What to Look Out for When Buying a Used Kia Soul

2020 Kia Soul

At a time when a lot of small SUVs are starting to look a lot alike, it’s good to see that some automakers like Kia are still prepared to do something a little different with models like the Kia Soul. If you’re interested in one of these funky subcompact crossover SUVs but you don’t want to buy brand new, here’s what to look out for when buying a used Kia Soul.

If you’re looking to buy a used Kia Soul you should skip the first-generation and start looking at the second-generation from 2014 onwards. As well as new, modern styling, second-gen models have more advanced engine technology such as DVI and VVT and a steel timing chain, as opposed to the less durable timing belt found in earlier versions of the Soul.

In this article I’m going to cover:

  • First-generation Kia Soul
  • Second-generation Kia Soul
  • Third-generation Kia Soul
  • How much should you pay for a used Kia Soul?
  • What’s special about the Soul?
  • Potential issues to look out for
  • The competition
  • Should you buy a used Kia Soul?
  • Kia Soul FAQs

First-Generation Kia Soul (2010-2013)

2010 Kia Soul
2010 Kia Soul

It’s probably fair to say that the Kia Soul isn’t, and never was a universally loved vehicle. Even when the first-generation was launched in 2010 it was regarded by some as an odd-looking subcompact SUV that would probably struggle to excite buyers in markets outside its native Asia. I have to admit here that I never “got” the Kia Soul and I still don’t, but I’m also prepared to admit when I’m wrong or at least that my opinion is in the minority.

Lots of people saw the Kia Soul as fun, funky and a bit of a breath of fresh air in a segment that wasn’t showing a lot of imagination at the time. Even though I think the Soul is an odd-looking vehicle, lots of people loved the way it looked and if you do like it enough to explore the Soul a little further you’re only going to fall for it even more.

Although the Kia has always worn its overtly boxy shape with pride there have actually been quite a few revisions to its styling and specification over its relatively short life so far. First-generation models received a notable facelift and updated powertrains for the 2012 model year.

The 1.6-liter direct-injected engine now developed 138 horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque, while the more powerful the 2.0-liter unit produced 164 horsepower 148 lb-ft of torque. The 1.6 was now good for around 26 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway, while the 2.0-liter engine was rated at around 24 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.

First-generation Kia Souls are available with five- and six-speed manual transmissions as well as four- and six-speed automatic transmissions.

If you are going to buy a first-generation Kia Soul then you’re definitely better off looking at a 2012 or 2013 model year over earlier models. They will obviously cost a little more but I’m sure you’ll find it money well spent.

If you’d like to know what trim levels and features to look for with a first-generation Kia Soul, here are the official brochures for you to download for free.

Second-Generation Kia Soul (2014-2019)

2016 Kia Soul
2016 Kia Soul

Even though the 2014 Kia Soul was a completely new second-generation, the designers actually took the safe option of not messing with the look too much. It’s easy to see the difference between pre-facelift first-gen models and this new second-generation, but the difference between the new model’s styling and the facelifted first-generation Soul isn’t actually that huge.

There are subtle styling cues, such as the lights, which when all taken together do present a more contemporary look than earlier versions of the little Kia SUV, but the most important changes were going on underneath.

Thanks to a better chassis and retuned suspension as well as a new body that was almost 29 percent more rigid than its predecessor thanks to greater use of high-strength steel, the second-generation Soul drives and handles much better than earlier versions. As well as a six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions you’ll also find some second-gen Kia Soul models with a seven-speed DCT.

The engines weren’t exactly carried over from the first generation, but the updates didn’t make much difference to performance and fuel economy due to the second-generation being around a hundred pounds heavier.

In the 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 model years there was also a Kia Soul EV, and if you’d like to know the specs on those you can download the official brochures for free right here.

If you’d like to know what trim levels and features to look for with a second-generation Kia Soul, here are the official brochures for you to download for free.

Third-Generation Kia Soul (2020-present)

2021 Kia Soul
2021 Kia Soul

For the third-generation Soul, Kia once again stuck with the boxy silhouette blueprint but gave its funky little crossover and even funkier front and rear fascia that really does make this generation stand out significantly from its predecessors.

Base models are powered by a 2.0-liter inline-four that puts out 147 horsepower and 132 lb.-ft. of torque, which is then sent to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission, or more commonly, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). As well as being the cheaper of the two available powertrains, this base unit is also the best and most economical option.

If you do want a little more power there’s also a 1.6-liter turbo-four option, and this one produces 201 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque and swaps the CVT for a seven-speed DCT instead.

If you’d like to know what trim levels and features to look for with a third-generation Kia Soul, here are the official brochures for you to download for free.

How much should you pay for a used Kia Soul?

One of the great strengths of the Kia Soul over the years has been its affordability, and if you’re looking to buy used instead of brand new the Kia Soul is an even bigger bargain.

According to thecarconnection.com, these are the approximate prices you should expect to pay for a used Kia Soul:

Model YearMinimum PriceMaximum Price
2010 MY$4,511$11,795
2011 MY$3,999$12,895
2012 MY$4,540$12,983
2013 MY$2,999$14,599
2014 MY$4,990$13,999
2015 MY$5,881$15,998
2016 MY$6,995$16,988
2017 MY$8,249$18,764
2018 MY$8,747$20,490
2019 MY$9,694$18,997
2020 MY*$10,994$25,795

*current price range on AutoTrader

What’s special about the Soul?

