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2021 Kia Soul Review

The 2021 Kia Soul is one of our top-ranked subcompact SUVs. It boasts ample cabin room and user-friendly technology, but it isn’t as athletic as some class rivals.

Pros & Cons

  • Spacious seating
  • Ample cargo room
  • User-friendly infotainment system
  • Long warranty
  • Not as agile as some rivals
  • Underwhelming interior quality
  • Limited standard safety tech

8.1

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 7.9
Performance: 7.5
Interior: 8.5
Safety:
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 9.5 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
TBD
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Thinking of leasing a Kia Soul?

The U.S. News Best Price Program saves users an average of $3,206 off the MSRP, and a lower price equals lower monthly lease payments. That means you could see a savings of $90 a month on a 36-month lease.

Is the Kia Soul a Good SUV?

Yes, the Soul is one of the best subcompact SUVs on the market. Inside, there's adult-friendly seating in both rows, generous cargo space, and a wealth of optional features. The Soul isn’t as fun to drive as competitors like the Mazda CX-3, but its ride is fairly smooth. The Soul also carries a lengthy warranty. However, this Kia doesn’t have as many soft-touch surfaces as some classmates.

Why You Can Trust Us: 15 Reviews Analyzed

We’ve analyzed 15 Kia Soul reviews, as well as performance specs, interior dimensions, fuel economy ratings, and more to give you all the information you need to make a smart car-buying decision.

This 2021 Soul review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2020.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our objectivity, we never accept expensive gifts from carmakers, and an outside firm manages the ads on our site.

Should I Buy the Kia Soul?

You should consider purchasing the Kia Soul if you’re looking for a well-rounded SUV that won’t break the bank. In addition to its below-average base price, the Soul has lots of space for a small SUV. Even so, competitors like the Mazda CX-3 are more controlled around turns and have sharper handling than the Soul, and rivals like the Hyundai Kona come with more standard safety features.

Find a 2021 Kia Soul for sale near you »

2020 vs. 2021 Kia Soul: What's the Difference?

Kia made only minor enhancements to the 2021 Soul, including the addition of a rear-seat alert to the standard features list. Also, the Soul EV is scheduled to return after a short hiatus.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 Soul »

Here are the key changes for the Kia Soul over the last few years:

  • 2017: gained available Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • 2018: touch screen became available in base trim; shuffling of features
  • 2019: a 5-inch touch screen, voice recognition, and a rearview camera added to standard features list
  • 2020: fully redesigned with revamped trim lineup, new base engine with 17 more horsepower and better fuel economy, newly available comfort and safety features, and more standard features including a 7-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto
  • 2021: Kia renames Soul GT-Line to Soul Turbo; rear-seat alert now standard

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 Soul, 2019 Soul, and 2020 Soul reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the Kia Soul Cost?

Starting at $17,490, the base 2021 Soul LX costs less than most of its competition. Prices rise as you climb the trim ladder, all the way up to the top-of-the-line Turbo (MSRP: $27,550).

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Kia dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Kia deals page.

Kia Soul Versus the Competition

Kia Soul vs. Hyundai Kona

The Hyundai Kona is another top contender in the subcompact SUV class. Both the Kona and Soul boast lengthy warranties, respectable predicted reliability ratings, and user-friendly infotainment. Both SUVs also feature standard four-cylinder engines and offer optional turbocharged four-cylinders. There are some notable differences though. The Kona has a more balanced ride than the Soul, it comes with more standard safety tech, and it offers all-wheel drive. On the other hand, the Soul has a lot more cargo space and a roomier back row. Choose the Kona if you prioritize safety tech and performance. The Soul is a better pick if spaciousness is your top concern.

Compare the Soul and Kona »

Kia Soul vs. Mazda CX-3

The Mazda CX-3 has the best driving dynamics in the class, highlighted by razor-sharp steering, lively handling, and strong brakes. Similar to the Kona, the CX-3 has more standard safety features than the Soul, and it has available all-wheel drive. Still, the Soul costs $3,150 less than the CX-3, and it offers a lot more cargo and passenger space to boot. Unless performance is your top priority, you’re better off with the Kia.

Compare the Soul and CX-3 »

Compare the Soul, Kona, and CX-3 »

Soul Interior: Among the Roomiest

Soul Cargo Space

Don’t let its tiny exterior dimensions fool you: The Soul has loads of cargo room. There’s 24.2 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and 62.1 cubic feet when the back row is folded down. The Soul’s cargo floor is a bit lower than the folded rear seats, but the available dual-level cargo board lets you level it.

How Many People Does the Soul Seat?

The Soul seats up to five. The seats are both roomy and comfortable, and four adults should have no qualms sitting in this Kia for a long time. The driver's seat has a high seating position, which helps provide great visibility of the road ahead.

Soul and Child Car Seats

The Soul has two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats and a tether anchor for the rear middle seat. The biggest problem with this system is that the lower anchors are set too deeply in the seats.

Soul Interior Quality

The Soul has a mix of hard plastics and soft-touch surfaces, which is common among affordable subcompact SUVs. However, some class rivals feature nicer cabin materials. The Soul has unique interior styling that can be appealing to some and off-putting to others. Critics note the Soul’s lack of lighter colors can make it seem pretty drab.

Soul Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The standard infotainment system is easy to use, and the most common menu options are nicely arranged. In addition to a standard touch screen, there are physical controls that make it easier for the driver to operate climate and audio settings while driving. Smartphone integration technology is also standard.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 7-inch touch screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, six speakers, a USB port, and Bluetooth
  • Available infotainment features: a 10.25-inch touch screen, wireless device charging, navigation, HD Radio, satellite radio, and a Harman Kardon audio system
  • Other available features: a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, and push-button start

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto?

