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Kia Ray EV first drive review

The Kia Ray has been given the electric vehicle treatment. Kia has no plans to release the super-cute Korean city car outside of its homeland, but this boxy little runabout does set the benchmark for the larger Kia Soul EV, which is due to hit UK shores in late 2014.

We were given the opportunity to head to Korea and get a feel for Kia’s first electric production car, so we hopped behind the wheel of a Ray EV and hit the streets to see how it stacks up, and what we can expect of the Soul EV when it’s finally released.

So, what’s under the hood?

Not a lot, really. But that’s because the car’s 50kW (67bhp) electric motor is packaged under the rear seat beneath the cabin floor. It produces 167 Nm of torque, which is enough for some fairly brisk acceleration and a top speed of around 86mph. The 16.4kWh battery pack lies the length of the floor for even weight distribution. 

What’s it like?

The Kia Ray is small, cute, boxy, but well designed, on the whole. Kia has used the available space to good effect, dumping the B-pillar on the passenger side and adding a sliding door for easy access. The doors on the driver’s side open conventionally, but to a full 90 degrees, so it’s easy to get in and out, whichever side you’re on. It’s a reasonably tall car, with a long tailgate. So while it’s easy to park in tight spaces, getting the boot open when wedged up against another vehicle or object may prove tricky. 

Kia claims the conversion from the 1.0-litre petrol-powered Ray has compromised interior space by only one centimetre in the passenger and driver foot wells. There’s plenty of headroom for all passengers and the designers have used the space cleverly to throw in lots of usable storage — there’s (sun)glasses storage under the interior light; magazine/paper storage above the windscreen visor and shoe storage under the driver and passenger seats. 

The feeling of interior space is enhanced by the fact there’s no handbrake in the centre console. In the back, passengers sit lower, but there’s lots of legroom, even when front seats are pushed back fully. Heated seats and a heated steering wheel add a feeling of luxury.

What about equipment and trim?

The Kia Ray’s furnishings are simple without feeling cheap. The dashboard is a minimalist affair, though you do get a pair of screens to look at, which tech-heads will appreciate. One screen is used primarily for navigation purposes, while the other is a touchscreen infotainment system that sits lower on the centre of the dashboard. The screen proves responsive in use and the user interface is fairly logically arranged, giving easy access to Bluetooth devices, radio and TV tuners, plus stats for the electric motor operation and battery status. There are also points for USB connectivity, an AUX audio input and a cigarette lighter.

How practical is the Kia Ray EV?

It’s clear the Ray EV is aimed at young families looking for a smart, low-cost vehicle option. The back seats fold down to allow a child’s pushchair to stand without needing to be folded down and four adults can sit in the car in comfort. It is worth notiing however that the back seats cannot be split, i.e. you can’t seat three.

How does the Kia Ray EV drive?

The Kia Ray EV is very easy to drive, particularly in a congested city through stop-start traffic. It offers an ‘eco’ mode, which mildly inhibits throttle response and ‘b’ mode, which it switches to on a downward gradient to maximise regenerative braking downhill. A little bit of F1-style tyre warming revealed a high centre of gravity. It didn’t feel unsafe, but take sharp corners quickly at your peril! 

What is the range of the Kia Ray EV?

Kia says the Ray EV does around 86 miles on one charge. Your own mileage will vary depending on how fast you drive, the types of road you drive on and how often you use electrical systems like the heating or radio. On a regular household supply, the Ray EV charges from zero to full in six hours. Rapid chargers can fill it to 80 per cent capacity in 25 minutes. 

Pricing and Availability

A conventional Kia Ray is Korean Won (KRW) 12.4 million, which equates to £7,236. The Ray EV is on sale in Korea from this week starting at KRW 23 million (£13,422). As in the UK, the Korean government offer a plug-in car grant of around £5,000.

Outlook

Kia’s motto is ‘The Power To Surprise’, which it couples with the aim to make each of their cars ‘fun to drive’. The Ray EV fits this perfectly. It’s likely to meet the demands of a significant chunk of a large proportion of Seoul’s inhabitants, offering practicality, zero emissions, ease of use and cheap running costs in a city where space and decent air quality are thin on the ground. It’s a shame the Ray EV won’t make it here, but if the Soul EV lives up to the standards it has set then we may be in for a bit of a treat. 

Key Specs

Model tested: Kia Ray EV
Engine: Electric motor
Power: 50kW (67bhp)
Torque: 167Nm
Range: 139 km (86 miles)
Emissions: 0g/km CO2 (exhaust)
Price: £13,422

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