12.3.2021Kia Soul EV First Edition review
Kia’s second generation Soul EV is a striking car to look at, and fortunately Kia has packed in a powertrain to back up the looks. The company’s tried and tested 64 kWh battery and 150 kW motor - as found in the e-Niro - can be found in the Soul EV, promising a great driving range, style and practicality in one package.
Review by Chris Lilly
KIA SOUL EV: PERFORMANCE
The 150 kW motor mentioned above is good for a 7.9 second 0-62mph time, which is none-too-shabby for a family crossover. It’s quick rather than rapid, but this is supposed to be a sensible model with plenty of space inside for its size. As such, the Soul EV almost over delivers in terms of performance. It’s sprightly in the full sprint, but feels even more so in short bursts, particularly in Sport mode, which is ideal for the type of driving most are going to do.
In and around town it’s brilliantly set up to deliver usable performance, and it even copes very well with hilly, twisty roads and motorways. Kia’s variable brake energy recuperation settings mean the brakes are rarely required, though stopping power is good when you do need to use the brake pedal.
To drive, the Soul EV benefits from its core design points. The wheels are pushed right into each corner, it has a compact footprint on the road, and the battery is placed in the floor of the car. As such, it’s agile without being too stiffly sprung, and is a great urban runabout.
Although competent on faster roads, the short wheelbase means there are better cars in its class for long-distance cruising. That said, it can cope with 3+ hours on the motorway without complaint. Instead, stick to country roads, urban streets, and car parks, and the Kia Soul EV will shine. The tall-ish seating position gives a good vantage point, and the boxy shape means you can accurately position the car on the road with ease.
Although a practical, boxy shape, the Kia Soul EV is no ‘soulless’ box. It’s a nicely designed crossover, and can really grab attention. The test model black paint with red roof/mirrors, and silver scuff plates made it look ‘mean’ and reminiscent of a Stormtrooper in car form. It’s certainly an evolution of the previous model, and therefore definitely a Soul EV, but it’s been successfully reimagined and brought up to date.
The exterior shape translates to a very practical interior considering the car takes up little more space on the road than a supermini. Boot space is not huge, but it’s useful and certainly larger than group stable-mate, Hyundai’s Kona Electric. The rear seats have plenty of room for two adults, and the interior can easily seat a family of four, even with enough space for luggage et al. There are more practical vehicles around, but few in this sector.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Like the exterior, the cabin’s design is still linked to previous Soul EV models, but is right in line with the rest of the Kia line-up. There’s a very good widescreen touchscreen system that allows for connected car services, and the steering wheel is a nice size for the driver.
To get going, the drive selector is a rotary rocker switch at the base of the centre console, which both looks smart and frees up space for other elements. It’s flanked by buttons, but there is storage space before and after to help make the cabin a practical space to sit in. The test model’s interior was rather dark, but there are some design details to help lift surfaces a little. Built quality feels very good as well, and the Kia is in the top half of the quality table for its class.
KIA SOUL EV: RANGE & RUNNING COSTS
The all-important driving range for Kia’s Soul EV is a rather handy 280 miles on a charge. It’s more than most will use in a single go, and makes the Soul EV a viable proposition for a great many drivers. In the real world, figures naturally vary, but the range holds up well. Even with a fully packed car driving on the motorway, the Soul EV still returns 230 miles on a charge, and that’s almost in the toughest use case for the EV.
The only thing missing was extreme cold, so even in mid-winter and driven on the motorway, I’d expect more than 200 miles possible on a charge (3+ hours of driving). More normally, the Soul EV was averaging 250-260 miles on a charge, with a greater mixture of roads and speeds. This was with a ‘normal’ driving style, rather than trying to be economical, and in a hilly area.
The Kia Soul EV’s 64 kWh battery allows for the above 250+ real-world driving range, which makes it a very practical proposition. This is helped by the variable brake energy recuperation system, with paddles on the steering wheel allowing the driver to switch up and down from practically coasting to near one-pedal driving regen strength. There’s a smart setting too, which will bring the car to a halt by holding the left paddle.
There’s the ability to pre-condition the car, as before, but Kia’s Uvo connected car services mean that can now be done via an app, along with controlling and checking on the usual host of EV features. Charging can be carried out at up to 7.2 kW via the on-board AC charger, and up to 100 kW using a CCS connector. The inlet is located behind a panel at the front of the car, making reaching charge points easy, even if cables are short. A heat pump improves the efficiency of heating the car up, and there are different drive modes available - Sport, Normal, Eco, and Eco+.
There’s one trim level available - First Edition - which packs a load of features in. These include 17-inch alloys, wireless phone charger, 7-inch driver’s instrument display, head-up display, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, LED headlights, smart cruise control, suite of safety kit, heated front seats, automatic headlights and wipers, and a comprehensive infotainment system. This includes a 10.25-inch touchscreen system with navigation, USB, Bluetooth, DAB, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, with a Harmon Kardon 10-speaker stereo.
KIA SOUL EV MODEL SUMMARY
With the Soul EV and e-Niro, Kia has a very strong electric vehicle line-up, and one that proves that a practical car can be electric too. The Soul EV is compact but surprisingly spacious. It features the usual EV highlights of being easy to drive and quick, thanks to instant response, but also holds up well at higher speeds and deals with long trips as well as any of its compact crossover rivals. Usable, quick, an excellent range, and Kia’s market leading warranty add up to a very appealing car.
Model tested: Kia Soul EV
Engine / CO2: 150 kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: First Edition
On-road price: From £34,295
Warranty: Seven years / 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.5 Stars