23.11.2018Kia Soul EV 30 kWh review
Kia is expanding its electric car line-up with the e-Niro, due early next year, but that doesn't mean you should dismiss it's existing offering - the Soul EV. Boosted by a modest battery upgrade, the Soul EV has a longer range than the previous iteration, which is always a good thing. Combine that with the stylish yet practical crossover shape, and it's clear to see why the Kia is a popular model amongst EV enthusiasts. NGC tests the latest version of the Soul EV to see how that extra range pans out.
Review by Chris Lilly
The core powertrain remains the same as the previous version, so Kia's Soul EV features an 81.4 kW (109 hp) electric motor, powering the front wheels. This is good for a 0-60mph time of 11.0 seconds and a top speed of 90mph. It's not the fastest set of figures you are going to see, but as with many EVs, they don't tell the whole story. The instant pick-up available from the electric motor means short bursts of acceleration feel rapid, and the Soul EV will pull away from stand-still extremely briskly. It's ideally suited to town driving, though retains one of its particular strengths from the pre-updated model - comfort at speed. The Soul EV, despite being a now ageing electric model, is happier at motorway speeds than many of its rivals, and only the latest generation of EVs are able to trump this attribute. Rivals such as the Leaf MkI can easily feel out of puff at a motorway cruise, and the range can easily plummet. The Soul EV holds its range well, and feels comfortable on the motorway.
Despite being a tall car, the Soul EV has a low centre of gravity thanks to the battery fitted in the floor and the wheels pushed into the corners for a square stance. This helps keep the handling taught around corners, when it could so easily have gone all soggy. The suspension is well set-up to combat body roll, but not so stiff as to make the Soul EV uncomfortable in its natural environment - urban roads. It won't brush pot holes aside, but it does a good job of minimising the effects of them on occupants. That stiffness in the springs means it does well in tight confines such as car parks or junctions, with the Soul EV able to be flung about in town with ease. Again, like the performance attributes above, the Soul EV is a surprisingly good motorway cruiser, and the ride is composed for what is a relatively short car.
The Soul EV has a design that continues to stand out from the crowd, despite it having been penned before crossovers became so popular. The boxy shape is distinctive and stylish, plus it helps in a practical sense. The only downside is that it can be more susceptible to side winds than some rivals, but the benefit is that there is a lot of space inside for a car of this size. The boot isn't the largest around, though does have a false floor and handy central division which fit the charging cables nicely. It will handle a large supermarket shop easily, or a young family's plethora of kit - buggy, bags etc - comfortably. Compact but far from impractical then. Further forward, the occupant space available is excellent considering it's a compact crossover. Head space is clearly going to be a strength, but leg and shoulder room are pretty good too. As with many EVs, the floor is higher than you might expect if coming to the Soul EV from a petrol or diesel car, since there's not as much space available because of the underfloor mounted batteries. It's not an issue for anyone other than the very long of leg, and the Soul EV remains a practical proposition for many potential buyers.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The cabin design is beginning to feel its age now, but it remains a good interior thanks to being ahead of the game in the past. The cabin is a light space in which to sit, with plenty of glass surrounding everything, and a light-coloured trim helping matters further. How it would stand-up to long-term use with a family I don't know, and I suspect it might look a bit grubby after a while, but the pale tones are welcome and help with an overall 'EV feel'. The large touchscreen is easy to use and of fairly high quality, while all the controls feel as well built as we have come to expect from Kia. The cabin isn't overly cluttered with kit, and it is only the latest models that have moved the cabin design on from the Soul EV, so buyers won't feel as though they are sitting in a dated car. The seats feel quite high - to be expected considering the crossover styling and underfloor battery - which will suit some drivers, though I prefer a low seating position personally. They are comfortable though even over long trips, but don't offer much side support should you decide to throw the Soul EV down a twisting country road.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Kia quotes an official range of 155 miles thanks to the larger battery pack, up from around 130 miles previously. As always, ranges are subject to driving styles, environments, and route types, but the added range has certainly helped things. On a couple of longer motorway trips, the Soul EV was able to cover 80 miles on a single charge without issue, and that's sitting at 70mph with the air-con on in November temperatures; real-world driving in effect. I reckon a good average with a mixture of routes - a combination of town & country roads plus motorway - that a range of 120 miles is a reasonable expectation in late autumn conditions. Sticking largely to town work, my calculations work out at 144 miles on a charge. To tax, the Soul EV will cost nothing in terms of VED thanks to having both zero tailpipe-emissions and costing less than the £40,000 Premium Rate threshold. Since it's an EV, it also sits in the lowest BIK rates for company car drivers.
Kia has eked out additional space for batteries in the Soul EV, which is the key element in extending its range, but naturally there are a number of other features to help with efficiency. Low-rolling resistance tyres and a closed-off grille help reduce drag, while an Eco button reduces throttle response and increases the level of brake energy recuperation. There is a 'B' setting on the gearbox to also up the brake regen levels, and there is a 'Driver Only' button for the air-conditioning so that the car is only aiming ventilation where it's required. Heated seats also warm specific areas of the car rather than a large body of air, and the Kia has a heat pump for more efficient heating. The Soul EV can be recharged at home or in public through its Type 1 inlet, or on rapid chargers on the CHAdeMO standard. Both sockets are found behind a flap at the front of the car. The interior is trimmed in 'green' materials as much as possible, with materials such as bio-degradable plastic, bio-foam, and bio-fabric used in the construction. A number of different eco-driving statistics are available to view on the central touchscreen, which also shows range available overlaid on a map, and charging points. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 23.
There is only one trim to keep things simple for Soul EV buyers, and included are 16-inch alloys, rear privacy glass, metallic paint, heated front seats and steering wheel, leather trimmed steering wheel and gear selector, climate control, keyless entry and start, 3.5-inch digital drivers information cluster, 8-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, Bluetooth & DAB, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility. There's a good suite of safety systems fitted too, plus the EV focused elements such as Eco mode, and recharging cables.
Although set to be replaced with a new version of the Soul EV next year, Kia has done a good job of keeping the current version up-to-date. The core car remains as good as before, and the added range will be welcome to many drivers. It's still towards the bottom of how far a new mass-market model will travel on a single charge, but that shouldn't put buyers off if they often have short trips - and the Soul EV will cope with longer journeys easily.
Model tested: Kia Soul EV 30 kWh
Engine / CO2: 81.4 kWh / 0 g/km
Trim grades: Only one
On-road price: From £26,995 (inc. PiCG)
Warranty: Seven years / 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars