2021 Kia Soul

2021 Kia Soul Review: A Heart-Shaped Box

by Deiondre van der Merwe

The big-hearted box is back for another year, and we're welcoming it with open arms. The Kia Soul has always been in a league of its own in terms of practicality and unique style, but the newest version packs in impressive tech and has a class-leading interior to boot. The choice between the two improved engines is also a plus for the line-up, offering up to 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque from the 1.6-liter turbo mill. The Soul continues to be a pro at zooming around the city. Once targeted at the parents of college-goers as an affordable and safe utilitarian, the Soul has come a long way. It's now a crossover to be reckoned with amongst contenders like the Honda HR-V and the Hyundai Kona and appeals to a whole new range of shoppers in the subcompact segment.

2021 Kia Soul Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Soul?

Given that the Soul was completely overhauled for 2020, there are only a few subtle changes to speak of for 2021. For starters, what was once the Soul GT-Line Turbo is now known just as the Soul Turbo. The revised model now has different badging. EX and Turbo models also get remote start as standard and all models now get rear occupant alert. The suspension has also been improved on X-Line and GT-Line variants equipped with the 2.0-liter engine, and these models get upgraded shock absorbers for better ride quality.

Pros and Cons

  • Spacious interior
  • Choice between two engines and three transmissions
  • Impressive fuel economy figures from the CVT
  • Top trims are well-stocked with convenience features
  • Funky cabin with loads of modern tech
  • Bare-bones base trim
  • Not a lot of additional packages
  • Top trim level is far more expensive than the rest

2021 Kia Soul Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
LX
2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$17,490
S
2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$20,590
X-Line
2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$21,690
GT-Line
2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$21,690
EX
2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$23,250

Soul Exterior

Once plain and resemblant of your kid's lunch tin, the Kia Soul has since come a very long way, though the current design still stays true to the character of the very first model. It's now a box that's cleverly clad with gloss black bits and slim headlights for a futuristic appearance. The zippy little city car looks like it could turn into a Decepticon at any given moment. LED headlights are reserved for the apex trim along with a power sunroof. The base model sits on 16-inch steel wheels, the EX on 17-inch wheels, and both GT-Line trims along with the X-Line trim rest on 18-inch wheels. A panoramic sunroof is standard on the EX, GT-Line and Turbo models, and the Turbo trim also gets a unique center-exit exhaust.

2021 Kia Soul Front Angle View CarBuzz
2021 Kia Soul Front Angle View 1 CarBuzz
2021 Kia Soul Front Angle View 2 CarBuzz
See All 2021 Kia Soul Exterior Photos

Dimensions

When size is considered alone, the Soul goes up against the Hyundai Kona. The Kia measures 165.2 inches from nose to tailgate and stands at 63 inches in height. The wheelbase measurement comes in at 102.4 inches. If you regularly take the road less traveled, a ground clearance of 6.7 inches means that it is unlikely to struggle on rougher terrain. At its lightest, the Soul has a 2,802-pound curb weight and at its heaviest in Turbo trim, it weighs 3,306 lbs.

  • Length 165.2 in
  • Wheelbase 102.4 in
  • Height 63.0 in
  • Max Width 70.9 in
  • Front Width 62.0 in
  • Rear Width 62.4 in

Exterior Colors

The extensive color palette available for the Soul highlights its fun intentions, with plenty of bright and bold colors to choose from. Some models get specific availability to certain hues: the LX and S trims make Inferno Red, Sparkling Silver, Snow White Pearl, Cherry Black and Solar Yellow available along with Mars Orange and Gravity Gray. The GT-Line adds Neptune Blue to the mix along with a combination of either Clear White and Inferno Red or Cherry Black and Inferno Red. The X-Line gets access to Undercover Green and two duo-tone combinations including Mars Orange with Cherry Black and Neptune Blue with Cherry Black. The EX gets access to most colors but adds understated combinations of Platinum Gold, paired with either Clear White or Gravity grey, while the apex trim is the most limited in terms of color choices with only five available.

  • Snow White Pearl
  • Cherry Black
  • Neptune Blue/Black Roof
  • Mars Orange/Black Roof
  • Neptune Blue/Black Roof, Build Out:06/05/2020
  • Mars Orange/Black Roof, Build Out:06/05/2020
  • Gravity Gray
  • Sparkling Silver
  • Inferno Red
  • Neptune Blue
  • Undercover Green
  • Mars Orange

Soul Performance

Some aspects of the Soul's performance will depend on your choice between the 2.0-liter and 1.6-liter engine, with the latter delivering a good bit of extra punch. It's not a sports car, however, but the performance is plentiful enough for a subcompact crossover. That being said, the performance of the Soul is impressive with either engine equipped. The absence of all-wheel-drive may be viewed as a downfall by some, especially since most of its rivals offer the drivetrain, but the brave little Kia will hold its own on wetter days. With the punchy 1.6-liter turbo equipped, the Soul made the run from 0-60 mph in a sprightly 6.5 seconds in independent testing. The naturally-aspirated variant did a bit worse with an 8.3-second run but manages to match, if not beat, rivals like the base-level Hyundai Kona and Honda HR-V.

2021 Kia Soul Rear Angle View CarBuzz
2021 Kia Soul Gear Shifter CarBuzz
2021 Kia Soul Engine Bay CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

You have the choice between two engines for the Soul. All models are powered by a naturally-aspirated 2.0-lite four-pot, except for the Turbo. The base model LX comes with a six-speed manual transmission while the others come with a CVT. The 2.0-liter engine produces 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, exactly the same figures it does in the Hyundai Kona. The turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder drives 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The engine in the Turbo is worth the extra cash, as it boosts the Soul's eagerness enough to push it ahead of many contenders in the segment. The dual-clutch transmission may not be especially refined, but it does well at making itself relatively unknown in traffic and shifts quickly and precisely. Both engines have their benefits. But the turbo wins in terms of pep and overall enjoyment. It's just a pity it's locked behind the paywall of the highest trim level.

  • Engines
    1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmissions
    6-Speed Manual, 7-Speed Automatic, Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Drivetrain
    FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Handling and driving experience is where the Soul shines through in the sea of crossovers. The subcompact feels more like a high-riding hatchback from behind the wheel, and X-Line and GT-Line models get improved shocks to soak up the bumps a little better. Comfortable ride quality can also be expected from other trim levels, but the higher ones just do it better. As comfortable as the suspension is, Kia has managed not to sacrifice a sporty touch, especially on the Turbo. It's not exactly a hot hatch, but it holds its own in and out of the bends better than you'd expect if judging by its appearance.

There's a decent amount of feedback from the steering wheel, though it's on the lighter side. Kia even added some paddle shifters to the mix for use in Sport mode, controlling the impressive seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. When driven by the 2.0-liter engine, the Soul gets around town with ease but runs out of breath a little if you're going uphill. Regardless of the engine choice, the Soul is fun to drive and hides its below-$20,000 price tag pretty well from behind the wheel.

Soul Gas Mileage

Unsurprisingly, the Soul ships with decent fuel economy figures. As a car designed specifically for practicality and efficiency, it's a must to boast impressive figures in this department. The base-level LX powered by the 2.0-liter mated to the manual transmission returns EPA-estimated figures of 25/31/27 mpg. This isn't bad until you compare it to the CVT that delivers 28/33/30 mpg figures, attesting to the improved efficiency offered by this transmission.

The 1.6-liter turbo delivers figures of 27/32/29 mpg, which is slightly less efficient than the similar engine found in the Hyundai Kona that returns 28/32/30 mpg. When the 14.3-gallon tank is full, you can expect around 386 miles of range from the LX. Other models equipped with the CVT will offer a vastly improved 429 miles, while the turbo engine allows for 415 miles.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    14.3 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 25/31 mpg
* 2021 Kia Soul LX Manual

Soul Interior

This is yet another area where the Soul steals the hearts of many shoppers; the interior of the little Kia is remarkably fun and rather impressive in terms of quality. You wouldn't expect an interior of this caliber from a car at this price point, yet the Soul utilizes decent materials and injects some excellent modern tech into the cabin. Its boxy design allows for a good deal of space inside, and the design of the interior is far more flowing and rounded than the exterior would have you believe. Is it luxurious? Not exactly. But the inside of the Soul is truly impressive when you compare it to some of its key rivals.

