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2018 Kia Soul Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Airbags, engine and powertrain issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners


2018 Kia Soul

Many consumers are infatuated with the style and design of the 2018 Kia Soul. There aren’t many other compact SUV models that feature the same construction and it stands out in a crowd. The company is proud to proclaim that the newest lineup provides “next-level versatility,” but it’s clear that more is offered than that. Vehicles come with defective airbags, a malfunctioning engine and faulty powertrain.

Click on other model year to view more problems:  2019   2020

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Problems with the Airbags

One of the most basic safety components of any vehicle are the airbags. When these don’t operate properly, occupants are put in grave danger during an impact.

One such instance is documented with the NHTSA. “I got into an accident on a cross street intersection at a stop sign. I looked both ways, no vehicle on site until I started to cross over when a driver sped down the road and hit me. The whole front end of the Soul is gone. The car is a total loss. Not one airbag deployed (not even one deployed). I sustained a chest injury and breast injury. I was rushed to the hospital and checked for chest pains. X-rays revealed internal bruises. My chest, breast and part of my stomach are black and blue.”

Interestingly enough, the automaker hasn’t released any information about defective airbags. Instead of attacking the problems head-on, they have chosen rather to hide. It would be understandable to be silent if this was an isolated incident, but several owners have now complained about the airbags not deploying. Maybe part of the “next-level” design is to put drivers and occupants in more danger.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Kia Soul Airbag Problems:

TL* THE CONTACT OWNED A 2018 KIA SOUL. WHILE THE VEHICLE WAS IDLING AT A STOP LIGHT, THE CONTACT’S VEHICLE WAS REAR ENDED BY ANOTHER VEHICLE TRAVELING 45 MPH. THE AIR BAGS DID NOT DEPLOY AND THE DRIVER’S SEAT SNAPPED IN HALF. A POLICE REPORT WAS FILED. THE CONTACT SUSTAINED NERVE DAMAGE TO THE BACK THAT REQUIRED MEDICAL ATTENTION. THE VEHICLE WAS DESTROYED AND TOWED. THE DEALER AND MANUFACTURER WERE NOT CONTACTED. THE CAUSE OF THE FAILURE WAS NOT DETERMINED.

Problems with the Transmission

One of the most vital components of any vehicle is the transmission. It’s the primary part of the powertrain and is required in order to make the car move. Yet, the Soul doesn’t seem to have a functional transmission, which simply makes everything difficult.

One complaint with the NHTSA says, “The contact owns a 2018 Kia Soul. While driving approximately 35 mph and making a turn, the vehicle stalled and the steering lost power. There were no warning indicators illuminated. The failure recurred several times. The vehicle was taken to [dealer], but the technician was unable to duplicate the failure. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure and referred the contact to the consumer support acceleration team. The contact called Kia Motors America and was provided [case number]. The dealer stated that they could not assist. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was approximately 11,000.”

It turns out that transmission problems aren’t that uncommon in the Soul. Service bulletin #TSBTRA078 talks about how updates must be done to the TCU to prevent shift shock once the Dual Clutch Transmission assembly, Transmission Control Unit or Double Clutch Set are replaced. First of all, there’s no reason for any of these parts to be replaced in a high-quality new vehicle. Secondly, it’s absolutely insane that the dealer above couldn’t repair the owner’s problem. It’s ridiculous for a car to fail at 11,000 miles and not be fixed. It just proves how much of a lemon the Soul is, even if the manufacturer wants to call it “next-level.”

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Kia Soul Powertrain Problems:

TL- THE CONTACT OWNS A 2018 KIA SOUL. THE CONTACT STATED THAT THE VEHICLE WAS AT STAND STILL AT A TRAFFIC LIGHT, WHEN DEPRESSING THE ACCELERATOR PEDAL AND THE VEHICLE BEGAN TO FORCEFULLY HESITATE. THE CONTACT STATED NO WARNING LIGHT WAS ILLUMINATED. THE VEHICLE WAS TAKEN TO LOCAL DEALER WHERE IT WAS DIAGNOSED WITH NEEDING THE TRANSMISSION WAS REPLACED 2 TIMES. THE VEHICLE HAD BEEN REPAIRED. THE MANUFACTURER HAD BEEN INFORMED OF FAILURE. THE FAILURE MILEAGE WAS 36,269.

Problems with the Engine

Finally, it’s time to look at the engine – the heart of all vehicles. When the engine acts up, it’s impossible to have an enjoyable ride, as seen by many Soul owners.

One NHTSA complaint says, “From a stop, the vehicle has a significant hesitation pulling away from a stop sign/red light etc. As you push the gas pedal down, it hesitates then accelerates hard. Has 340 miles on it at this time. Dealer and Kia state this is normal for the new transmission/turbo design. Even the service manager was shocked when he drove it saying he would not have bought it. I would think this problem could be resolved with a programming update. My concern for safety is two part: 1st, anticipating the vehicle may go when in fact it hesitated to pull of creates an anticipation event. 2nd, the hard acceleration when it engages could result in rear-ending someone.”

This issue is an engine/transmission combo problem but considered normal by the dealer, which is just absurd. Is it normal for an engine to be missing valuable parts? Apparently so! According to Service Bulletin #PS067_R1, dealers are instructed to check the cylinder heads on some engines to confirm that the right steel sealing balls are included. What kind of next-level design is it that forgets to put basic components on the engine? What were the assemblers doing when it came time to build the engines? If this is what next-level versatility looks like, it might be best to go back to the classics, when cars were made right.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Kia Soul Engine Problems:

MY CHECK ENGINE LIGHT CAME ON AND EVERY TIME I TOOK IT IN FOR SERVICE I WAS TOLD I USED BAD GAS AND TO CHANGE THE GAS. I WAS EVEN TOLD THE COMPUTER ON MY CAR NEEDED TO BE UPDATED AND UNTIL THEN THE CHECK ENGINE LIGHT WOULD COME ON AND MAY NOT GO OUT. MY CAR STOPPED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET AND WOULDN’T MOVE

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

Think you have a lemon? Sit back and let the experts work aid your lemon at no cost to you. The law makes Kia pay legal fees. You may be able to get your lemon out of your life. Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners like you.

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Lemberg Law is a consumer law firm helping victims of bad manufacturing and run-arounds from auto companies. We are ranked A+ by the BBB. Call our Helpline today!  There is no charge unless we win.


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About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 20 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones
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