2020 Kia Soul Problems Analysis

Data suggests that Engine and powertrain issues are the most common for this model year.

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

Everyone wants to experience fun on the road, which is why some customers turn to the 2019 Kia Soul. The newer models claim to be “outgoing and adventurous.” But owners whose vehicles catch on fire or whose engines or transmissions fail, prefer to give this adventure a miss.

Click on other model year to view more problems:  2019   2021   2022   2023

The Most Common Issues

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received hundreds of complaints from disgruntled and unhappy owners of the 2020 Kia Soul. More than 86% of these complaints relate to the engine and/or powertrain of the vehicle. There is also an ongoing recall and a preliminary investigation (now closed) into engine problems that affect the 2020 Soul.

Many other components and systems are implicated in complaints. These include the airbags, electrical system, exterior lighting, forward collision avoidance, fuel system, seats and child seat, seat belts, service brakes, steering, structure, suspension, vehicle speed control, visibility/wiper, and wheels. Even though there are nowhere near as many complaints about the electrical system and steering, we have singled these sections out because together they represent close to 14% of all complaints. However, we have focused on specific issues, including theft issues due to the widely known vulnerability of certain Kia (and Hyundai) models.


No one expects the engine in the 2020 Kia Soul to be exceptionally powerful. After all, this isn’t a sports car, but customers do have a reasonable expectation that the engine is safe and reliable. However, the engine of this hatchback has been plagued with multiple issues from burning oil to catching alight. We’re going to focus on some of the main issues.

Engines Seizing

Many complaints describe engines failing or seizing. Some state there were knocking noises before the engine seized. Others say engine failure was due to engines burning oil and/or faulty piston oil rings (see recall information below).

One complaint reports “complete engine failure at just over 100,000 miles.” It happened suddenly, while driving down a busy road. “The vehicle suddenly lost engine power. Had to unsafely travel at well below speed limit to (the) local Kia dealership” that “evaluated (the) engine and stated it would need (to be) replaced entirely. There was no reason or explanation given.”

An owner from Texas had the transmission changed in May 2023. About six months later, “the check engine lights started blinking and now I need a new engine.”

An owner from Illinois states that the engine experienced total failure at 14,510 miles. “Kia kept (the) vehicle over 60 days and returned (the) vehicle to me with further damage to body.”

Engines Burning Oil

The first obvious problems owners of a Soul from Tennessee experienced were extreme knocking sounds. The owner, a mechanic, recognized this as an oil problem — checked the oil levels and discovered “there was no oil in the vehicle.” He filled it up and it seemed okay at first, but the problem recurred. There was “a loud rattling sound, as if something had broken due to lack of lubrication, despite having an oil change completed less than a month prior, with approximately 1200 miles due to the next oil change.” He “filled the engine with oil, and drove with extreme caution as the check engine light never shut off. Again, no oil light or indication the vehicle was experiencing a no-oil condition was present.”

The dealership identified multiple CEL and cylinder misfire codes, as well as low compression on several cylinders but decided they might be “false codes.” The complaint states, “The vehicle continues to exhibit stalling, and low acceleration, posing a severe safety issue.”

An owner from Michigan states that the engine burns all the “oil out within 1,000 miles of driving. No leaks, but (the) oil disappears.”

A complaint from a New Hampshire owner indicates a link between oil consumption and engine failure. “The check engine warning light illuminated and the vehicle would not properly accelerate while depressing the accelerator pedal. The cause of the failure was not yet determined.” The dealer performed an oil consumption test and determined that the engine needed to be replaced.

Problematic Piston Oil Rings

Dated April 2021, NHTSA Campaign Number 21V259000 warns that the piston oil rings of 147,249 Kia vehicles, including the 2020-2021 Soul, may not have been properly heat-treated. This may result in engine damage. Additionally, the recall warns that oil may leak onto hot exhaust components, increasing the risk of a fire.

Despite this being a long-standing problem, a complaint from an owner in LA states that the Kia dealership won’t “acknowledge or respond” to his communications. When the check engine light of the Soul came on, he took the vehicle to a mechanic. The diagnostic code, Piston Ring Noise Sensing System, came on. He emailed the owner of the dealership and service manager and explained the problem. He also told them he had had the software update done when the initial recall came out (in 2021). Then he complained to the NHTSA when the car started stalling.

An owner from Georgia had the recall repair done in 2022. The piston oil ring had been causing the car to “stall out/die in traffic.” After the recall, “it worked fine for a few days then it progressive got worse and started using oil, and the oil light no longer worked.” The complaint states that a Kia dealer refused to address “the oil leak or the stalling out. They were dismissive of my concerns and told me the engine was full of gunk and it was from improper upkeep which is untrue.” Even after paying for repair work, the car remained undrivable. Additionally, the owner states that there are now engine issues that they will not address “because there are not any recalls.”

