Review: Kia Soul EV
With 280 miles of range, the Kia Soul EV is a surprisingly conventional SUV and an endearingly frugal electric car at the same time.
The third-generation Kia Soul mostly follows where the previous two generations led. Distinctively designed when it first arrived in 2009, the facelifts and replacements have taken the same style and stretched and tweaked it, which means there’s little visually to separate the old from the new.
The reality is that everything is all-new, but the boxy, upright stance of the Soul remains, with enough funky flourishes that this latest generation looks every bit as modern and stylish as anything that went before.
With just 2,500 or so sold in the UK each year, you’d be forgiven for not noticing the changes, but over in the US the Soul took on a life of its own, with over a million sold in the same period. So it’s no surprise that the Americans have led the restyle for this new model.
Distinctively designed with decent range.The five-word review
But when Kia already sells the smaller Stonic SUV, the larger Niro SUV, and the similarly-sized XCeed crossover, where exactly does the Soul slot into the model range? In reality, it doesn’t, so Kia has gone to extreme lengths to differentiate the Soul from the rest of its cars… by taking the engine out.
Fortunately, it’s replaced it with the electric motor and battery pack from the impressive e-Niro, creating a smaller model that sacrifices a little practicality for a bucket load of style.
Even the heaviest right foot should be able to get at least 200 miles from a full charge
The e-Niro’s 64kWh all-electric system is the only power option and gives the Soul zesty performance - the EV races to 62mph in just 7.9 seconds. There’s a sense of urgency about it that makes it feel even quicker, and it’ll carry on to just over 100mph before the power fizzles out. As with most electric cars, it delivers that power in a linear, smooth and near-silent fashion.
Regenerative braking levels can be adjusted to suit your driving style but, at the strongest setting, you might never need to press the brake pedal again. Using the paddles behind the steering wheel, it’s possible to come to a complete halt using nothing but energy recovery, helping the Soul EV achieve its stated range figures.
The infotainment system is amongst the best, with up to three customisable panels
Officially, it’ll manage 280 miles before running out of juice. Driving at high speeds on German motorways, as we were doing, will impact that, but even the heaviest right foot should be able to get at least 200 miles from a full charge. Enjoying those 200+ miles might be a bit of a stretch as, while the Soul’s low centre of gravity and fully independent suspension masks most road issues, there’s not much in the way of engagement or excitement. Who would expect that from an upright SUV-like vehicle, though?
Direct steering that’s particularly responsive also makes urban driving a breeze, with the Soul’s instant acceleration combining with the rapid steering rack to make zipping between traffic quite entertaining.
The interior is a bit of a mixed bag. Kia’s recent interiors have been pleasingly usable and attractive enough, but lacking in flair. The latest XCeed adds more premium features to counter this, but the Soul adds a whole bunch of circles around the cabin. It’s a nod back to previous versions, but it jars a little with the very rectangular 10.25-inch infotainment screen that dominates the centre console, or the mostly rectangular heating and ventilation controls.
At 3-4p per mile in energy costs, somebody covering 10,000 miles a year will save around £800 in fuel alone.
Still, while it might not be a perfectly cohesive design, it’s a perfectly functional one. The infotainment system is amongst the best, with up to three customisable panels able to display almost any information you want, from navigation to energy use. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also present, for those that prefer to go with smartphone mirroring.
You do lose some space by opting for the Soul over the e-Niro, despite its upright stance. The cabin is fine for four adults, with the high roofline in the rear adding an illusion of roominess, but the boot is tight with 315 litres of storage being less than you’ll find in a Volkswagen Golf, or even a Polo. However, it’s a good shape, with a hidden floor to hide valuables away, and will extend to a significant 1,339 litres once you fold down the rear seats thanks to its almost van-like proportions.
Also small is the amount of money you’ll need to run a Soul. Yes, there’s a fairly substantial purchase price, and the leasing costs are comparatively high because of that, but your day-to-day expenses will be kept well in check. At 3-4p per mile in energy costs, somebody covering 10,000 miles a year will save around £800 in fuel alone. There’s also zero car tax and, for company drivers, benefit in kind taxation drops to zero in April. Maintenance costs tend to be lower too, thanks to fewer moving parts that can go wrong, but Kia backs everything with a seven-year warranty that even covers the battery pack.
The conclusion must be that the Soul EV is actually a surprisingly conventional SUV and an endearingly frugal electric car at the same time. The fact that it’s wrapped up in a super-stylish body means you don’t have to be dull to be all grown up.
Model tested: Kia Soul EV First Edition
The Kia Soul EV continues to stand out thanks to its boxy upright dimensions.
Functional rather than cohesive, a 10.25-inch infotainment screen dominates the centre console and is one of the best.
Direct steering makes urban driving a breeze, especially when combined with the instant acceleration from the electric motor.
The cabin is fine for four adults, with the high roofline in the rear adding an illusion of roominess, but the boot is tight with 315 litres of storage
Officially, it’ll manage 280 miles before running out of juice but even the heaviest right foot should be able to get at least 200 miles from a full charge.