2021 Kia Soul Dashboard CarBuzz
2021 Kia Soul Steering Wheel Controls CarBuzz
2021 Kia Soul Head Up Display CarBuzz
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Seating and Interior Space

As we mentioned before, the boxiness of the Soul was no doubt a purposeful move from Kia to offer as much space as possible from the inside. The plan worked, and the Soul is still one of the roomiest contenders in the segment at the moment - it's far more spacious than the Hyundai Kona. Front seating is comfortable on the lower trims, but it's the apex trim that gets some extra bolstering for a sporty feel. Ten-way power-adjustable seating with two-way lumbar support is reserved for the EX and the Turbo, while a four-way manually-adjustable passenger seat is standard across all models. In terms of measurements, headroom of 39.4 and 39.5 inches front to rear and legroom of 41.1 and 28.8 inches, respectively, is downright massive for the segment.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 41.1 in
  • Front Head Room 39.4 in
  • Rear Leg Room 38.8 in
  • Rear Head Room 39.5 in

Interior Colors and Materials

The interior materials used in the Soul aren't inherently plush or luxurious, with most models favoring cloth upholstery. But the materials are durable and not unattractive, making it less of a downfall. The base model and the S trim come with the choice between Black or Gray two-tone cloth upholstery, while the GT-Line allows for Black Tricot cloth. The X-Line comes exclusively with black cloth upholstery, while the EX allows for Black and Gray Tricot cloth as well as black leatherette upholstery. The best is reserved for the Turbo that comes with a combination of black synthetic leather and cloth. Hard plastics are cleverly disguised, thanks to coats of glossy black paint and some imaginative layouts.

Soul Trunk and Cargo Space

If you find yourself hauling things around quite regularly, the Soul is the one for you. The crossover has a class-leading trunk, with 24.2 cubic feet available behind the rear seats. This greatly outshines the uber-practical Honda Fit's 16.6 cubes. It's also an improvement over the Hyundai Kona's 19.2 cubes. If you need to carry taller items, the Soul is also your best bet, thanks to its flat roofline. With the seats folded, a total of 62.1 cubic feet becomes available, making it a true utilitarian. A double-level cargo board is also optional for the trunk.

In-cabin storage is befitting of a crossover intended for family use, with a decent-sized glovebox up front, deep door pockets, and dual cupholders. An overhead console is also standard with a spot for your sunglasses.

2021 Kia Soul Maximum Cargo Space CarBuzz
2021 Kia Soul Trunk Space CarBuzz
2021 Kia Soul Trunk Space 1 CarBuzz

Soul Infotainment and Features

Features

All models are well-equipped, but true convenience is reserved for the higher trim levels. The entry-level LX and S trims come with remote keyless entry, and a multifunctional tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel with cruise control is standard when the CVT is equipped. Drive mode select is also standard, along with manual air-conditioning and electric windows. The GT-Line adds a leather-clad steering wheel, dual USB charging ports, and dual sun visors with vanity mirrors. The X-Line doesn't add anything in the way of in-cabin convenience, but the EX is where the features improve noticeably. This model adds true keyless entry, push-button start, eight-way power-adjustable front seats as well as automatic climate control, heated front seats, and rear-seat adjustable headrests. Piano black trim inserts are reserved for the Turbo along with ten-way power-adjustable front seats, LED interior lighting, and a heated steering wheel.

