2020 Kia Soul Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

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

By Brian Jones | Updated on

By Brian Jones | Updated on

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 our research shows nothing enjoyable coming out of the complaints. In fact, this model seems to suffer from a poorly-built structure, defective fuel system, faulty visibility and malfunctioning service brakes.

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Problems with the Engine

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. Sadly, that’s clearly not the case.

Just look at this complaint filed with the NHTSA. “The contact owned a 2020 Kia Soul. While driving at 70 mph, the vehicle stalled as the Engine Warning Light illuminated and the vehicle was merged to the side of the road. When the contact attempted to restart the vehicle, the engine caught on fire. The fire department extinguished the fire. A police report was filed. No injuries were sustained. The vehicle was towed to an impound yard. The vehicle was totaled. The contact mentioned that the failure occurred 10 days after the vehicle was purchased. The dealer was not contacted. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 600.”

There appears to be a bunch of engine issues with the Kia Soul. A recent recall (#21V259000) for “Improperly Heat-Treated Piston Oil Rings” was issued for the 2020 & 2021 Kia Soul as well as the 2021 Seltos. The recall states “A damaged engine may stall, increasing the risk of a crash. In addition, oil may leak onto hot exhaust components, increasing the risk of a fire.” A recent complaint logged on the NHTSA website states “Spontaneously Burst into flames. Was completely destroyed”

Another complaint states:

“The car started knocking at 65 mph while excelling to 70 the engine then had a loud bang and the engine block broke apart and spilled oil on to manifold almost starting a fire I have been informed that the engine is recalled for piston rings. This is an extremely dangerous situation. LUCKILY I managed to exit highway and not engulfed in flames. So far Kia has been unwilling to assist me and I also purchased an extended warranty with Automotive Protective Corporation in Atlanta Ga. and no body is helping me.”

In addition, Service Bulletin #TSBENG203 talks about the need to update the ECU technology already because the logic isn’t quite right. The Soul is experiencing trouble with DTC P0606, which points specifically to the Engine Control Unit. In order to repair it, the software must be updated.

Surely, this shouldn’t be occurring on brand new vehicles, and there’s no reasonable explanation why a new car would start on fire. The only thing “next-level” that owner experienced were higher insurance rates after the loss.

Problems with the Steering

Thankfully, the owner above was able to get the car off of the road with some precise steering, but this is another system that might fail.

One NHTSA review says, “Vehicle pulls sharply and abruptly to the right at speeds above 45-50. When I test drove the vehicle, I mentioned to the salesman that I thought it was pulling to the right, of course, he didn’t feel it, but would have it checked. After purchasing the vehicle in April, and owning it about 7 months, this problem is worse. I took it back to the dealership where purchased and was told this was normal due to the Lane Keeping Assist function. If this is the case, this is dangerous due to the fact that it is a very sharp turn and abrupt pull to the right, with no warning.”

Today’s driver-assist technology is designed to keep people safer on the road, not put them more in danger. Yet, Kia doesn’t seem to understand the concept. Aside from what the Lane Keep Assist caused in the above situation, the automaker also acknowledges other steering concerns. With Service Bulletin #TSBCHA084_R3, we see that the Motor-Driven Power Steering system is causing problems along with the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) and the Steering Column Housing. In fact, any of these three parts might require repair or replacement to function properly again. Maybe the 2020 Kia Soul believes it is an autonomous vehicle, attempting to take over control from the driver. Until appropriate repairs are made, it might be wise for other drivers to stay clear of the Soul while on the road. After all, no one wants to be a casualty caused by this “next-level versatility.”

Problems with the Transmission

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. It seems that the Kia Soul is suffering from transmission problems as well.

That’s exactly what is revealed through this Edmunds review. “We bought our 2020 soul brand new in November 2019. At exactly 626 miles (of very light easy driving) the transmission suffered catastrophic failure. We waited for another transmission to arrive from Korea and was our of our car for 2 months. When we picked the car up, the dealer assured us it was a fluke, however I learned that this is nothing new. Kia used the same CVT transmission in the 2019 Forte, and suffered nothing but problems. After much research, I have learned that the CVT transmission has destroyed a bunch of major car brands reputation, mostly Nissan amongst others. A CVT transmission is one that lacks the gears of previous types, is supposed to offer better fuel economy but is unfortunately a new untested type for most manufacturers.”

The real reason automakers are installing a CVT transmission is to cut costs, but this particular model is putting drivers at risk of an accident. It doesn’t appear that only the automatic transmissions are causing problems with the 2020 Kia Soul. In fact, Service Bulletin #PS605 specifically discusses the trouble with manual transmissions as well. It states that customers are having trouble shifting into 1st gear due to a misadjusted shift/control cable. Without 1st gear, it becomes difficult to pull out and even begin driving. Maybe it’s better that way – less Kia Souls on the road that could lead to an accident.

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Brian Jones

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.

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10 COMMENTS
  • 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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