- Stylish and unusual design
- Drives well
- Fairly practical
- Limited range
- Long recharge time
Cat Dow takes the new electric Kia Soul out and about London town to see whether Kia’s struck gold with its latest foray into electric vehicles.
Britain is not yet convinced by electric propulsion. Electric vehicles make up a measly 0.2 per cent of the new car market, despite the government incentivising sales with a £5,000 discount. Kia’s new Soul EV will help increase consumer choice, which the company reckons contributes to the lack of enthusiasm for EVs. The question is, is does wider choice equate to better quality?
The Kia Soul EV is quite different to most electric cars on the road, but that’s hardly surprising seeing as the standard Soul, on which it’s based, fails spectacularly to blend in too. This car is a carbon copy (minus the carbon emissions) of the revised 2014 Kia Soul, but it’s been tweaked in a few places to accommodate the electric components; it has reinforced B-pillars and sills and EV recharging points in the front grille, plus LED lights at the back.
Expecting modest sales, Kia is offering two metallic colour finishes: a stylish gunmetal grey or vibrant two-tone turquoise blue with a white roof and alloys. The blacked out rear windows add a certain mystique
There’s a clean, youthful feel to the high shine white and grey plastic trim. The seats have been upholstered in a grey jersey-type ‘eco-cloth,’ created from recycled materials; it’s very Uni Qlo.
The Kia Soul EV is spacious inside, with plenty of space for four adults — five if a little one tags along. Rear space is compromised slightly by virtue of the fact Kia’s had to find somewhere to stash the car’s batteries. In this case they’ve been mounted under the rear seats, which reduces rear legroom by 80mm, and drops boot space by about 73 litres to a total 281 litres. That’s a little on the small side, but not a total disaster by any means.
The rest of the cabin is otherwise identical to the standard Soul, so expect lots space for front seat passengers and enough cubby holes to stash beverages and the accoutrements of daily life.
Usefully, the air conditioning and heating can be pre-set remotely, so you can heat or cool the car before getting in, while it’s plugged in, which won’t use any battery power. The heating system has been optimised so drivers can cool or heat only themselves if driving alone (or if they’re feeling selfish), in a bid to limit the drain on battery power.
Kia offers the Soul EV with the flexibility of both AC and DC charging facilities. Charging from high-power ‘Chademo’ (DC) rapid charging stations can top the battery up to 80 per cent in 33 minutes, but three-pin AC sockets will take around 13 hours. Fortunately, Kia provides a household wallbox as standard to reduce that to a more practical five hours.
Performance & Handling
On the city streets, the drive is rather unremarkable. It handles like any other EV: It has an emphasis on comfort, torquey response from the electric motor and noiseless acceleration, which takes the tedious edge off city motoring. On faster roads, you’ll be able to take advantage of the Kia Soul EV’s 90mph top speed, though a heavy foot discharges the battery power faster than an A&E department diagnoses a runny nose.
The standard Soul isn’t particularly remarkable in the way it drives, and this isn’t either. That’s not to say it’s bad — it has a low centre of gravity, which helps it feel secure through bends and there’s not much body roll despite its high body.
The Kia Soul EV hasn’t been independently tested by Euro NCAP, but the 2014 petrol-powered Soul achieved five stars. Improvements in the frontal crash section is welcome news for those concerned about battery safety, but unlike other manufacturers, Kia hasn’t secured the battery pack in a heavy-duty casing. That’s surprising, but at least the floorplan is 27 per cent more.
In the event of a crash, six airbags protect the driver and passengers. As is standard in all Kia models, the Soul EV has also seatbelt reminders and electronic stability control.
Economy & Environment
Kia reckons the Soul EV’s 81.4kW motor squeezes 132 miles out of the 27kWh battery. In real world terms, it’s more like 100-110 miles, which is still respectable as the average return daily commute is 16-20 miles.
Typically zero carbon emissions means no congestion charge and zero road tax, not forgetting that free wall box installation at your home. The battery has the highest density of those currently in the market, according to Kia. At 200Wh/kg, the battery uses manganese in the lithium compound to make it more durable and environmentally-friendly.
Equipment & Value
The Soul EV can be bought from one of 13 dealers authorised to sell the new technology. The £24,995 price tag is cringe-inducing, particularly considering the standard Soul starts from £12,600. Some of that pocket pain is mitigated by the fact Kia offers the Soul EV with the same seven year warranty as other Kia models.
Considering the pricetag, the cabin tech on offer falls a bit short. The eight-inch touchscreen is a bit fiddly, with small, slow-responding buttons – particularly troubling for those with sausage fingers. The navigation also seems to take a tad too long to track your position, and can be tardy in offering instructions.
On the upside, it comes with a reversing camera and DAB RDS radio as standard. In addition, there’s MP3, USB and AUX inputs, as well as Bluetooth connectivity which enables voice control and music streaming. The metallic paint finish comes as standard
The Kia Soul EV is a solid effort from Kia, but it doesn’t offer anything significantly different over its rivals in terms of price, driving dynamics or range. The funky Soul aesthetic, enhanced here by specific tweaks for this EV version will help its cause, but below the surface it’s perhaps not quite as characterful as we’d like. That said, it’s practical, drives well, and would suit anyone wanting a small family car for short commutes. Just be aware its rivals, in the form of the Nissan Leaf especially, do most things just as well, and some things even better.
|Model Tested||Kia Soul EV|
|Acceleration||0-62mph in 12 seconds|
|Charge time||5 hours with a Kia-supplied wallbox|