Infotainment

The Soul is well-stocked with modern technology even in entry-level models, but it's the top two trims that get the best features. The LX, S, GT-Line, and X-Line come standard with a seven-inch touchscreen display that enables Android Auto, Apple Carplay, Bluetooth streaming, and AM/FM radio through a six-speaker sound system. One USB port is also standard. The EX and Turbo trims add a 10.25-inch touchscreen that allows for navigation, SiriusXM and HD Radio as well as wireless phone charging. A premium Harman Kardon sound system with speaker lights that enable multiple ambiance themes is reserved for the apex trim along with a head-up display and supervision meter instrument cluster with an LCD trip computer.

Soul Problems and Reliability

With not even one recall since as far back as 2017, the Soul scores high on the reliability meter. Kia also offers a five-year or 60,000-mile basic warranty and a corrosion warranty is valid for the same time and mileage limit. The drivetrain is also covered for ten years or 100,000 miles, and roadside assistance is standard for five years or 60,000 miles.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    10 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles

Soul Safety

The NHTSA's review of the Kia Soul resulted in a four out of five-star safety rating, with the front passenger side receiving four stars for a frontal crash. The IIHS doesn't seem to agree with the Soul being anything less than exemplary and awarded the 2020 Soul with a Top Safety Pick award.

US NHTSA crash test result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Key Safety Features

Another advantage of the Kia Soul is that it comes with decent safety features, even when you opt for a lower trim level. From the S trim onwards, forward-collision avoidance is standard along with lane keep assist, driver attention warning, and blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic collision assist, and lane change assist. Pedestrian detection is reserved for the Turbo, along with smart cruise control and a head-up display. All models come with dual front, front side, and side curtain airbags.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Kia Soul a good SUV?

There's a reason America keeps coming back for more with the Kia Soul. The boxy icon has offered practicality and efficiency for over a decade since its inception, and all in a very unique package. The Soul has always had a distinct style that made it unmistakable, and this rings true even with the redesign. Kia was even careful to keep the history alive, making sure the square, compact dimensions weren't compromised. Regardless of engine choice, the Soul is a delight to drive. Comfortable ride quality and a welcomed hatchback-feel contribute to the fun, and the little Kia is a pro at getting occupants where they need to be on time. Beyond performance, the Soul has an undeniably funky interior, with a rounded design and bright colors. The cabin isn't just nice to look at, either. It's functional and the layout has been kept simple. If the marvelous appearance inside isn't enough, the roominess will be enough to convince you. Pair all of its merits with a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS, and you have yourself a remarkably well-rounded subcompact crossover.

🚘What's the Price of the 2021 Kia Soul?

One of the main appeals that the Soul has is that it's extremely affordable. At the base level, the LX costs just $17,490, increasing to $18,990 with the automatic transmission. At this price, the Soul manages to be quite a bit more affordable than the Kona's entry-level SE model. Moving up to the S will cost $20,590 and the GT-Line has an MSRP of $21,690. The X-Line costs the same as the latter, and the second-highest trim available, the EX, will cost $23,250. The Turbo's price skyrockets in comparison to the rest, but is definitely still affordable at $27,550.

2021 Kia Soul Models

The 2021 Soul lineup comprises six trim levels, the LX, S, GT-Line, X-Line, and EX, as well as the Turbo.

The LX is driven by a 2.0-liter engine and is the only model in the lineup to come with a six-speed manual transmission, but can be upgraded to a CVT for $1,500. The LX comes with 16-inch wheels, remote keyless entry and a tilt-and-telescopic multifunction steering wheel. Cruise control is also standard with the CVT equipped. A six-way manually-adjustable driver's seat joins the list along with a seven-inch touchscreen that enables Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth streaming. Electronic stability control and hill start assist join the list of safety features.

The S trim isn't vastly different from the LX except for the sole option of the CVT and the addition of many added safety extras that include forward-collision avoidance, lane keep assist, driver attention warning, and blind-spot monitoring, as well as rear cross-traffic collision assist and lane change assist.

The GT-Line adds some cosmetic upgrades like bigger 18-inch wheels, a leather-clad steering wheel, and some unique exterior changes for a more athletic appearance.

