2021 Nissan Kicks vs. 2021 Kia Soul
Subcompact crossover SUVs are gaining popularity. This growing segment has caught the attention of many drivers for their size, price, and excellent fuel economy. Built for being both practical and reliable, subcompact SUVs combine the affordability and efficiency of a smaller car with the rugged capabilities and cargo space of an SUV.
In this category are vehicles that are sporty and stylish. Two of the best-selling choices are the Nissan Kicks and the Kia Soul. While both are front-wheel-drive and budget-friendly, they have considerable differences that set them apart.
Looking to learn how the two cars compare? Here’s our buyer’s guide for the 2021 Nissan Kicks vs. 2021 Kia Soul.
Nissan Kicks Overview
While the 2021 Nissan Kicks is the brand’s smallest SUV, it’s impressively roomy and offers generous technology features and a fuel-efficient powertrain. From last year’s model, the 2021 SUV received a styling update with a larger grilled, revamped front and rear bumpers, and a new 17-inch aluminum wheel design. Nissan also expanded the color options available for extra personalization. Drivers can now choose between 6 body color options, and customizable exterior details, wheels, and interior accents.
The 2021 Kicks is available in three grades; S, SV, and SR. All models come standard with the latest safety and technology features. For example, the base model S includes updates like keyless start, vehicle anti-theft system, and class-exclusive Intelligent Around View Monitor. The SR trim adds to this with heated seats, heated mirrors and steering wheel, synthetic leather, and premium speakers.
One of the Kick’s strongest selling points is its fuel economy. The crossover is estimated to get 31 MPG city and 36 MPG highway, one of the best in its segment. It’s also below-average price with an MSRP of $19,550 to $21,990, depending on the trim.
Kia Soul Overview
The 2021 Kia Soul received a full redesign last year and is now in its third generation. The boxy SUV is stylish, inexpensive, and efficient. Like the Kicks, the Soul has versatile 60/40 split-fold seating, which can hold up to 5 passengers. When folded down, drivers can utilize up to 62.1 cubic feet of cargo space.
Because of the redesign for last year’s model, the 2021 Soul returns with only minor changes. For example, the new Soul gains a suspension upgrade, rear occupant alert, and remote start on certain trims. In addition, drivers can pick between 8 different exterior colors, with the option for two-tone paints as well.
Compared to the Kicks, the Soul has double the number of trim options: LX, S, GT-Line, X-Line, EX, and Turbo. MSRP for the Soul ranges from $17,590 to $27,650, depending on the grade. Similarly, the fuel economy will also vary depending on the model. EPA estimates the base model gets 25 MPG city and 31 MPG highway. However, even with the turbocharged engine option, the Soul falls flat with an estimated 27 MPG city and 32 MPG highway.
Both the Kicks and Soul are powered by practical powertrains, with the Soul offering an upgrade Turbo option. On the base Soul, the crossover features a 147-hp four-cylinder engine. This is paired with either a standard six-speed manual transmission or available automatic transmission. For drivers looking for more power, higher grades include a 201-horsepower four-cylinder engine. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission comes standard with the Turbo trim.
For the Kicks, every model is equipped with a 122-hp four-cylinder engine. This is paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that handles shifting duties and drives the front wheels. Neither the Kicks nor Soul offers all-wheel-drive. For its 2021 edition, the Kicks also add a fine-tuned suspension for more comfortable riding.
Technology and Safety Features
The Nissan Kicks is one of the strongest in its segment for safety and technology. Unlike other vehicles, the base model comes equipped with all the standard upgrades, typically found only in higher trims. The Kicks also offers many best-in-class or class-exclusive features compared to other subcompact SUVs. For example, it is the only car in this category to have rear automatic braking and premium Bose Personal Plus speakers.
Because of this, the base model Kicks has much more to offer than the base model Soul. While the Soul LX has a lower starting price, it lacks many features that come standard with the Kicks. For instance, the Kicks includes the following:
- Intelligent Around View Monitor
- Blind Spot Warning
- Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
- Vehicle Anti-Theft System
- Rear Parking Aid
- Keyless Start
Most of these features are unavailable on the Soul or only included on their pricier upgraded trims. Though the LX may be lacking, higher grades add on comparable features. On the Kia Soul S, the crossover features the following:
- Forward-Collision Warning with Automatic Emergency Braking
- Lane-Keeping Assist
- Blind-Spot Monitoring
- Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
- Power Driver’s Seat
Other models include cosmetic enhancements such as roof rails and an 18-inch wheel design. Additionally, the EX and Turbo grades offer a large 10.25-inch touchscreen display – a boost from the standard 7-inch screen. Both vehicles include smart device connectivity, Android Auto, Apple Carplay, and an AM/FM stereo with auxiliary audio input.
Both the Kicks and Soul maximize utility for a compact vehicle with foldable seating, thoughtful armrest storage, and 5 passenger capacities. While both have a spacious cargo volume, the Kicks slightly takes the lead on the Soul with extra legroom and headroom. Though the differences are small, they all add up, making the Kicks a more comfortable ride.
Along with its roomy cabin, the Soul features a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, and wireless smartphone charging on certain grades. The Kicks also features automatic climate control, as well as heated mirrors and a steering wheel.
2021 Nissan Kicks vs. 2021 Kia Soul: Which is Better?
Both vehicles are a good option for drivers on a budget. However, the Kicks outshines the Soul in terms of safety, price, fuel economy, and cargo space. Though the 2021 Soul has a lower MSRP on its base model, the LX is lacking in features. The Kicks base model, on the other hand, includes all the standard technology features of the Soul’s upgraded trims – and more. In the end, drivers save more on the Kick’s SR trim (~$21k), compared to the highest trim of the Soul (~$27k).
Additionally, the Kicks is among U.S. News & World Report’s safest vehicles with a 9.4/10 rating. The Soul, while reliable, has a lower safety rating of 8.8/10. Along with this, the Kicks offers more space head-to-toe. So whether you need it for your daily urban commute or weekend road trips, the ride will be that much more comfortable.
Lastly, the Kicks beats out the Soul in fuel economy by six additional MPG city and five extra MPG highway. Even with the turbocharged engine on upgraded Soul trims, the Kicks still beats it out with an additional 4 MPG both city and highway. For these reasons, we’d vote that the better buy is the 2021 Nissan Kicks.