Kia Soul EV

Styling

What’s most exciting about the Kia Soul EV, the company’s first all-electric model, is the styling. While its looks are not everybody's cup of tea, the design—employed in the gas-powered Soul and brought over to the electric model—has earned legions of devoted fans.

It has an undeniable quirky charm (while steering clear of the eco-geek gizmo design found in other battery-powered cars). Interior visibility is vast. There is ample cargo and passenger room. The overall package combines a small hip design, with a generous amount of everyday utility.

The gas-powered Soul stands out on the road, and yet its idiosyncratic design maintains a relatively athletic persona. It just takes one look to see how it contrasts with other electric cars, like the Nissan LEAF, which eschewed the oddball design of first-generation models in favor of mainstream looks.

The electric version takes on a few style variations from the internal combustion model—mostly aimed at better aerodynamics. The most dramatic change is in the front fascia where the grills get closed up and turn into a slick sliding door for the charging port.

Performance

The Soul EV’s 81.4-kW, 109-horsepower electric motor is quite decent but unlikely to earn customers by itself. Its level of performance was right in line with the leading, competing small electric cars—but has been surpassed by the 200-horsepower Chevy Bolt and 147-hp Nissan LEAF.

Nonetheless, in our ride a couple of years ago, we experienced more than enough launching oomph and highway passing power. But the stand-out feature is the B (for braking) gear option, which results in maximum regenerative braking energy and single-pedal driving. That's the gold standard for EV driving, and puts the driving experience in the same category as the Tesla Model S and BMW i3, even if the Soul EV doesn't compare in overall road manners.

Kia Soul EV

Efficiency/Range

The key to EV driving range is the size of the battery. On this score, the Soul EV's 30 kilowatt-hour pack was at one point an advantage over the competition. But in 2018 and beyond, the new benchmark is at least 40 kilowatt-hours, or enough energy storage for about 150 miles of driving on a single charge. That's what the second-generation Nissan LEAF offers. It's hard to make an argument for a 111-mile EV in an era when the Chevrolet Bolt offers 238 miles of range and the Hyundai Kona Electric will do even better when it arrives in late 2018. There are several reports on the web that the next-generation Soul Electric, coming as soon as 2019, will use the Kona's platform to offer much longer range—perhaps close to 200 miles. That makes it hard to argue for buying the current Soul EV.

One ding against the Soul EV, in terms of efficiency, is its lack of a liquid-based battery temperature management system. That has become the standard best practice for ensuring optimal range during very hot and cold weather. Kia execs insist that air-cooling will be just fine because the battery chemistry onboard is just fine in hot weather. The shift to the Kona platform could take care of this issue.

Charging

The Soul EV uses a 6.6-kW onboard charger for daily refueling. That rate, which is standard for today’s electric cars, adds about 20 to 25 miles of range in one hour. One thoughtful feature is the light that illuminates the charging port, making it easy to plug in at night.

The Kia Soul EV comes standard with a CHAdeMo quick charge port. That's fantastic. It allows a recharge from empty to about 80 percent in around 30 minutes—at compatible quick-charge stations. Kia is committed to installing free or low-cost quick chargers at all of its dealerships that sell the Soul EV. Pricing is at the dealer's discretion.

Kia Soul EV

Passenger/Cargo Room

The Kia Soul earns high points for comfort and use of high-quality materials. The seats are considered supportive—which hopefully will carry over when the EV version uses bio-sourced padding and seat fabric.

The cabin, which seats five, is roomy for its class. The Kia Soul has 24.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats in use, and 61.3 cubic feet with them folded.

Rear seats that split 60:40 offer greater versatility for carrying cargo.

Standard features in the gas car include a six-speaker stereo, Bluetooth, satellite radio, USB and auxiliary inputs and steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls. Options include a backup camera, an Infinity sound system, navigation, push-button start, automatic climate control and a panoramic sunroof.

Kia Soul EV

Price

The starting price of the all-electric Soul EV is $32,250. That puts the Soul EV somewhat in competition with the Nissan LEAF, Volkswagen E-Golf, and Ford Focus Electric. There are pricier, although more luxurious, electric models in the form of the BMW i3 and Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive. Among the group of EVs priced in the mid-$30,000 range, the Kia Soul offers its iconic groovy design and a little more passenger space. We need to wait to see about the price and range of a new, upcoming long-range version of the Soul Electric. But in mid-2018, pricing for the Soul Electric is not attractive enough to steer EV shoppers away from electric cars with similar (or much longer) range at a similar price.

Purchase Process

The Soul EV is on sale in California and the East Coast.

Kia Soul EV specifications

Availability: Now
Base MSRP: $34500
Est. tax credit: $7500
Technology: Electric Vehicle
Body type: Sedan
Seats: 5
EPA Range: 111 miles pure electric
Battery size: 30 kWh
Charging rate: 6.6 kW

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