Last updated on October 12th, 2020 at 11:09 pm
- Relatively quick
- Useful 280-mile range
- Comfortable interior
- Looks divide taste
- Small boot
- No front parking sensors
Range (WLTP): 280 miles Top Speed: 104 mph 0 to 60: 7.6 sec Cost/Mile (@14p/kWh): 3.2p
The Kia Soul has been dividing opinion since it was first introduced in 2009. The boxy looks are either audacious and different, or eye-wateringly ugly, depending on your taste. Our sample, in white with a red roof, is particularly flaunting its difference. We rather like it, but that’s also because of what we know lies underneath – a rather good electric vehicle. For a few hundred quid over £34,000, you get 280 miles of range and a sprint speed to 60mph of 7.6 seconds. It’s packed with features, including plenty of tech. There’s plenty of space inside for passengers, too. If you’re after a small family SUV, this could be a real contender. It also marks another milestone for EVs: the new Kia Soul will only be available in Europe in electric form.
Price and Options
To make your buying decision easier, Kia doesn’t give any trim or bundle options with the Soul EV. All are the “First Edition”, which starts at £37,295, or £34,295 with the £3,000 plug-in grant deducted. You can specify blue with a black roof, white with a red roof (our car), or black with a red roof – and none of these add to the price. However, you can add various decals and flashes ranging in cost from £50 to £175. There are various interior accessories like a hanger for your suit (£45) or a hook for you takeaway (£25).
More likely to be attractive are a Nextbase hardwired front and rear dashcam bundle (£365) and a tablet cradle for rear seats (£92.26). Then there are bike racks and a roof box, amongst other additions. But there aren’t any options for multimedia, safety technology, or any other luxuries that most manufacturers offer. The car inside will be consistently the same, with a 201bhp engine offering 395Nm of torque alongside a 64kWh battery pack. These are all very promising features, and a significant improvement over the previous version of the Soul EV. This is the same drivetrain as the Kia e-Niro, too, and (probably, since they share EV development) the top option for the Hyundai Kona Electric.
As we already intimated, the appearance of the Soul is a matter of taste. All we’ll say here is that it has character and leave you to decide whether you appreciate the boxy looks and two-tone colour scheme or would rather not be associated with it. The white-and-red combo we had is probably the most “eye-catching” paint choice, although since they’re all two-tone none of them are exactly meek. However, being a small SUV, this is a tall car – over 1.6m. So it has a high stance that some drivers prefer, and it’s very easy to get in and out of.
All cars have privacy glass on the rear windows and tailgate. There are LED headlights all round. The alloy wheels are now 17in, where the previous Soul generation had 16in wheels. There are roof rails, and electrically folding mirrors as standard. The headlights and windscreen wipers have automatic settings so will come on when they think they’re needed. Door unlocking is keyless, but the proximity unlocking is a bit more fiddly than the slick system with the Renault New ZOE, for example. You can’t just pull the door handle. The button on the outside needs pressing first.
With the extra height, only some of which is taken up by ground clearance, the Kia Soul EV is extremely roomy inside, and it’s a very comfortable place to be, front or back. You get black leather upholstery as standard. The driving position is high but not so much that you feel like you’re above regular traffic. Front seat adjustments include height and lumbar, and although these aren’t particularly soft seats, they do you hold you in place well. There’s also plenty of headroom and adjustability for tall occupants in the front.
This is also true of the rear passenger seats, which have plenty of head and knee room, even if the people in the front are tall too. Since there’s only a small hump in the middle, a third adult could sit comfortably in the back too, although the width will make for a snug fit sideways. There are two cupholders and a tray with very obvious Qi charging ability (it even sports the logo). The glovebox is decently sized, unlike the Renault ZOE or Vauxhall Corsa-e, both of which appear to have taken the name literally, with only enough room for gloves. There’s also a single USB charging socket for rear passengers.
Storage and Load Carrying
Surprisingly for such a tall car, the boot space is not that large – just 315 litres, which is only slightly more than the Corsa-e and less even than a Renault ZOE. However, drop the rear seats down and this extends to a healthier 1,339 litres. These have the usual 60/40 split. The boot with the seats down is also completely flat, which could be beneficial for some load types. Lots of other EVs, including the Corsa-e, Leaf and ZOE, have some form of ledge even with the rear seats down.
There’s also a cubby underneath the boot floor for stowing charging cables neatly away, and this has more room than needed. Take out the boot floor, and you’d get quite a bit more space for luggage, and we’re not sure why Kia didn’t make this lower in the first place, despite the step it would have created. The Soul EV is not rated for towing, however.
The Soul EV is extremely easy to get the hang of. You simply put your foot on the brake and press the start-stop button to boot the system up, then rotate a knob in the central console to select drive or reverse. There are no further buttons to press, and so long as you wait for the system to be ready, you can be on your way in less than a minute. At the end of the journey, the P button in the middle of the knob then selects Park. There is a separate electronic parking brake. Regenerative braking uses a control system like a paddle shift on the steering column, and has more fine adjustment than some, so you can choose between something akin to the Nissan Leaf’s e-pedal and a much less intrusive experience.
Compared to the Vauxhall Corsa-e, the Kia Soul EV demonstrates what a bit of thought towards the layout and design of digital instrumentation can provide. The 7in screen doubles up on some information, with numerical readings and spatial indications of features like speed and remaining range. You can also have a big percentage number on the central screen. But the attractive appearance mean you can clearly read the graphics when driving.
There’s even a head-up display as well projecting key information into your line of sight, which extends from the dashboard behind the steering wheel at the touch of a button. This is an amazing feature for an EV this price, and works extremely well.