Read more about interior »

Soul Performance: Smooth Rider

Soul Engine

The base Soul is powered by a 147-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that's paired with either a standard six-speed manual transmission or an available continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). There’s enough power for your daily travels, but acceleration is slow. A more potent 201-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is available in the Turbo trim, and it helps deliver quicker acceleration.

Soul Gas Mileage

Models with the standard four-cylinder engine and the manual transmission get an EPA-estimated 25 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway, while models with the available CVT deliver 3 more mpg in the city and 2 more mpg on the highway. These figures are typical for the class. Models with the upgraded turbocharged engine get 27 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

Soul Ride and Handling

The Soul delivers a smooth ride for the most part, but its slightly firm suspension makes for a bumpy ride over uneven roads. This Kia lacks the tight handling of rivals like the Mazda CX-3.

Read more about performance »

Soul Reliability

Is the Kia Soul Reliable?

The 2021 Kia Soul has a slightly above-average predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five.

Kia Soul Warranty

The Soul is covered by a five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Soul Safety

Soul Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Kia Soul an overall safety rating of four out of five stars, with four stars in the frontal crash and rollover tests and five stars in the side crash test.

At the time of writing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash tested the 2021 Soul.

Soul Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Rear-seat alert (helps to prevent kids and pets from being left inside the car)
  • Rearview camera

Available advanced safety features:

  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Pedestrian detection
  • Lane keep assist
  • Driver drowsiness monitoring
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Lane change assist
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Head-up display

Read more about safety »

Soul Dimensions and Weight

The Soul is around 13.8 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 2,802 to 3,036 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Kia Soul Built?

Kia builds the 2021 Soul in South Korea.

Which Kia Soul Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 Kia Soul comes in six trims: LX, S, GT-Line, X-Line, EX, and Turbo. The base LX trim has a solid amount of infotainment tech, but we recommend stepping up to the S trim for additional advanced safety features. If you are looking for a stronger engine, you'll have to opt for the Turbo, which is the only trim available with the more potent turbocharged engine. The Soul is only available with front-wheel drive.

Notably, an updated Soul EV is scheduled to debut for the 2021 model year.

Kia Soul LX

The base LX (MSRP: $17,490) comes with a 147-horsepower four-cylinder engine, a six-speed manual transmission, cloth upholstery, a rear-seat alert, and a rearview camera. Also standard is Kia's UVO infotainment system with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a 7-inch touch screen, six speakers, a USB port, and Bluetooth. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) costs an additional $1,500.

Kia Soul S

The S trim starts at $20,590 and adds the CVT and upgraded cloth upholstery. It also comes with a wealth of additional safety features including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, driver drowsiness monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and lane change assist.

Kia Soul GT-Line

Starting at $21,690, the GT-Line gains fog lights, a leather-wrapped and flat-bottom steering wheel, and unique exterior styling. A trim-specific sunroof package is available, and it includes a sunroof, wireless device charging, push-button start, blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, and rear cross traffic alert.

Kia Soul X-Line

The X-Line trim starts at $21,690 and adds roof rails and unique styling.

Kia Soul EX

The EX (MSRP: $23,250) includes the S trim's features and adds an upgraded UVO infotainment interface with a 10.25-inch touch screen, navigation, HD Radio, satellite radio, and wireless device charging. It also comes standard with a power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a dual-level cargo board.

Kia Soul Turbo

The Turbo trim starts at $27,550 and comes with a 201-horsepower four-cylinder turbocharged engine and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It builds off the EX trim and gains cloth and synthetic leather upholstery, as well as a heated, leather-wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel. It also comes with a sunroof, a Harman Kardon audio system, pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, and a head-up display.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Kia dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Kia deals page.

See 2021 Kia Soul specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 Kia Soul is a quirky subcompact SUV with easy-to-use tech features, lots of cargo room, and adult-friendly seating in both rows. Its base engine has enough power for your daily travels, and a peppier turbocharged engine is available. The Soul delivers a fairly smooth ride, but don’t expect much agility from this small crossover. Also, you will have to move past the base model for anything but basic safety features.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "The 2021 Kia Soul does what the Kia Soul has always done, which is to provide relatively inexpensive personal transportation with high levels of practicality and an impressive 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. It’s a sensible car. But that’s only part of the story. The other part is the joy of ownership. It has an individual character and attitude – an aspect Soul owners can appreciate every time they walk up to it and click the key fob to unlock. It proves that economical cars don’t have to be forgettable, or worse, unbearable." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The 2021 Kia Soul straddles a few traditional notions. It’s essentially a subcompact hatchback, but raises its ride height a little higher than a regular car, bringing it closer to crossover territory. It’s a highly stylish vehicle as well, with a personality that’s rare in this budget-conscious segment. Yet the Soul also manages to bring a practical dimension, thanks to its roomy cabin, fuel efficiency, affordable price and running costs, plus a 100,000-mile/10-year powertrain warranty." -- Autotrader
  • "With its expressive styling and clever interior touches, the … Kia Soul stays true to its eccentric mission. But it also happens to be an extremely well-rounded and likeable car with solid mainstream appeal. The quirky flourishes serve to enhance a strong package, rather than compensate for any glaring deficiencies. So for those who want a practical package with a little sass, the … Kia Soul is ready to oblige." -- Motor Trend
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