EV evaluation - Kia Soul EV vs Nissan Leaf

Image of James Fossdyke
Author: | Updated: 06 May 2015 13:43

It’s a brave man (or woman) who tries to argue that the Tesla Model S isn’t the best electric car about, but the sad truth is that only a lucky few can afford one. That being so, we’ve lined up a couple of more mainstream choices for those of you wanting a car with 12V power, as opposed to V12.

The Nissan Leaf needs no introduction, but, its main rival, the Kia Soul EV, may do, especially to those who weren’t paying attention when we first reviewed the car back in November.

Essentially an electric version of the standard Soul crossover, it is hoping to knock the Leaf from its lofty perch. We find out whether it’s up to the job.

Kia Soul EV Nissan Leaf Front

Exterior

We start with the difficult question: which is the least ugly?

The Leaf has a duck face and the (hideous) poppy-out headlights which deflect airflow around the door mirrors. It was designed to look a bit like a fish, because fish tend to be streamlined, but the Leaf doesn’t look like a fish – it looks like a hatchback which has melted at the front.

Kia’s effort is little better. The Soul has the same divisive, boxy styling as the internal combustion version. Why? With the electric variant, Kia had free reign to do things a little differently. Covering over the grille was a start, but it didn’t go far enough.

Love it or hate it though, you have to admit that the Kia is at least different. You don’t see many conventional Souls around, let alone the EV version, so with its two-tone paint job, our test car was noticed wherever it went.

Kia Soul EV Nissan Leaf Rear

Interior

Inside, it’s less of a horror show. The Nissan is vaguely familiar thanks to the bank of switches pinched from other cars in the range and though it’s a bit dull in there, it’s fairly ergonomic (if we forget the foot-operated handbrake) and roomy.

There’s quite a bit of hard plastic knocking around though, especially on the top of the dash, and though that’s fine in a Micra, it’s unacceptable in a car that commands a £20,000-plus price tag.

The Kia, on the other hand, is anything but dull. The stone-coloured seats, pale leather and grey headlining keep the light bouncing about and, as in the normal Soul, the build quality is exemplary. By and large, the plastics are soft, the switchgear feels solid and the general fit and finish is first-rate.

Kia Soul Nissan Leaf Interiors

On the road

Comparing electric motors always seems a little strange, because they all feel much the same: torquey, but characterless. They even make much the same noises.

We can compare their outputs and performance though, and it’s the Soul which comes out on top. Despite similar power outputs (109bhp in the Soul plays 107bhp in the Leaf) and similar kerb weights, the Soul is slightly faster. The sprint to 62mph takes 10.8 seconds compared to the Leaf’s 11.5 and the 90mph top speed is one better than the Leaf’s 89mph.

When it comes to handling, however, the Soul lags slightly behind the Leaf. Around town, the two are tough to choose between, but because of its crossover proportions, the Kia is a little more roly-poly on the open road and the Leaf seems to have more grip.

Sadly, the Kia can’t make up for the shortfall in body control with a cushy ride. The Leaf’s springs are hardly marshmallows, but they’re a noticeable improvement on the much harsher Soul.

Kia Soul EV Front

The Nissan is quieter too, with that (almost) fish-like body reducing wind noise and plenty of soundproofing around the wheel arches. The Kia, however, has a bluff front destined to cause a wealth of air rush around the cabin and there’s definitely a rumble from those low-drag tyres.

Running costs

Choosing between these two in terms of running costs is going to be tough, because they are, as near as makes no difference, identical.

Neither produces a single gram of carbon dioxide while on the move, so both are exempt from road tax and both take the lowest company car tax band of 5%. Official ranges are similar too – the Leaf is said to manage 124 miles between plug-ins and the Soul should do 132.

Despite these official figures though, the two cars both show about 80-90 miles of range when fully charged. Don’t think that’s due to age either, because the Soul had 1,900 miles on the clock when it was delivered and the Leaf had just 451.

In terms of purchase price, the two are also very evenly matched, but that just means both are equally pricey. The one-trim-only Soul EV costs £24,999 after the government’s £5,000 grant, while the comparable Leaf Tekna will cost you £25,490.

Leaf And Soul Alternatives

With prices so high a leasing deal is always going to be a much more palatable way of getting one of these two onto your drive, but don’t think for a moment that EV leasing is especially cheap.

Even a business leasing deal will set you back at least £235 a month for a Tekna-spec Leaf and a whopping £330 for the less established Soul EV. Personal rates are just as bad, with the cheapest Leaf Tekna deals costing £280 a month and the cheapest Souls costing £400.

To give you an idea of how much that is, Volkswagen Golf leasing deals start from around £130 for business leases and £150 on personal agreements. For the same sort of price as a Leaf you could be driving an Audi A5 and the money you’ll spend on a Soul would put you behind the wheel of a Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The verdict

We’re minded to say that the Soul is the better of the two cars here – it’s better built, it stands out more and it’s more pleasant inside than the ageing Leaf – but it’s difficult to overlook the fact that you’d get a comparable Leaf for the best part of £100 less per month.

In truth though, when you consider the range anxiety that comes with an EV and factor in the higher lease and purchase prices, your inner accountant won’t be able to justify either of these cars. For about half the price of the Soul, you could have a well-specced, road tax-exempt Citroen C4 Cactus, and that would be a much smarter choice.

Citroen C4 Cactus White Dynamic

Lease a Citroen C4 Cactus from around £120 – business / personal

Vital stats

  Kia Soul EV Nissan Leaf Tekna
Length (mm) 4,140 4,445
Width (mm) 1,800 1,770
Height (mm) 1,593 1,545
Wheelbase (mm) 2,570 2,700
Boot space (litres, seats up / down) 281 / 891 370 / 720
Power (bhp) 109 107
Torque (Nm) 285 254
0-62mph (s) 10.8 11.5
Top speed (mph) 90 89
Range (miles) 132 124
List price £24,999* £25,490*
Business leasing deals From £330 From £235
Personal leasing deals From £380 From £300

*Includes £5,000 government plug-in car grant

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