When shopping for a budget friendly daily driver, the Kia Soul always seems to come up. But which is the better buy, a new or used Kia Soul?
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Love it or hate it, the Kia Soul is here to stay. The model has continued to be a popular option in the growing subcompact crossover market, plus it’s a great purchase for those shopping on a budget. New 2022 Kia Soul models come in at a low starting MSRP of $19,190, and that gets you a list of some great standard equipment. From there, the Kia Soul only grows in performance, features, and style. Even the top-of-the-line Turbo Soul with nearly every option available comes in below $30,000 for MSRP.
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While that is some decent value, is it enough to beat the “allure” of a used Kia Soul? A used Kia Soul from 2019 (the end of the second generation) with relatively low miles can be found for as low as $11,000 and it’ll still have some of the same features available in the new model. Let’s take a look at this cube car and see which is the better buy, a new or used Kia Soul?
All of the used Kia Soul models of the previous generation are offered in only front-wheel-drive form, but they came in four different powertrain options depending on which trim you selected. First was the 1.6L four-cylinder engine found in the Base that made 130 horsepower and 118 lb-ft of torque. The Kia Soul Base could be optioned with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. With the manual installed the Kia Soul Base was able to reach 26 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. Swapping out for the automatic dropped those numbers to 24/30 mpg respectively.
Going up to the Soul + added a 2.0L four-cylinder engine that made 161 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. The Soul + (Plus) only came with a six-speed automatic transmission. The larger engine option doesn’t affect fuel economy numbers much, as the Soul + reached 25 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.
At the top of the range, the Kia Soul ! (Exclaim) provided the most powerful option in the form of a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder that made 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. This trim also received a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission to encourage a “sportier” feeling from the turbocharged engine. Just because the Soul ! has better performance doesn’t mean it drops in miles per gallon. You can expect 26 mpg in the city and 31 mpg out on the open road.
The Kia Soul was also available in EV form for 2019. The Soul EV came with a single electric motor powering the front wheels powered by a 30-kilowatt hour, 375-volt lithium-ion battery. The EV could go up to 111 miles on a single charge and got performance numbers of 109 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque. Being that we’re talking about used Kia Souls, be wary of needing a battery replacement.
On the new side of things, the 2022 Kia Soul can only be found in two different configurations with FWD still being the lone drivetrain option. All new Kia Souls, except for the Turbo trim, come with a 2.0L four-cylinder engine that makes 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission available for this engine is a continuously variable transmission (CVT) since the six-speed manual ended after last year. This powertrain pairing gets the Kia Soul 28 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.
The only other powertrain option can only be had on the new Kia Soul Turbo models. Inside is a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder that’s virtually identical in terms of performance to the used Kia Soul ! with a turbo. It makes the same 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, while only slightly improving on fuel economy with 27 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. Paired to the 2022’s turbo engine is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which is essentially the same setup found in the 2019 model, but now there is paddle shifters available for when the driver is in “manual” shift mode.
While there is a Kia Soul EV for this generation in other parts of the world, Kia has decided that it doesn’t have a place in the US market. They’ve instead decided to focus on the Niro EV and the upcoming EV6 when it comes to their fully electrified options in America.
Our used Kia Soul example from 2019 makes for a great daily commuter. It features a fully independent suspension at all four corners that handles nicely through the curves. Disc brakes can be found at all four wheels and combined with the Kia Soul’s light weight allows it to stop quickly. Bumps in the road are going to be more noticeable than others in its class and you’ll want to brake more through tight turns since it’s a bit top heavy. Otherwise, the older Soul offers a compliant and amiable ride.
For 2022, it’s essentially much of the same experience from the 2019 when it comes to handling, even though it’s a newer generation of Kia Soul. There’s still a fully independent suspension that takes on curvy roads in stride. The 2022 weighs just a bit more, but the disc brakes still stop this boxy vehicle virtually on a dime. You’ll still feel some of the imperfections in the road and it is still top heavy, but there are a few changes between them.
While the 2019 Kia Soul had 5.9 inches of ground clearance, the 2022 lifts itself up to 6.7 inches. Hardly a single inch in difference, but it provides an ever so slight edge when it comes to venturing onto unpaved terrain. There’s also the sporty X-Line, GT-Line, and Turbo trims that receive some sport-tuned suspension upgrades with the RS Type gas shock absorbers, adding to their “racecar” vibes.
