Kia Soul: He's a Soul man

  • Our long-term diesel compared to the latest Soul EV
  • Is the electric Soul a realistic proposal for many?
  • Major sticking points are price and availability

It was back to life, back to reality for me when I went from Soul to Soul recently.

No, I’d not hooked up with Jazzie B’s neo-soul group, but instead had back to back drives of our familiar 1.6 CRDi Connect long-termer and Kia’s newly-launched EV version.

I say familiar, it was my first time behind the wheel of Parkers’ Soul, which replaced my previous Carens on the long-term fleet back in the summer.

The small car market’s bristling with interesting-looking small cars vying for the attention of the money-wielding masses hoping to make their next new car purchase, and the Kia Soul’s been a car I’ve long had a soft spot for.

Curves are eschewed for creases, culminating in a perpendicular hatchback-meets-estate-meets-SUV. It’s not an easy car to pigeonhole and that, for me, scores it plenty of ‘want’ points.

Launched in second-generation guise earlier in 2014, until now the Soul’s been offered with a choice of 1.6-litre petrol and diesel motors, the latter winning more friends with its frugality, better performance and superior ride quality too.

Things keep on movin’ though (I promise that’s the last Soul II Soul reference I’m slipping in), and there’s now a third powertrain available – a purely electric one in the Soul EV.

Visually the Soul EV stands out from its internal combustion engined-siblings by virtue of its different bumper design, disc-like alloy wheels, LEDs in the light units and a sliding door in the upper grille space to access the socket for the electrical plug. The test examples came in an attention-grabbing metallic blue with a white roof combination, not available on other Souls.

Inside, the EV’s mouldings are the same as our long-termer but black has been replaced with light grey and glossy white appliques. Fans of Apple rather than Funki Dred (that was another one in case you were wondering) will feel more at home; the pale greyness extends to the EV-specific seat upholstery which has been recognised for its environmental credentials, apparently.

Its instrumentation is different too, the regular analogue dials replaced with an OLED display, giving the type of screen clarity normally associated with high-end TVs, while the climate control function allows for a driver-only mode to improve efficiency when the system’s in use. The only obvious downsides from within the Soul EV’s cabin are that the generous rear legroom has been trimmed by 80mm and the boot’s 73 litres shy of the diesel’s 354-litre capacity.

Unsurprisingly the EV’s exceptionally easy and quiet to drive, particularly compared to our manual diesel, ushering in a new level of refinement hitherto unseen in the Soul range. It rides well too, is marginally quicker than the diesel but is nonetheless limited by its range.

However do you want me? (sorry, definitely the last one.) It’s a question more potential Soul customers will be asking now there’s a third and very appealing powertrain option to go with the existing petrol and diesel offerings.

With an official range claim of 132 miles (meaning 90 is likely in real-world terms), the EV’s suitable for most journeys that most of us cover on a daily basis, provided there’s somewhere to charge it at either end of your travels. Only 13 dealers nationwide will be selling the EV though, initially at least, so you’ll have to travel a fair way if you want to sample one. And that’s assuming you’re prepared to fork out the £25,000 to buy one…

Take the plunge though and there’s a lot to like about the Soul EV – but for the majority, the diesel’s convenience, accessibility and lower price will see it remain the default choice.

Mileage: 2,548 miles

Fuel economy: 39.6mpg