If you are a manufacturer releasing an electric car, there is no avoiding the fact that the likes of the Nissan LEAF and BMW i3 (the new premium kid on the block) occupy the same segment of the market.
In the case of the Kia Soul EV – EV standing for electric vehicle - it looks to offer the same practical prowess of its conventionally-powered Soul sibling as well as a zero emissions electric powertrain.
Although it looks very similar to the standard Soul model, the EV model brings a host of unique features. These include 16-inch alloy wheels with low rolling resistance tyres, extra cladding on the front bumper and a vibrant two-tone Caribbean blue paint job. There is also a host of white trimming on the inside.
We take the Soul EV out on the road to see how it compares to the growing number of electric vehicles already on the market.
The Soul EV is driven by an electric motor, which is powered by a 27kWh battery. This means it has around 109bhp on tap, taking 10.8 seconds to reach 60mph, and is almost silent.
Although it takes almost 11 seconds to hit the benchmark time, it feels much quicker than that as there are ‘no gears’ and therefore instant power. This means that up to 30 or 40mph it feels more like a sports car – but that soon fizzles out and you end up with more gradual, smooth acceleration up to its top speed of 90mph.
Instead of a conventional gearbox set-up you get something similar to an automatic, with an up and down gear lever with Park, Drive, Neutral, Reverse and Regenerative Braking modes available. The latter mode is essentially a way of optimising its regenerative breaking capabilities. The best way to utilise this is to throw the gear lever into ‘B’ when you are approaching a red light. This will slowly but surely bring you to a stop.
Charging is incredibly easy and there are three different ways you can do it. The most popular method is to plug it into the wall at home, just like you would any other household appliance. This method will take around 11 to 14 hours. A slightly quicker method is to use a fast charger station, which you can have fitted in your home or find on many city streets, and this takes 4 to 5 hours.
The quickest method is the rapid charger station, which you will find at motorway service stations. This can deliver 80 per cent battery capacity in just 30 minutes.
Kia claims that you can get a 132 miles from a single charge in the Soul EV. We found that a little ambitious. Instead, you are more likely to get around 90 miles – but this will depend on outside temperature, types of roads and your driving style.
Ride and Handling
If you want a fun-to-drive electric car then the BMW i3 is hands down the best one currently on the market.
If you like the way the standard Soul model drives then you will be extremely happy with the Soul EV as it feels pretty much exactly the same, with a comfortably supple suspension and easy-to-drive feel. The only difference is that the EV model is 278kg heavier, but this weight is low down, meaning that it actually improves the cars sturdiness in the corners. As its ride and handling is remarkably similar to the standard Soul however, this does mean that it isn’t exactly fun to drive. Even the selectable Comfort, Sport and Normal driving modes are a little awkward, and you will find yourself going for Normal more often than not as the other modes are either overly light or heavy. If you want a fun-to-drive electric car then the BMW i3 is hands down the best one currently on the market.
Interior and Equipment
The Kia Soul EV has class-leading energy density at 200 watt-hours per kilogram.
As you pay a slight premium for the EV model – which we will come back to later – features like sat-nav are standard, whereas they are not on the standard Soul. There is also just one trim level with the EV model, which brings the aforementioned sat-nav, DAB radio and heated front seats. The sat-nav included is a great system, as it has a slick 3D display and can pinpoint the nearest charging point to your location. There is also a host of other handy features located on the instrument panel, most of which revolve around efficiency. This includes an average speed check and efficiency rating. Practicality and comfort are almost identical to the standard Soul model, with only minor changes that you are unlikely to notice. This includes 80mm less headroom and 30 litres less of boot space, due to the underfloor storage. This means a boot capacity of 281 litres, which can be extended to 891 litres by folding the seats down.
It's price includes the battery, unlike some electric cars where you have to lease the battery each month. This means that the battery is covered by Kia’s coveted seven-year/100,000 mile warranty.
This is the big gripe with the Soul EV. Its price tag is almost twice as expensive as the standard model, at £24,995. When compared to its competitors it is considerably more than the Nissan Leaf and a large chunk cheaper than the BMW i3. This price does however include the battery, unlike some electric cars where you have to lease the battery each month. This means that the battery is covered by Kia’s coveted seven-year/100,000 mile warranty. And let’s not forget, zero emissions means no road tax, and charging at home means an electricity bill of around just £1 for a full charge.
The Soul EV is definitely worth a look if you are in the market for an electric car. It does however sit in an awkward limbo between two key competitors. If you are after an affordable electric car, then you should go for the Nissan Leaf. If you want something fun and different, then you might as well pay the extra £5,000 or so for the BMW i3. Still, when it comes to delivering practicality, comfort and ease of use, then the Soul EV successfully delivers.