One final note when considering the driving characteristics between the new and used Kia Souls is the acceleration. Used Kia Souls from 2019 took between 8 to 8.5 seconds to reach 60 mph with either the naturally aspirated 1.6L or 2.0L engines, but the Kia Soul ! with the turbocharged engine option could hit 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. 2022 Kia Souls with the 2.0L engine take 8.8 seconds to get to 60 mph, while the Turbo model gets there in 6.4 seconds. Close numbers, but with a majority of shoppers receiving the non-turbocharged version for either year, the used Kia Soul has the quicker sprint.
Being that we’re talking about a used Kia Soul from three years ago, the interior could have some wear and a little less cushion. Aside from that consideration, the 2019 Kia Soul has a very much spartan interior. Cloth upholstery is standard, but a leather option is available on the Soul + and Soul !. The available leather wraps around the steer wheel, shifter knob, and can be found on the door panels, but seating is actually a mix of leather and cloth. The quality of the plastics is low inside and the seat comfort is moderate, but that isn’t to say that the Soul’s interior isn’t functional.
For being such a compact vehicle, the Soul provides great head room and leg room for front passengers at 39.6” and 40.9” respectively. Rear passengers might have a close fit if you squeeze in three passengers on the bench seating, but a head room of 39.5” and leg room of 39.1” isn’t too bad for a short road trip. Adding on the panoramic sunroof with a power sunshade drops head room by 1.6”, but that added light will make up for it. Plus, you can find a total of eight cup holders in a vehicle that can seat up to five passengers. Get as many Slurpees as you want I guess.
As for cargo space in the 2019 Kia Soul, you’ll find 18.8 cu-ft of room behind the second-row seats. Underneath that space you can find a little organizer that sits over the spare tire area. It makes for a nice spot to hide away winter safety or automotive equipment that could otherwise clutter the cargo area. If that isn’t enough room, the 60/40 split second-row seats can fold down for up to 49.5 cu-ft of cargo room. The seats don’t completely lay flat, but it makes for enough room to haul moderate furniture like a small desk.
The new 2022 Kia Soul put a little more emphasis on style when it comes to the inside. While some of the plastics still aren’t quite up to par, they have molded them to look a little cooler. The door panels look more modern and sleeker, the shifter is improved, the dashboard layout is a little better, and we still can get the same amount of cup holders. Basic cloth seating is still the norm with a couple more premium color options available on higher trims. SynTex synthetic leather replaces the real leather of the 2019, but still doesn’t completely cover the seating and is only available on the Turbo trim.
Passenger space inside is nearly identical to the 2019 in terms of dimensions. Front passengers experience head room measuring in at 39.4” and a leg room of 41.1”. Rear passengers have 39.5” of head room and 38.8” in the leg room area. The available sunroof with a power shade doesn’t cut into head room space, but it’s not the large panoramic one that can be found on the used Kia Soul.
Cargo space in the new Kia Soul has the option to become modular for some trims. A rear cargo board behind the second-row seats can be moved into different positions to provide 23.4 cu-ft in a lowered position or 18.7 cu-ft in an upper position. Hidden underneath that board is the spare tire compartment, but there’s no special organizer this time around. Folding the 60/40 split seats down opens up the new Kia Soul to 62.1 cu-ft of useable cargo space.
Used Kia Souls from the second generation can be found in just three trim levels: Base, +, and !. Terrible naming in my opinion, but that’s probably why they moved away from it for the 2020 update. The Kia Soul Base comes with 16” alloy wheels, auto on/off headlights, 6-way adjustable driver’s seat, 5″ touchscreen infotainment system, 6-speaker audio, backup camera, and Bluetooth. An optional 7” touchscreen with UVO built in is available and adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Moving up to the Kia Soul + gets everything from the Base and adds on 17” alloy wheels, remote keyless entry, additional 12v outlets, automatic temperature control, and the 7” touchscreen with UVO is standard. Additional features are available at this trim like HID headlights, Smart Key, a premium Hardon Kardon audio system, leather upholstery, heated rear seats, plus heated and ventilated front seats. This trim also gets access to safety features like blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, and smart cruise control.
The Kia Soul ! receives most of the updates from the + model, but it notably can’t receive some optional safety features like the lane departure warning, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, or smart cruise control. The trim does get additional standard features like an immobilizer, Smart Key with push button start, leather upholstery, piano black interior accents, chrome dual tipped exhaust, red exterior accents, and 18” alloy wheels. Additional options include heated features for the steering wheel, front passenger seats, and rear passenger seats.
