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2021 Kia Seltos vs. 2020 Kia Soul: What’s the Difference?

Kia just released an all-new small SUV for 2021 dubbed the Seltos. Categorized as a subcompact, the Seltos is technically the smallest SUV in Kia’s lineup, but it offers size and utility on-par with both the efficiency-minded Niro hatchback and the quirky, boxy Soul hatchback. Below we’ll compare the Seltos to the Soul across a number of categories to help you understand the major differences between these two vehicles.

2021 Kia Seltos vs. 2020 Kia Soul exterior


The Soul is one of the most uniquely-styled vehicles on the market. It’s boxy and upright, and while it has small SUV proportions, it’s more appropriate to categorize it as a subcompact hatchback. Redesigned for 2020, the latest iteration of the Soul has narrow headlights connected by a thin grille opening. Beneath the headlights is a much larger grille opening along with some vents and surrounds for the fog lights. The sides are slabby and chiseled, and around back, comma-shaped taillights bracket the rear window along with a unique trapezoid-shaped trim piece containing the Kia logo. Get one in white, and the Soul looks like the vehicular version of a storm trooper helmet. See the 2020 Kia Soul models for sale near you

Like the Soul, the Seltos wears unique styling, though it isn’t as cohesive a design. The Seltos has a number of ‘layers’ up front: three tiers of headlights, two levels of grilles, horizontal bars and a faux skid plate at the base of the chin. A lot of black plastic cladding covers the Seltos’ side skirts and bumpers, which gives it the appearance of having much more ground clearance than it really does. There’s an available contrasting black roof, which is a popular design element these days. Around back, a chrome strip joins the Seltos’ taillights. See the 2021 Kia Seltos models for sale near you

2021 Kia Seltos vs. 2020 Kia Soul interior


Both of these vehicles have nice interiors, but the Soul looks like a really nice economy car, while the Seltos looks more like a budget compact SUV. As boxy as it is on the outside, the Soul incorporates a lot of curves on the inside, with circular design elements on the steering wheel and center stack. The infotainment screen, which grows to 10.25-in on top trims, is located in the center stack within that circular design element. Music-sensitive interior mood lighting accents the interior on certain trims. Overall, thanks to its tall greenhouse, the Soul offers excellent outward visibility and a commanding, SUV-like driving position.

The Seltos is a little more modern and sophisticated on the inside than the quirky Soul. Its infotainment screen sits on the top of the dashboard like a tablet. This seems to be the new norm for interior layouts heading into the new decade. The Seltos also gets a different steering wheel from the Soul — one that’s shared with other vehicles in Kia’s lineup.

With regard to overall size, both the Soul and the Seltos pack a lot of space into small footprints. The Seltos measures 172.0 inches long, just 6.8 inches longer than the Soul, which comes in at 165.2. When it comes to back seat leg room, the Seltos offers 38.0 inches even, while the Soul actually has 38.8. In their respective cargo areas, the Seltos has 26.6 cu ft. of space behind its second row, while the Soul has 24.2. With the seats down, the Seltos has 62.8 cu ft. to the Soul’s 62.1. Altogether, these two vehicles are very close in size, with the Soul making up for its shorter overall length with its tall boxy shape.

2021 Kia Seltos vs. 2020 Kia Soul mechanicals


The base engine in the Soul is a 2.0-L 4-cylinder making 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque paired with a continuously variable automatic. Fuel economy comes in at 27 miles per gallon in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg in combined driving, unless you opt for the efficiency-focused Eco model, which nets 29 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/31 mpg combined. The Soul’s optional engine is a potent 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder making 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque that comes paired with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Fuel economy for the turbo is still pretty good, coming in at 27 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/29 mpg combined. There’s also a separate Soul EV model that’s capable of traveling up to 243 total miles between charges, but that falls outside the scope of our comparison here.

The Seltos uses the same powertrains as the Soul, albeit in different states of tuning. With the 2.0, the Seltos makes 146 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque, while the turbo takes a pretty big hit, putting out just 175 hp and 195 lb-ft. The transmission options are the same as in the Soul. The big difference here is that while the Soul is FWD only, the Seltos is available with AWD. With the 2.0, the Seltos is rated at 31 mpg combined with FWD or 29 combined with AWD. The turbocharged model returns 27 mpg overall.

2021 Kia Seltos vs. 2020 Kia Soul tech

Technology, Features, & Infotainment

Since they’re both all-new, both the 2020 Kia Soul and the 2021 Kia Seltos offer loads of great cabin tech. Both come standard with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth as well as a massive 10.25-in infotainment screen on their top trim levels. Premium audio is available for both vehicles, but the Soul’s is Harmon-Kardon branded, while the Seltos get a Bose system — the first to be featured in any Kia. Additionally, both vehicles are available with heated seats, automatic climate control, premium seating surfaces, a wireless charging pad and more.

2021 Kia Seltos vs. 2020 Kia Soul safety


In crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 2020 Kia Soul earns top marks across all major categories, earning it a coveted ‘Top Safety Pick+’ designation, the Institute’s highest award. The Seltos has yet to be tested as of this writing, though we expect it to earn similar marks. Both the Seltos and the Soul offer a decent array of active safety features as well, though none are offered as standard. Middle and upper trims of both vehicles offer features like automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic detection and radar cruise control.

2021 Kia Seltos vs. 2020 Kia Soul pricing


Offered in six trim levels, the Soul is less expensive than the Seltos. Pricing for the 2020 Kia Soul starts at $18,610 for a base LX model when you factor in unavoidable destination fees. The GT-Line, which gains a sport appearance package, comes in at $21,410, while the X-Line model, which adds body-cladding and unique wheels, costs $22,610. A fully-loaded GT-Line Turbo model will reach $28,610.

Formal pricing for the 2021 Kia Seltos has yet to be released, but expect to pay just a hair over $23,000 for a base model and a little over $30,000 for a fully-loaded example with the 1.6-liter turbo and AWD. Altogether, the Seltos will be offered in four different trims. AWD is a $1,500 option, and the turbocharged engine adds $3,500 to the price, but the cost of AWD is factored into that figure.

2021 Kia Seltos vs. 2020 Kia Soul autotrader's advice 

Autotrader’s Advice

While automakers generally differentiate vehicles with sizing, the Seltos and Soul are pretty evenly matched and are within one inch of each other in rear seat legroom and a couple feet in cargo space. They’re even the exact same width. The two vehicles also offer many of the same features, from standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to premium audio systems to blind spot monitoring and other active safety tech.

Two things really differentiate the Soul and Seltos. One is form factor: The Soul is a boxy hatchback, while the Seltos wears a more traditional SUV shape. The other difference is in the powertrain: While the two share engines and transmissions, the Soul makes more power with its turbocharged engine, and the Seltos offers available AWD. Find a Kia Seltos for sale or Find a Kia Soul for sale

Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill is an author specializing in competitive analysis, consumer recommendations, and adventure-driven enthusiast content. A lifelong car enthusiast, he worked in the auto industry for a bit, helping Germans design cars for Americans, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He runs an Instagram account, @MountainWestCarSpotter, which in his own words is "actually pretty good", and has a... Read More about Chris O'Neill

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