There’s an awful lot to like and recommend about the Kia Soul, just as long as you like the way it looks, which I don’t. I am in the minority, however, as the Soul has been a big hit with American car buyers ever since it was launched and it continues to sell in good numbers.

Another thing you have to get to grips with is the fact there’s no all-wheel-drive option, so forget about going off-roading in this particular SUV. The thing is though, the Kia Soul is only an SUV in terms of it being a tall, boxy design.

Other than that, the Soul is effectively a practical five-door hatch with extra headroom. This is a model that’s designed for the environment it’s going to be used in, which is the town or city and not off-roading in the Moab.

The reasons why the Soul is so popular and such a good new and used buy is because it has competent powertrains that are lively and fuel-efficient, the interior is spacious and versatile, the cabin is comfortable for both adults and children, and the whole package is affordable but not cheap.

You won’t forget you’re in a Kia and not a VW or Audi when you’re sitting inside any of the three generations of the Soul, but you can’t fail to be impressed by the quality you get for the price. The Soul is also pretty well equipped at every level, although you will find first-gen models a little lacking in some respects if you’re used to newer vehicles.

Of course, one of the real standout features of the Kia Soul is the class-leading five-year/60,000-mile warranty it comes with from brand new. This means you could buy a three-year-old Kia Soul for a bargain price and it would still have two years of the full manufacturer warranty left as long as it hadn’t exceeded the mileage limit.

2012 Kia Soul
2012 Kia Soul

Potential Kia Soul issues to look out for

1st Generation – When you learn there were the occasional engine, electrical, and brake problems with the early Kia Soul you could be forgiven for wondering why it ever became so popular. However, most of the faults were not widespread and the main problem was diagnosing the issue.

In the very worst cases it has been known for the head gasket to fail and cause a complete engine failure, but how many cars of this age are free from such potential problems?

There have been reports of warning lights coming on, especially while driving at low speeds, which could be down to the code issued, the gas tank, or issues with the oxygen sensor in the gas tank.

If the first-generation Soul you are looking at has done 80,000 miles or more you should pay particular attention to the brakes. When you’re on a test drive, listen out for the brakes making a grinding noise when being applied, shifting gear without when you don’t want to, unexpected and unintended acceleration while on the move and the wheels locking while driving.

If you experience any of that with a vehicle as old as this you might be best advised to look at another one instead.

2nd Generation – Second-generation models have two main issues to look out for, which are problems with the lights and the engine burning oil excessively. With the lights, it’s the headlights flickering on and off and the beam lights burning out that’s the problem, but if this is going to happen it will usually have started before the Soul has done 60,000 miles.

Some engines can be guilty of burning too much oil and the Soul not being able to be driven without leaking oil everywhere, which if not attended to can then result in a complete engine replacement being needed due to a total failure. If this is going to happen it will probably start to occur at around 86,000 miles.

3rd Generation – The third-generation Kia Soul hasn’t been around for long enough to make a thorough assessment of its reliability, but there have been some reports of problems with the engine and transmission. Sometimes the engine’s revs can suddenly rise upwards for no apparent reason and then cause the Kia to shut down entirely.

Some dealers have also reported transmissions having metal fragments inside of them which can obviously lead to premature failure, but all these problems can be sorted out under Kia’s class-leading warranty.

Kia Soul competitors

Nothing looks quite like the Kia Soul so it’s hard to directly compare such a unique vehicle, but there are some models buyers will inevitably shop the Kia Soul against. The main rivals at the moment are the Jeep Renegade, Hyundai Veloster, Mini Cooper Countryman, Honda H-RV, and even perhaps the Fiat 500L. I have to admit that I find it hard to get too excited about any of them, and if I was pushed to have one of them I’d definitely go for the Kia Soul in that company.

Should you buy a used Kia Soul?

If you’re in the market for a non-luxury subcompact crossover and you like the way the Kia looks, then yes, you absolutely should go out and buy a used Kia Soul. The little Kia is funky, lively, practical, and perfect for the urban jungle. Second-gen models onwards drive and handle well and the small turning circle makes it a great little SUV for getting in and out of tight parking spaces.

It’s a very good value car brand new but as a used vehicle it can be an absolute bargain, especially if you still have some of that original manufacturer warranty left on it.

Kia Soul FAQs

Is the Kia Soul reliable?

The Kia Soul is a generally reliable little SUV, although you would be better off skipping the first-generation and concentrating on the second and third-generation models if reliability is a big concern for you.

How many miles will a Kia Soul last?

As long as the service schedule has been adhered to and any recalls have been carried out, it shouldn’t be out of the question for the Kia Soul to be good for 200,000 miles or more.

What is the best year for the Kia Soul?

If you want the most Kia Soul for the least money, a facelifted 2012 version of the first generation is probably the best one to go for. The styling is modern and fresh and there were technical upgrades that make it drive like a much more modern vehicle than earlier versions.

Does the Kia Soul hold its value?

A Kia Soul is expected to be worth 56% of its original price after five years, so an LX manual that costs $17,590 brand new in 2021 should still be worth around $9,850 after five years. That’s the kind of depreciation you’d expect after just three years with some rivals.

Is the Kia Soul expensive to maintain and repair?

The Kia Soul actually has some outstanding reliability ratings, and according to Edmunds, the majority of new models don’t require any unscheduled maintenance for several years. Even when a Soul does need repairing the parts are cheap and plentiful and the problems are rarely anything that should cause too much concern or expense.