Cars Losing Motive Power

There are a significant number of complaints about the 2020 Soul losing motive power. The most recent was filed by a Kentucky owner on June 14, 2024. It states that “while driving at 30 mph, the vehicle inadvertently lost motive power.” The driver couldn’t pull to the shoulder of the roadway but was able to restart the vehicle. The check engine warning light was illuminated. The dealer couldn’t determine the cause of the failure but initiated a 1,000-mile oil consumption test.

At around 6,500 miles, an owner from Georgia experienced the “Engine shuddering violently, losing power and shutting off.” When this happened, the check engine light came on. The oil level was low even though it had been 100% 1,000 miles before. The dealership didn’t detect any oil leaks and started an oil consumption test. According to the complaint, the Kia oil consumption test doesn’t allow owners to check the oil. They have to drive the vehicle 1,000 miles or until the car shuts off.

A 2022 complaint from an owner from Georgia states while driving, the vehicle lost motive power. It was towed to the dealer, but they could not duplicate the failure.

An owner from Kentucky took his Soul in for oil consumption issues in June 2021. Kia agreed that “consumption was abnormal, but within parameters and would not fix the problem. The recall came out for the oil piston issue and I took the vehicle in for repair. Kia still refuses to fix the oil piston ring issue and oil consumption issue under the recall order.” Nevertheless, “the engine does not run correctly. While driving on the road, the engine loses power and has (a) knocking sound. The vehicle still uses oil and Kia refuses to fix (it) under warranty or the recall.”

Loss of Motive Power Investigation

In September 2022, the NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) opened a Defect Petition DP22003 into allegations attributed to oil drain pan assembly failures on certain Hyundai Motor America, Inc. and Kia America, Inc. vehicles spanning 2005-2021 MY. The petitioners maintained there was a safety defect that resulted in a loss of motive power and/or catastrophic engine damage.

The NHTSA decided that a formal investigation was not warranted and closed the case on December 12, 2023.

Cars Catching Fire

There can be nothing much more frightening than a vehicle catching fire, especially while driving.

In August 2023, the South Carolina owner of a 2020 Soul was driving when smoke started pouring out from under the hood and a fire broke out. The engine was affected and the car no longer turns on or turns over. Unbelievably, a couple of months before this, they had taken the car into a Kia dealership for an overheating recall and were told “nothing was wrong.” The dealer claimed the three-year-old car had “experienced wear and tear,” which the owners refute.

“When we took the vehicle in to address the recall we were told on two different occasions that there was nothing wrong with the car even though the overheating light kept coming on. But the dealership “deleted all of the codes and denied anything was wrong with the car. One month later my husband’s life was almost taken by this vehicle catching on fire/overheated.”

Another South Carolina owner states that when his Soul engine overheated, it caused a fire under the hood. “Thereafter the car smoked and would not turn back on or turn over.”

This is a long ongoing problem. An owner from Michigan tells how a 2020 Soul engine caught on fire while driving in 2019, 10 days after purchase. “While driving at 70 mph, the vehicle stalled as the engine warning light illuminated.” When the driver tried to restart it, the engine caught on fire. The fire department extinguished the fire. The vehicle was towed to an impound yard and the car was totaled. The failure mileage was only 600!


As part of the powertrain, owners expect a reliable and smooth-shifting transmission under the hood. Without this, the car is uncomfortable and cumbersome to drive. While most transmission problems are reported as being powertrain problems, some owners identify them as engine problems. Often both components have problems. Many complaints report complete transmission failure.

An owner from New Jersey describes how the transmission failed while driving at full speed on the highway. “My car initially started balking with RPMs jumping between 2000 and 3000 RMPs. Then, it revved high and (the) RPMs suddenly jumped into the red while the car was not propelling forward at any real speed. It was an extremely dangerous, scary situation in the rain, with an 18-wheeler right behind me. I am grateful to have made it to the dealer without having a crash. There were never any warning lamps and this happened out of the blue, without prior warning.” The dealer report stated: “Metal debris on speed sensor; transmission internal failure. Techline authorized transmission replacement.” The transmission was replaced.

An owner from Florida reports that the Soul was losing power even when using cruise control or the accelerator. It eventually stopped completely and was towed to a dealer. The service rep thought it was a transmission problem as another customer had reported a similar situation. It was, and the transmission needed to be replaced. Even though it was covered by the warranty, the owner was not reimbursed for all resulting travel expenses.

The transmission failed twice in an Ohio owner’s 2020 Soul. As a result, it was replaced twice. “The vehicle was on the highway and all of the sudden the RPMs went through the roof and the vehicle just started to die.”


Complaints about the 2020 Soul’s steering range from an inability to turn the steering wheel to downright failure.