The X-Line follows a similar trend, and costs the same as the GT-Line. This trim level adds an exterior body kit that makes it look a little more rugged. Its rugged look is mainly for appearance, as the trim has no added capability off the beaten track.

The EX trim level marks the beginning of true convenience features in the lineup and adds eight-way power-adjustable seating, heated front seats and automatic climate control as well as wireless smartphone charging and a 10.25-inch touchscreen that enables navigation, HD Radio, and SiriusXM satellite radio. Keyless entry and push-button start are also added to this model.

The Turbo is the only trim in the range to come with the 1.6-liter turbo mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. It also gets access to a few features that no other models have. These include a combination of cloth and leather upholstery and a panoramic sunroof as well as a head-up display, a heated steering wheel, a Harman Kardon sound system, and pedestrian detection.

See All 2021 Kia Soul Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

There aren't many options when it comes to customization, presumably because there are so many trims that you should be able to find one that suits your needs pretty easily. Nevertheless, there are a few available options. You can opt for sporty pedals for the base model for around $100 and an auto-dimming rearview mirror is available on the LX, S, X-Line and GT-Line for $350.

🚗What Kia Soul Model Should I Buy?

If you are absolutely determined to save every penny, the S model is a grand choice. We'd avoid the bare-bones LX despite its attractive asking price. The S model comes with a host of impressive standard safety features that makes it well worth considering. If your purse strings are a little looser, however, you can opt for the top-level Turbo that adds an impressive turbocharged engine and far more convenience and luxury to the mix.

Check out other Kia Soul Styles

2021 Kia Soul Comparisons

Honda Fit
Hyundai Kona Hyundai
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Kia Soul147 hp25/31 mpg$17,490
Honda Fit 130 hp29/36 mpg$16,190
Hyundai Kona 147 hp27/33 mpg$20,300
Jeep Renegade 180 hp22/30 mpg$22,375

2021 Kia Soul vs Honda Fit

When two of America's most affordable favorites go head to head, there's bound to be a couple of sparks flying. Both the Soul and the Fit offer practicality at very accessible prices, so what sets them apart from each other? The Soul offers a range of engine and transmission options across more trims, allowing for some extra customization. Both engines are also more powerful than the 130-hp engine that the Fit employs. The Soul also offers a much bigger trunk and some extra headroom thanks to its additional height. That being said, the Fit has the cheaper asking price and annihilates the Soul's fuel economy figures with an EPA-estimated 36 mpg combined. With the Fit, you also get some extra seating configurations that can prove to be quite handy. It's a close one with these two. The Fit is the better bet, though, especially in terms of a frugal but valuable purchase.

See Honda Fit Review

2021 Kia Soul vs Hyundai Kona

The Soul and the Kona are similar in many ways, but there are a few characteristics that set them apart. For example, the Kona boasts a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS, while the Soul has a Top Safety Pick award just one notch below the 'plus'-rated title of the Hyundai. The Kona also comes with a better warranty. When the 1.6-liter turbos go against one another, it's the Soul that delivers more powerful figures, but the Kona gets slightly better fuel economy from its four-pot. In terms of ride quality, the Soul can't really be beaten, but the Kona is a close second. The Soul has more interior space, but the Kona makes AWD available. In terms of overall quality and driving experience, the Soul wins this one.

See Hyundai Kona Review

2021 Kia Soul vs Jeep Renegade

The two crossovers are similar in size, but the Renegade lays claim to the larger dimensions. When both are at base-level, the Jeep offers higher power outputs of 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, but is less fuel-efficient than the Soul. The interior of the Renegade does not feel as premium as the Soul, with the latter offering a more modern infotainment set-up. They both offer a manageable amount of space inside, but the Jeep's trunk doesn't hold a candle to the Soul's class-leading cargo capacity. The Soul is arguably the more attractive of the two and it's the more affordable option, with the Jeep coming in at a bit over $22,000. With all things considered, the Soul is the better buy of the two.

See Jeep Renegade Review

Kia Soul Popular Comparisons

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2021 Kia Soul Video Review

$17,490 - $27,550
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Kia Soul
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