The Kia Soul EV takes the Korean brand’s urban cross-over and makes it ever better. Kia‘s engineering skill is showcased in this compact family car with many innovative features pushing it ahead of the go-to EV, Nissan‘s ubiquitous LEAF.
With thanks to Burrows Kia of Barnsley
What is the Kia soul EV?
The Soul is a solid, well made 5 door compact family hatchback competing with the Nissan Juke and the Renault Captur for a slice of the youthful Cross-Over market. With chunky urban looks it stands out from the crowd sitting taller offering the driver a great view of the road ahead. The EV variant has thus far been sold within a limited dealer network, following great success at home and in the U.S. Kia have expanded their EV specialist network.
The Soul EV is based around an established model and not an EV from the ground-up. The decision to convert a ‘normal’ car into an EV brings benefits as they take the well received Soul and make it better. However, the downside to this approach is adding batteries make a car heavier, in this case 274kg has been added to the Soul’s waistline. The Soul’s front mounted near silent electric motor produces 109hp (81.4kw) with maximum torque of 285nm (210lb-ft). These healthy figures mean performance is enjoyably brisk, refined and quiet.
Externally the Soul EV looks very similar to its petrol or diesel powered siblings, though there are a few little details set it apart including blue rings around the head and fog lights and special blue ECO Electric badging. The space where the grille would normally reside is taken up with charging sockets hidden behind a neat flap which is opened via a switch inside the car. Distinctive black and white 16inch light alloy wheels are sculpted with the sole purpose of reducing drag and are wrapped in super-low rolling resistance tyres all with the aim of extending driving range.
Driving the Soul EV is a relaxing experience as you glide along with the suspension only upset by the worst of surfaces. The suspension is setup for comfort rather than a sporty firm ride, suiting the cars character well. The Kia gets it’s energy from the 27kw/h lithium-ion polymer battery unit packaged under the rear seats. This means the car has a low centre of gravity resulting in it holding the road well with little hint of body roll which would be expected of a taller car.
Kia offer the Soul EV in just one trim level equipping it will everything you could need and in true Kia style, there isn’t an options list. The soft grey seating material with its light blue contrast stitching is made of recycled materials. The seats are comfortable with lots of adjustment and the grey leather wrapped steering wheel adjusts for both reach and rake ensuring you can get comfortable with ease. The rest of the light and airy interior is made up of grey and white hues, with faux leather sections and glossy white plastics to the centre console and door pulls. All of these elements add up to feeling of quality and a hint of luxury. Interior storage is more than ample with a huge glove box, a central armrest storage box, large door bins and an array of cup/bottle holders front and rear.
The dashboard layout is simple and clear utilising a mix of well labelled buttons and a responsive 8 inch touch-screen with integrated satellite navigation and when reverse gear is selected it is used to display the image from the reversing camera. One button which will catch your eye is labelled EV, press this and you are clearly shown your available range, percentage of battery remaining and the distance to the closest charge point, voice guided routing is just a tap of the screen away. The traditional speedo and rev counter are replaced with a digital speed read out and a digitised rev counter showing when the batteries are being recharged and when you are driving in the most economical manner.
Access for rear passengers is easy with wide opening doors and when inside the spacious theme continues where leg room is ample with seating for three tall adults. Parents are well catered for with two ISOFIX child seat mounting points and useful storage nets on the rear of the front seats. The rear seats split 60:40 giving access to the adequate boot. The boot space has been slightly reduced from that of a standard Soul due to the battery pack cooling systems pinching some space. However, its not all bad news as the boot floor is flat and hidden beneath is a very useful storage tray for your charging cables that would normally take up space in your boot.
The official range figures for the EV are 132miles (NEDC) or 93miles (EPA). If you have read my BMW i3 review you will know I prefer the more realistic EPA figures. From my experience this figure for the Soul could be a little cautious as I would suggest the car is good for at least 100miles between charges if driven ‘well’. Kia sensibly quote between 80 to 100 miles which is certainly possible when using all the innovative energy saving features the boffins have included in this car, an excellent example is the driver-only heating mode which reduces the load on the heating system complimented by heated seats and a heated steering wheel. Heating and cooling in any EV can have quite detrimental effect on range, the superb heat-pump system created by Kia appears to have overcome this.
Starting the EV is done using the centrally mounted ‘POWER’ button resulting in the welcoming chime and you are ready to go in seconds. The gear selector offers two driving modes, D for Drive and B for Braking mode. The B mode allows the car to recuperate the maximum amount of energy as the you brake or release your foot from accelerator. The setup of this on the Soul is ideal for stop-start traffic and when descending hills where the car can recover some energy and put it back into its batteries to add to your range. Some electric cars I have driven do this in quite an aggressive manner which can take some getting used to. The Soul, as with everything it does, recuperates energy efficiently, comfortably and without any fuss.
Recharging the Kia via a domestic plug socket will take 11 hours. Alternatively, home charging can be performed using an special wall mounted charge point and will have your Soul fully charged in 4 hours. On the road charging is easy as Kia have installed a DC CHAdeMO connection (the most common rapid charge connection in the UK). Using a rapid charger will give you 80% charge in just 33 minutes, just enough time for a coffee and cake.
The Kia Soul EV is a well packaged quality compact car which drives and appears to just be like any other conventional car. Engineered without compromise and unlike some other EVs has more conservative looks so could appeal to a wider audience.
With Kia’s innovative technology and industry leading warranty the electric future for the brand is certainly bright.
Boot: 281litres (seats up), 891litres (seats down)
0 to 60mph to 10.8seconds
Top Speed 90mph
UK Base list price: £29,995 (before £5000 Government grant)
UK Test car price: £29,995 (before £5000 Government grant)
Like all new Kia models the Soul EV is blessed with industry leading 7 year warranty. The warranty is a full 7 years from date of first registration OR to a maximum of 100,000 miles (whichever occurs first). For the first three years of the warranty, the mileage is unlimited.
All details as at October 2015.