► Boxy EV gets the CAR treatment
► 201bhp, 280-mile range, well priced
► Unfairly overshadowed by the EV6?
From its stormtrooper face to its two-tone rear and boomerang taillights, every inch of the current Kia Soul EV’s exterior has been styled to be divisive. Yet despite this, it seems to be very much an also-ran when you consider the success of Kia’s other dedicated electric car, the EV6.
For while the first Soul EV (based on the second-generation car) rode on the coattails of petrol and diesel siblings, Kia doesn’t offer this third-generation model with combustion engines in the European market at all. It also hasn’t done much to bring the interior up to the zany standards set by that exterior flash.
All aboard the
Soul lifestyle train as we take a closer look.
Kia Soul EV: specs and range
While this Soul EV was initially launched as a single variant, UK buyers can now choose between a 39.2kWh Urban model with ‘mid-range’ battery pack and 134bhp electric motor or the original 64kWh long-range battery pack with 201bhp electric motor, now dubbed the Explore. The addition of the Urban turns the Soul into Kia’s budget electric car, as the smaller battery option has now been dropped from the Niro EV.
Sticking with the 201bhp motor for the purposes of our review, this also outputs 291lb ft to the front wheels, making for a 0-62mph sprint of 7.9 seconds and a top speed of 103mph. Kia claims a range of 280 miles on a full charge.
These numbers all compare very favourably with similarly-priced EV rivals – a Nissan Leaf, for instance, is slightly faster, but offers a maximum of 239 miles of range . That said, MG is knocking out some very impressive EV numbers for not much money these days, so don’t overlook the MG4 in particular.
In terms of charging, the Soul’s maximum charging speed is 80kW on a DC charger; not especially rapid by the latest standards but fast enough to take either battery 10-80 per cent in 54 minutes. Using a typical 7.2kW home charger, you’re looking at between six and ten hours for a full charge.
How’s the performance?
In typical EV fashion, the performance starts out incredibly strong, with instant torque available from a standstill. Put your foot straight down on the floor and the Soul EV will chirp its tyres, but even acting more sensibly you’ll certainly be one of the quickest away from the lights.
Kia’s engineered in a minute delay to the accelerator, which gives it less of a hair trigger and actually makes it more relaxing to drive in stop-start conditions.
It’s also introduced automatic regenerative braking, which uses radar to monitor the traffic ahead and adjust itself so that on lifting off, you coast right up to obstructions before stopping, instead of requiring braking or stopping short. You can override this easily using the paddles on the steering wheel to adjust the level of braking manually. You can even use them to regen yourself to a complete halt, but it’s not as easy to modulate as the Leaf’s e-Pedal mode.
Acceleration remains very strong up to around 50mph, but it doesn’t tail off so suddenly that motorways become a chore. Even at the legal limit, it feels as though there’s plenty of power in reserve – though it’s worth bearing in mind that this is murder on the battery, and will quickly see that claimed 280-mile range drop significantly.
Shaped like a brick, does it handle like one?
Thankfully, no – the Soul EV may not be a hot hatch but it’s not a complete slug either.
It’s relatively light by the standards of Kia electric vehicles, and that’s mirrored in accurate, easy steering and a general willingness to change direction without too much fuss.
There’s a hard edge to the ride on lumpy roads that many rivals manage to avoid, though. Still, there’s less body lean than you’d expect from something this tall – aided by the low-down weight of that battery pack.
There are four driving modes to cycle through – Normal, Sport, Eco and Eco+. Sticking to Normal is the best bet – Sport brings a cloying sense of artificial weight to the steering and twitchy throttle response, while the two Eco modes dull the car’s responses down.
How’s the interior?
Sadly, this is one of our biggest areas of complaint. The first- and second-gen Souls were packed with quirky details – such as light-up speaker grilles. These new models favour an interior that looks like it’s been pulled straight out of any other Kia. The few interesting textures – such as the scaly items on the door cards – are hard, unyielding plastic, and the switchgear lacks any reassuring weight.
It’s a sea of black plastic, devoid of colour or charm. Still, build quality is high and equipment is generous – Soul EVs come to the UK in a single, highly-equipped trim level which includes a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen (with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), leather upholstery, heated front seats and steering wheel, LED lights all-round, a head-up display, a reversing camera, wireless phone charging and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
That infotainment screen is pretty good, too – high quality, responsive and with a clear interface. It’s irritating, though, that when using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, the interface won’t scale to fill the whole screen – you’re left with a split-screen arrangement that’s ugly and unnecessary.
The thing is, what’s the point in having a distinctive car on the outside if you spend all of your time in its bland interior? You’ll enjoy greater practicality from wacky-looking rivals, too. A high roofline means rear passenger space in the Soul EV isn’t too bad – but its 315-litre boot is poor by any standard.
Is it expensive?
Not especially by modern EV standards – the new entry-level Urban variant with its smaller battery and slower motor is £32,845 at the time of writing. Things get stickier if you want to opt for the faster, longer-range Explore, however, which at £39,045 is knocking right on the door of £40k
For reference, a Volkswagen ID.3 with 201bhp and a 265-mile official range is £36,990. An MG4 with 201bhp and a 281-mile official range is £28,495 – and you can get one with a smaller battery but the same motor and a 218-mile range for £25,995.
Kia Soul EV: verdict
Love-them-or-hate-them looks aside, the Soul EV offers a reliable 250+ miles on a single charge and good passenger space for not a terrible amount of value for money.
The small boot and dull interior are disappointing, though, and rivals haven’t just caught up, they’re in danger of vanishing over the horizon.
As for being an also-ran to the EV6 – the newer model might be a much more expensive electric Kia, but it also makes a lot greater all-round sense, with longer range, a better driving experience and much sophisticated panache.
Specs below for the 201bhp Kia Soul EV Explore