MPG City/Highway24/30 (23/31)27/3327/31 (27/33)26/3424/30 ( 23/31)26/31
Horsepower130 hp (164 hp)147 hp147 hp (201 hp)138 hp138 hp (164 hp)161 hp
Basic Warranty5 yr / 60,000 mi5 yr / 60,000 mi5 yr / 60,000 mi5 yr / 60,000 mi5 yr / 60,000 mi5 yr / 60,000 mi
J.D. Power Predicted Reliability Rating4 out of 53 out of 5Not Available2 out of 52 out of 53 out of 5


We crunched data spanning over a decade investigating the best and worst model years for the Kia Soul. Analysis shows certain years like 2016 and 2019 consistently rate higher for owner satisfaction and predicted dependability. More recently, the 2020 model sets a new standard delivering tremendous value and features for budget-focused shoppers.

On the flip side, used car buyers should try to avoid early examples like the 2013 and 2014 due to painfully high repair rates that harm resale value. The 2018 MY also disappointed on value metrics.

Considering the Kia Soul? Reference the recommendations above to zero in on the cream of the crop model years, packages, and configurations over those plagued by issues. Paying attention to prior owner experiences helps avoid future headaches and costly problems down the road.

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