Moving on to the new Kia Souls, you’ll notice that trim names have become better and there are more of them. Kia really wanted to hit different facets of life when I came to designing this generation, and they’ve done an alright job of accomplishing that. Starting at the bottom is the base model LX. Right at the start you get stop and go technology, 16” steel wheels with hubcaps, auto on/off headlights, woven and knit cloth upholstery, 6-way adjustable driver’s seat, 6-speaker audio, Bluetooth, remote keyless entry, a backup camera, and an 8” touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay Built in. On the safety feature side of things, forward collision avoidance, lane keep assist, lane change assist, drive attention warning, blind spot collision warning, and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist are all optional for the LX but are standard on the subsequent trims.
Speaking of the S trim, you received everything from the LX model and all of the safety features mentioned above as standard. The Kia Soul S also gains 16” alloy wheels, premium cloth upholstery, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with 2-way powered lumbar support, front seat back pockets, dual automatic temperature control, a larger 10.25” touchscreen infotainment system that includes built in navigation, a wireless charging pad, added voice recognition for Bluetooth, two USB chargers, a smart key with push button start, and an added immobilizer system.
Next up is technically two trims available for the same price, but they reach for differing audiences. One is the Kia Soul X-Line, a more “rugged” option for the modern Soul shopper. It features everything from the S trim, plus it receives some unique plastic exterior components, RS shock absorbers, specially designed 18” alloy wheels only found on the X-Line, front fog lights, silver sidemirror caps, roof rails, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The X-line does downgrade to the woven and knit upholstery, 6-way adjustable driver’s seat, and loses the seat back pockets though.
On the flip side is the sporty GT-Line. This trim essentially looks like the top-of-the-line Turbo trim, sans turbocharged engine option. The Kia Soul GT-Line gets everything from the S and adds in Turbo exterior components, RS shock absorbers, 18” alloy wheels from the Turbo, front fog lights, gloss-black sidemirror caps, hot stamping front grille from the Turbo, rear skid plate, the sunroof with power sunshade, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The GT-Line downgrades to having the 6-way adjustable driver’s seat and no seat back pockets.
The EX gets everything found on the S trim with only a few more additions. The Kia Soul EX adds in 17” alloy wheels, front fog lights, a cargo cover, the sunroof with power sunshade, hot stamping front grille, heated sidemirrors, heated front seats, and a leather-wrapped steering and shift knob.
The performance-oriented Kia Soul Turbo gets everything from the EX models in terms of features and gains some more niceties that can only be found on this trim level. The exterior of the Soul receives red accenting, sporty front and rear bumper changes, 18” wheels, a chrome tripped center exit exhaust, an alternate hot stamping front grille, LED headlights with escort functionality, LED positioning lights, LED taillights, LED front fog lights, and gloss-black sidemirror caps. Inside, the Turbo gets a Supervision meter cluster, LED interior lights, Syntex and cloth seat upholstery, 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat with 2-way power lumbar support, heated steering wheel, Harmon Kardo premium audio system, and ambient speaker lights. The Soul Turbo also gets some standard safety feature privileges in the form of smart cruise control, heads up display, and forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection.
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Can a used Kia Soul from 2019 really beat a brand new 2022 Kia Soul? In some ways, it does. If your budget is around $20,000, you can find a lightly used 2019 Kia Soul ! featuring the turbocharged engine and a lot more features than the base 2022 Kia Soul LX has to offer at the same price. Plus, the 2019 model still carries that great Kia warranty, just the powertrain is downgraded to 5 years/60,000 miles at the time of purchase. Otherwise, any remaining warranty benefits rollover to the new owner.
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On the other side of the coin, shilling out only a couple more grand nets you a better infotainment system, a better looking interior, brand-new components, and the ability for you to choose which 2022 Kia Soul fits your style. You’ll also receive the complete Kia warranty with the full 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
What this all comes down to is this. For those of you looking for a competent daily driver for under $20,000, a used Kia Soul with low mileage is the way to go. If you can spend over $20,000 and want a great value vehicle that comes with some of the latest safety technology, take a look at the new 2022 Kia Soul. Whichever you choose, you can still make jokes about being in a dancing hamster mobile.