An owner from Iowa tells how the steering wheel locked, and she couldn’t turn it. After shifting into Park and restarting, “the power steering functionality returned.” However, “a symbol of a steering wheel in a circle with a line through the steering wheel was illuminated.” After driving home, she turned off and restarted the vehicle. However, the vehicle lost power steering functionality again and had to be towed to a local dealer. The dealer said that the steering column needed to be replaced.

An owner from Phoenix tells how the electrical power steering system froze and would not turn left or right while the car was running. It was working again four hours later when a tow truck arrived. But the tow truck driver said he had towed a Kai Soul to a dealer the day before because of the same issue. “My car is currently at the dealership for diagnostics, and if they can’t find an issue I have to pay a minimum $170 just for them to look at it. This is not a good situation as a whole! This vehicle needs to have an electrical power steering issue recall.”

Another owner states that when the motor-driven power steering failed, the dealer replaced the flexible coupling in the power steering assembly.

In a 2021 complaint, an owner from Florida states that after the steering indicator dash light came. The dealership “determined it was a bad steering wheel assembly. due to the coronavirus.”

Service Bulletin #TSBCHA084_R3 indicates that the motor-driven power steering system and electronic control units (ECUs) are causing problems. It states that any of these three parts might require repair or replacement to function properly again.

Theft Vulnerability Problems

This issue has been widely publicized, with a viral 2021 TikTok video blamed for drawing attention to it. The problem is that 2011-2021 Kia (and 2015-2021 Hyundai) models didn’t incorporate an electronic immobilizer. These safety devices use a unique chip in the key fob and won’t start unless they recognize the correct key. Without them, anyone can unscrew the steering column and insert a USB into the ignition before driving away — which is what the TikTok video showed. The result has been a frightening surge in car thefts.

NHTSA Complaints and Information

An owner from Kentucky filed a complaint in July 2022 stating that the car had been stolen using a usb cord. “The manufacturer needs to correct this error in design. There are internet videos detailing how to steal these cars. The consumer is left to foot the expense of this design error.”

According to an NHTSA press release dated February 14, 2023, “Hyundai and Kia have developed theft deterrent software for millions of their vehicles that lack an immobilizer and will provide it FREE of charge to vehicle owners.” The press release also states that about 4.5 million Kias were involved in thefts. However, according to one NHTSA complaint dated April 19, 2023, local dealers in his area deny having any information about this from Kia.

Another Kentucky owner complained in October 2023 that his 2020 Soul was stolen after the thieves had broken a window.

“The problem of Kia’s being stolen has increased to the point local officials have filed a lawsuit against Kia. The problem of these cars being easily stolen has been all over the news recently. People are getting killed because of reckless driving by the persons stealing the vehicles. I had no idea my car was vulnerable to this.” This owner tried to file a claim on the Kia website, but was unable to because there isn’t a recall.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

There’s a lot wrong with 2020 Kia Soul cars, and there’s no doubt that some owners have landed up with lemons. If you think your Soul is a lemon, contact Lemberg Law by calling our Hotline or filling out a contact form online. We will assess your issues and see how we can help. 

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 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
  • L J

    My sunny yellow Kia Soul (2020) has been the best vehicle until about 3 months ago when I took it in for regular maintenance and a tire rotation/brake check. When I got it home, the TPMS went off saying I had a problem, which I checked out and found none. When activated, I cannot use the key fob, windshield wipers, headlights, or put the car in gear without manual manipulation! It is so inconvenient and frustrating! I have taken the car back for service, and the dealership is still trying to figure out the problem. I believe it just needs a new TPMS module or sensors and then it’ll all fall back into perfect working order….or at least that’s what I hope. Whatever it is, it’s inconsistent, happens anytime and anywhere, and completely catches me off guard when it does! I have had to drive to work for 2 days in the rain with no windshield wipers! I’m wondering if anyone else has had the same problem with their 2020 Kia Soul?

  • Maria

    2021 Kia Soul transmission went out at 5000 mi. About 100 miles from home. Car was jerking as I drove on the highway, I thought it might be cruise control so shut it off, continued to jerk and sputter until it would no longer shift into gear or move. I was lucky to coast off the highway into a small town, unlucky that it is a small town, Kia dealership about 20 miles away would not give me a loaner, no rental car lots open on Saturday, had to have someone drive 100 miles to pick me up. Car has been at dealership two weeks, they just looked at it today. I have been without any transportation because Kia refused to help me with a car until the problem was diagnosed and warranty work approved. Still have waiting for Kia to approve. I was on hold for over 6 hours trying to get ahold of customer service, finally got thru was told they would not help me then hung up on. Have had the worst customer service from Kia. Am worried that car will continue to have problems even if fixed after reading these accounts.

  • Venis g

    Brought car in many times to Kia. Various reasons. It is 2020 kia soul. The car knocks when you start it. Can’t turn heat on high because the cabin filter somehow hits the fan blades. They replaced filter still does it and at first wanted me to pay for new filter. Just bought car.
    Issues with brakes. When park up hill or down hill even when on hill to take of males horrendous noise every time let off brake. Shop states normal. Finally put new brakes on. Car still does it. The car even on high in winter with it on high never gets warm enough to have a baby in car even only after driving for two hours is it warm inside. Mind you car barely now has 6000 miles on it and have had almost 2 years in September. Frustrated. Scared to drive it ever. Never on long distance. Drive freeway pulls to right all time
    Does not shift right at all. Another year in this as its a lease. Shop manger always states this normal. Not it is not

  • Shauna M

    SHAUNA M My 2020 Kia Soul first Transmission went less than 1,000 km i have had 3 transmission put in this car in less than 15,000 km the third one is starting to act up after that happens with in a week I will be getting it towed to the dealer again four number 4 .I do homecare and i need a reliable car, this has been very frustrating and last i had to fight to get a rental which was only for two days. i had to use my partners car in order to care for my clients.

  • Iris E

    I have my soul 2020 since January 2020. Straight off the truck! My driving is speed limit and abaut 60 miles a day.It all begins with the car shutting off on me and it wasn’t the gas saver because when it is the dash gives you instructions on how to perform so car Turns back on… Well it didn’t ???? I thought maybe it was me not knowing how to use my car. So I shut off the on fine all good. I took it do the dealership and reported the issue and nothing found and we’ll i had the give it an earnormal my car change since was there. Two time happened again and I was at the light on a hill???? so took it back in pandemic and got an other oil change since there also no duplicate to shutting off. But was suggested to do the 30000 service recommended but my car was just at 23000. Well realized that the promised wasent on point unshure , told them I will opt for that service when the tax time came in. At 28000 I turn my car on and did sound normal my car was shaking .I waited till the revolution was normal and called kia dealership make apt.
    On my drive there it felt scary as if it wasent going to make it to the 20 minutes drive away going 40 hesitant to work its own mechanism.
    Well 2 days latter the dealership can’t get the car to do it again ???? I work all these days don’t have time to spend at the rental to get one so I’m car pulling arrownd no time to play.
    Tomorrow I will go there early and ride with the mechanic. Issues like that just don’t go away.3/31/21.I don’t trust my car I’m not safe but I’m abaut to buy a home and need my credit top shape.I pray for the justice of God to be over this situation. The truth is their is something wrong and I don’t whant to asept the car back as if nothing has happened. I was gonna tow it to the dealership but every penny counts in this pandemic times

  • Jim B

    My 2021 Kia Soul has 1,300 miles and the transmission blew out this week. The tachometer started red lining while the car was slowly down and wouldn’t accelerate. I was stuck in the middle of the highway center lane. The dealership says I won’t be seeing the car for a few months because of a backorder in parts.

  • Marion H

    Purchased a 2020 Kia Soul Jan 2020. 2/15/21 I came to a stop light hit the gas and realized there’s no power. Had to put the car in park and restart the engine. Check engine light is on. Go to dealership the check engine light is on the whole time. They tell me the whole of kia’s computer systems are down and don’t know when they can look at my car. They didn’t have a loaner and I had to rent a car. Two days later they tell me the mechanic scanned the car and they couldn’t find anything wrong. The check engine light is no longer on. I’m out $125 for the rental car. 3/3/21 I’m about to drive onto the freeway. I come to a stop before entering the slip road and the engine turns off. I put the car in park and restart the vehicle and again the check engine light is on. I drove straight to the dealership and the guy tells me he can’t look at it till tomorrow. I said I’m not getting another rental and then have you tell me that there’s nothing wrong with it tomorrow, so he took it to the mechanic to hook it up to a computer and came back and said it had shown that it needs a new pcm. I asked what that was and he said it’s basically the brain of the computer. I’ve never had any issues with kia customer service until now. The last guy I spoke to from corporate was very short with me when I asked him for some help uploaded my enterprise bill.
    I now have another rental, the dealership is paying for this one. They are waiting for parts so who knows when I will get the car back.
    Still waiting for Kia Corporate to call me. It’s a cheap car and unfortunately you get what you pay for. I would never buy another Kia.

  • Debbie R

    I bought my 2020 S Kia Soul in Aug 2019.My check engine lite has came on 3 times. I’m getting annoyed with this !

  • Anita s

    My transmission went at 5,000 miles, heat doesn’t come on when warning up, blows cold air, steering pulls..i still am out a car almost a month

  • Dalia S

    My 2020 Kia the steering wheel has locked up on me 3 times. There is a tick in engine and my heater takes 20-25 min. to warm up. Each time I take the car for oil there is always something I need to call them back for to have checked. My car has been at the dearlership for 3 wks. I just received a call from the service supervisor after giving him a call and leaving a message. I have also called the Kia customer service line to put a complaint in.

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