There are lots of discrete controls and buttons, including for volume and the climate control. These are large and easy to grab without too much attention when driving. There’s also a sizeable 10.3in touchscreen for entertainment, navigation and configuration. The sat-nav maps look great and are easy to read, although there didn’t appear to be a postcode or keyword entry for address destination entry, which was clunky and a disappointment in a car otherwise so well endowed with tech. Traffic is only TMC, not one of the more sophisticated systems such as TomTom’s. However, turning notifications are clear and well-illustrated graphically.
There’s a DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and support for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A ten-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system with a subwoofer is included, providing attractive sound, which of course is easy to hear in a nice silent EV without any engine noise. There’s a smartphone app you can use to prime climate control or send destinations to the satnav.
Performance and Driving
Despite its size, the Soul EV is surprisingly quick. It can hit 60mph in 7.6 seconds and feels even quicker off the lights. Around town you will be sure to annoy premium car drivers by how fast you can get to 30mph in this strange-looking Kia. Obviously, that’s in the top Sport mode. The other options are Normal, Eco and Eco+, which are noticeably less rapid but more frugal on power consumption. This is not a responsive and involving drive, and there is noticeable torque steer when you really floor the accelerator due to the front wheel drive, with the traction control clearly kicking in. The suspension is also a bit bouncy. But for rapidly wafting, the Soul EV definitely hits the spot. Braking is reassuringly progressive, even with higher regenerative settings.
The Soul EV also feels comfortable at motorway speeds. Weighing in at 1,757kg, this is a heavy car, but that means it feels nicely planted at 70mph. Although you won’t get the WLTP 280 miles of range down a motorway, something over 200 miles would seem reasonably possible, and this will be a comfy car to transport a family or four adults over a long distance, with an hour or so’s break for charging every 2-3 hours. Although the suspension can’t prevent some body roll around bends, due to the car’s weight, it’s still within the bounds of comfort. The Soul EV meets the expectations of electric driving, with effortless transportation about town and enough battery capacity and comfort to make long journeys very viable.
Range and Charging
The WLTP range of 280 miles is a definite plus for the Kia Soul EV and a huge improvement over the original version’s 132 miles. It beats the Nissan Leaf with a similar battery capacity. It’s not quite Tesla range, but a very useful distance that will make this car a viable option for long-distance journeys. To help with this, chargers up to 100kW DC are supported, and one of these will take 54 minutes to put 80% back in the battery from empty. A 50kW DC charger will take more like an hour and 15 minutes. The onboard AC charger is 7.2kW, and if you have one of these at home you can fill the battery to 100% from zero in 9 hours 35 minutes. This will rise to 31 hours on a home 13a plug. The Soul EV uses a CCS2 connection, so will be widely compatible with public chargers using this or Type 2 connections.
With a 14p per kWh electricity supply, the Kia Soul EV costs just 3.2p per mile, which is very competitive – cheaper than the Vauxhall Corsa-e, for example. Obviously, that’s a best-case scenario but it’s still orders of magnitude cheaper than any petrol or diesel car. There’s a 7-year, 100,000-mile warranty, and for the first three years the mileage is unlimited. The battery is separately warrantied at 65% or above for 100,000 miles or 84 months, whichever comes first. However, you won’t necessarily get a new replacement, instead receiving a repair to over 70% capacity and only replacement if this isn’t possible.
Service intervals are every 10,000 miles or yearly, whichever comes sooner. It’s also worth noting that the service plan is extra – £529 for three years, £759 for five. Considering how little needs servicing on an EV, this seems a bit expensive. The Soul EV is also in insurance group 34, which is relatively high and will be more pricey than the Nissan Leaf, Renault ZOE or Vauxhall Corsa-e. But of course you won’t be paying any VED and zero benefit-in-kind (BiK) as a company car for the first year if purchased through a business. So the Kia Soul EV will still be much cheaper to run than a petrol equivalent, even if it’s more expensive to buy in the first place.
As we already mentioned, one of the benefits of the Kia Soul EV, like a lot of Korean cars, is that they are packed with tech as standard and this extends to safety tech. Kia groups these under the usual heading of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). The list of further acronyms under this heading is lengthy, including Forward Collision-avoidance Assist (FCA), Blind Spot Detection (BSD), Rear-Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Smart Cruise Control (SCC) with Stop & Go, and Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Driver Attention Warning (DAW) and High Beam Assist (HBA). It’s worth mentioning that although Kia doesn’t use the term, Smart Cruise Control is an adaptive system, with the ability to maintain distance as well as limiting speed.
The safety system you will probably notice first, however, is Lane Follow Assist (LFA), which controls acceleration, braking and steering depending on the vehicles in front. We mentioned how the Vauxhall Corsa-e’s lane keeping provides a noticeable nudge to the steering that is disconcerting at first. Kia’s version is also quite evident, but not as disconcerting. It operates at up speeds of 100mph and contributes to the SCC with camera and radar information, as well as using road markings to keep you in the centre of a lane. This appears to be quasi-Level 2 autonomy, although Kia doesn’t bill it as such, and you definitely can’t let it do the steering for you. Within the HUD, your notified with an orange line when you stray close to the side of you lane.
At the more prosaic level, there are seven airbags including driver’s knees. There’s stability management including traction control and ESC. The previous Kia Soul EV had a four-star NCAP rating, but the new version hasn’t been through the tests yet – something we’re seeing with new cars released this year, and possibly because of the pandemic slowing down testing. Also, while there are rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, there are no front parking sensors which is one chink in the Soul EV’s otherwise commendable tech armour.
|Range (WLTP):||280 miles|
|Charge time (7.4kW):||9 hours 35 minutes|
|Charge time (50kW, 80%):||1 hour 15 minutes|
|Charge time (100kW, 80%):||54 minutes|
|On Board Charger:||7.2kW|
|Cost per mile*:||3.2p|
*based on electricity costs of 14p per kWh