The Kia Soul Saw a Dramatic Dip in Popularity This Year

The Kia Soul is definitely one of the most recognizable vehicles to encounter on the road. Drivers also love this boxy Kia because of its smooth ride and generous interior space. However, according to Kia’s latest sales figures, the Soul isn’t as popular as it once was.

In 2019, over 90,000 units of the Kia Soul were purchased, making it the most popular vehicle in Kia’s lineup. This year, with only around 66,000 units sold, its sales dropped by almost 30 percent. What made the Kia Soul less popular with drivers in 2020?

The Kia Soul by the numbers

Throughout its lifetime, the Kia Soul has had consistently high sales numbers, according to GoodCarBadCar. Its peak of popularity was in 2016 when it sold over 150,000 units. 2020 will be the first year it hasn’t sold close to (or well over) 100,000 units since 2011.

Almost every other Kia vehicle also had a decrease in popularity this year. The Kia Optima performed exceptionally poorly this year, selling just over 100 units in November. The only car in Kia’s lineup that saw any yearly growth in sales was the Telluride SUV.

COVID-19 troubles

It seems that even popular cars like the Kia Soul aren’t immune to the effects of the global pandemic. Fewer people are traveling this year, either due to state mandates or a personal desire to stay safe. The demand for new cars has decreased, causing dealerships to considerably mark down their cars in order to make sales.

Additionally, Kia was one of the many auto companies to be affected by production delays due to COVID-19. While the iconic boxy SUV is manufactured in South Korea, plants all over the world have had temporary shutdowns for safety reasons. Kia’s only plant in the United States was closed for a few weeks in April.

The Kia Soul could use some tweaks

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In the technology department, the Kia Soul isn’t as decked out as some of its rivals. For 2021, the only safety features in the base trim are the mandated rearview camera and a rear-seat reminder. Push-button start, navigation, and wireless device charging are only available for higher trims.

For a car with such a unique outside, its bland interior is a little disappointing. The layout is boring and the cabin is surrounded by hard plastics. Most critics recommend upgrading to a pricier trim for heated seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Dealing with new competition

Around the time the Kia Soul’s sales started to decline, two new subcompact SUVs were released. The Mazda CX-30 was released for the 2020 model year and already has great reviews. The CX-30 boasts more athletic handling than the Kia Soul, plus it has more powerful engines.

The Mazda CX-30 also has a very upscale interior for its price point and many standard safety features. According to Consumer Reports, it also has a much higher predicted reliability rating than the Kia Soul. However, the CX-30 doesn’t have as much room for second-row passengers and cargo.

The Hyundai Kona, released for the 2018 model year, has also proven to be a worthy rival for the Kia Soul. The Soul’s engine may have more ponies, but critics say the Kona is surprisingly lively on the road. Additionally, the Kona gets slightly better gas mileage.

Hyundai also released the Venue for the 2020 model year, although it’s far less popular than the Kona. While the Kona came close, no other subcompact SUV has outsold the Kia Soul in 2020. Still, more variety in the segment combined with pandemic delays definitely caused the Kia Soul to perform more poorly than usual.