Crossover & Midsize

2021 Kia Soul vs. Chevy Trailblazer: Does the Rookie Come Out on Top?

Standout style reigns supreme in the subcompact crossover class. These small vehicles blur the line between cars and SUVs, often resulting in an odd design. However, some models, such as the 2021 Kia Soul, have made the most of this unorthodox profile by implementing head-turning styling cues. The Soul has been the face of the segment for over a decade, but now the all-new 2021 Chevy Trailblazer is beginning to attract a lot of attention.

The Soul hasn’t had much competition in recent years, so the introduction of the Chevy Trailblazer as a contender comes as a bit of a surprise. From the brand known more for its rugged American style, Chevy just might be breaking out of its mold. What could have been a flop for Chevy seems to have been a gamble worth taking since it’s turning the heads of consumers across the country. 

Subcompact cars are perfect for drivers who want to capture their youth in a sleek design, standing out from the crowd. Until recently, the Kia Soul was the end all be all in this category, but now motorists have a new option in the 2021 Chevy Trailblazer

With two seemingly similar vehicles now on the market, are they comparable, or does one come out on top? Let’s take a more in-depth look at just what both crossovers have to offer and analyze if buyers should buy one over the other.

The 2021 Kia Soul: The heart of the subcompact division 

A red 2021 Kia Soul driving on a highway
The 2021 Kia Soul in action | Photo via Kia

There’s a ton to love about Kia’s standout crossover. Kia restyled the Soul for the 2021 model year, giving it a fresh yet familiar look. As always, shoppers have an abundance of options to design their Soul to fit their unique personality. That doesn’t just include styling cues, as the 2021 Kia Soul offers several powertrain options that suit different types of drivers.

It comes standard with a standard 147-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which can be mated to a six-speed manual or an available intelligent variable transmission. With the IVT, this powertrain achieves an EPA-estimated 31 MPG city/highway combined.

Drivers looking for an adrenaline rush will prefer the available 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine on the Turbo trim. It’s connected to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and it kicks out an exciting 201 hp.

Best of all, the 2021 Kia Soul beats out most of its competitors, including the Trailblazer, in price and long-term protection. The Soul starts at an MSRP of $17,490 – $1,510 less than the Trailblazer’s starting price – and it comes with Kia’s industry-leading 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty.

The 2021 Chevy Trailblazer: The new kid on the block is making waves

A brown and white 2021 Chevy Trailblazer on display in a rugged enviroment
The 2021 Chevy Trailblazer on display | Photo via Chevrolet

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This all-new Chevrolet crossover is tamer than its rival in style and performance. Buyers only have the choice of a 137-hp 1.2-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine or an available 155-hp 1.3-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine. However, these powerplants aren’t as underpowered as some would expect, as both deliver more torque than the Kia Soul’s standard engine.

The 2021 Chevy Trailblazer sets itself apart with a base trim that’s better equipped than the 2021 Kia Soul’s entry-level offering. It comes standard with a suite of driver-assistance technologies. These include automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, lane-keep assist, a teen driver system, and more. Meanwhile, the Kia Soul only offers a rearview camera.

Additionally, the 2021 Trailblazer offers an optional all-wheel-drive system on every trim level above the base model. Meanwhile, Kia Soul drivers will be stuck with front-wheel drive.

The final verdict: which crossover wins the hearts of consumers?

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Overall, the 2021 model year is good for the subcompact division. Buyers will do well to consider both of these models. However, the 2021 Kia Soul might appeal to the broadest audience, especially those willing to upgrade to a higher trim level. The Soul brings with it a sterling reputation and popularity that is hard to ignore. However, the 2021 Chevy Trailblazer offers a fresh new look to the subcompact’s boxy design. It features a sleeker appearance that will draw the attention of youthful motorists. 

Does the 2021 Chevy Trailblazer have what it takes to be the next big subcompact vehicle of choice? Only time will tell. However, the future looks bright for the Chevy Trailblazer. It could very well be a new breakout star, especially if it gets a sportier engine in the future.