13 November 2014

Full Kia Soul (14 on) Model Review

by Keith WR Jones, Staff Writer

Although the Kia Soul EV has a claimed range of 132 miles it's better suited to urban journeys
  • Kia Soul EV looks different to regular models
  • Two-tone paint makes the Kia Soul EV even more distinctive
  • Recharging the Kia Soul EV is easy
  • LED lights front and rear for the Kia Soul EV
  • Kia Soul EV boot space is smaller but the charging leads are conveniently stored
  • Light and airy Kia Soul EV interior is marginally smaller than other Souls
  • Driver only climate control and heated seats in the Kia Soul EV
  • Electric motor lives where a petrol or diesel engine would be in the Kia Soul EV
  • Kia’s Soul now available with electric power
  • Claimed 132-mile range and easy to drive
  • Costs £24,995 after grant deduction
Kia Soul (14 on) EV 5d Auto - Road Test
Driving through central London’s stop-start-stop traffic allows for a spot of people-watching, with one observation serving as a fitting parallel to the Kia Soul EV on test.

Driving through central London’s stop-start-stop traffic allows for a spot of people-watching, with one observation serving as a fitting parallel to the Kia Soul EV on test.

Outside an exclusive eatery a woman parked her bike, removed a smart jacket from her handbag, kicked off her flats and slipped on her heels, finally unfurling her hitherto clipped-up hair and striding confidently into the restaurant. Urban commuter to urbane chic in a few visually-effective steps.

And so it is with the Soul EV, Kia’s first electric car, on sale now for £24,995, once the £5,000 government grant’s been deducted.

The Soul was already a distinctive player in the small car market, but the EV makeover ensures the original’s styling details are suitably out-funked with a look that was turning heads even in the capital.

Distinctive appearance

Gone are the Soul’s front grilles, the upper one now with a sliding door to access the charging point. Bumpers front and rear are different too, promoting aerodynamic efficiency as the upright Soul cleaves the air, while the bonnet and windscreen pillars have also been modified to reduce wind noise. Glitzy LED lights complement the modifications.

Inside you’ll find pale grey rather than black mouldings, with glossy white appliques giving an impression not unlike visiting an Apple store on the highstreet. The seats are upholstered in what Kia describes as eco-cloth, containing 10 percent eco-friendly material.

Equipment-wise the Soul EV closely follows the range-topping Maxx trim, with notable additions being an OLED digital instrument binnacle (similar technology to cutting-edge televisions) and a climate control system that can focus purely on the driver, for greater efficiency.

Locating the battery pack under the seats and boot floor is logical in packaging terms, although rear legroom is compromised by 80mm and the EV’s 281-litre cargo bay is 73 litres short of its conventionally-engined siblings.

Driving experience

In common with other electric cars, the pervading driving sensation with the Soul EV is one of unruffled smoothness. Its 109bhp motor generates 285Nm of torque from zero rpm meaning it gets off the line more briskly than other Souls too.

There’s a single speed automatic gearbox delivering power to the front wheels. Keep it in D (for Drive) and it behaves much like a conventional car, but pull the lever back to B (for Brake) and lifting off the accelerator pedal activates the braking system. It’s unusual to begin with but becomes surprisingly natural in a short time.

Setting the batteries low down in the Soul EV’s structure results in a lowered centre of gravity, but this isn’t a car you’d harry around bends, being much more suited to city life. The suspension copes well with rutted road surfaces though, riding with greater comfort than the regular model, aided by the combination of smaller 16-inch alloy wheels – a unique design on the EV – and chunkier tyres.

Overall package

Kia recognises that one barrier stopping people buying electric cars is a resistance to change, so it’s taken steps to ease the transition.

With batteries giving an official range claim of 132 miles much higher than similarly-priced rival EVs; we’d expect to see 90 to 100 miles for most drivers. The Soul EV itself produces no emissions so VED car tax is free.

A full recharge would take up to 13 hours on a normal domestic three-pin plug supply, so Kia provides a 30-amp wall box free of charge, slashing this to just four-and-a-half hours. Included in the price are the batteries (no separate rental agreement) and various leads to connect to different kinds of domestic and public charging stations. Other manufacturers take note.

Should you buy one?

Electric cars don’t suit everyone, particularly if you regularly travel long distances or live where plugging one in would be impossible.

If one fits your circumstances, there’s much to commend the Kia Soul EV, which size- and price-wise slots neatly between Renault’s Zoe and Nissan’s Leaf.

Kia’s made the ownership package a convincing one – the only real headache is travelling to one of the 13 participating dealers to buy one.