The latest Kia Soul EV is another brilliant electric car from the Koreans, and this time it comes with more characterVerdict4.5The Soul is another EV winner for Kia. It offers almost everything the award-winning e-Niro does (it’s just a little bit smaller) in a more characterful and cheaper package. The awkward styling of Souls of old has been softened and replaced with something more stylish and posher, but the focus is still on fun. That’s apparent in the way the car drives, although we’d like Kia to take a look at the overly light steering again before it arrives in the UK.
While most car makers are rushing to get their first electric cars on sale, along comes Kia with its third: the all-new Soul EV.
Sitting just below the e-Niro in Kia’s fully electric range (it’s also got a couple of plug-in hybrids and a full hybrid), this new model replaces the previous Soul EV that was launched in 2014. Things move fast in the EV world.
• Best electric cars on sale
Not least in battery tech; the new Soul EV uses the same kit as the eNiro, which means a 64kWh battery and 201bhp electric motor resulting in a very similar 280-mile real-world range. That seems pretty accurate judging by our test of an early car in South Korea, where we saw the range figure fall in line with the mileage covered – even on the motorway – and the figure rose with full brake energy regeneration used coming down long hills.
The Soul has always been a divisive-looking little car with its boxy shape. Now in its third generation, launched just ten years after the first, it’s much more likely to appeal to the masses – it’s longer, sleeker and the edges have been softened off. The slim LED front lights and wraparound rears also add a sense of style that’s been missing before, while the satin chrome detailing at the front adds a touch of class, as do the snazzy 17-inch alloys. You’ll be able to choose from seven two-tone colours with contrasting roofs and 9 single-tone colours, while UK cars will also get slightly beefed up styling to give even more of an SUV look.
The interior continues Kia’s push upmarket and is dominated by a widescreen 10.25-inch infotainment display that’s nicely integrated into a dash that’s topped by soft-touch plastics. The same quality materials are used on the doors, while the window switches and other knobs and buttons are all good to touch and use. They also feel like they’re built to use, or at least to last longer than Kia’s seven-year warranty.
There’s more room inside than before – it’s surprisingly spacious in the back even though the rear headroom figure is the only one that has dropped (but to be fair, you could always comfortably wear a top hat in the car).
The boot has had a useful jump in size, too, rising to 315-litres of space with the seats up (that’s 34-litres more than before) and 1,339-litres with the seats down (up 448-litres).
The interior has been designed to offer ‘the emotional visualisation of sound’. That gives a nod to the importance of in-car entertainment and there’s a standard Harman Kardon system to listen to plus the option to play with the interior mood lighting to create a party atmosphere with lights pulsing to the beat of the music… or you can just have something a bit more chilled.
There’s plenty of tech inside with wireless phone charging, a 7-inch information screen between the dials, a head-up display and the expected smartphone connectivity for Android or Apple users.
You can download Kia’s UVO app, too, which will let you control the car’s climate control and charging time
On top of all that, you can get plenty of safety features including level two autonomous driving that will keep the car in lane and maintain a set distance from the car in front.
Kia chooses to put its EVs’ charging points at the front of the car – a wise move in our book – and the Soul EV will charge up from flat (which it should never be) on a standard home wall charger in 9 hours. It’ll get 80% of charge from a 50kw rapid charger in 75 minutes and the car’s charging sockets allow for AC or fast DC charging.
When you’ve prodded the start button and suffered an infuriating welcome jingle (you must be able to turn that off somehow), you twist the gear selector from N to D and glide away swiftly and silently.
The electric motor has hot-hatch-rivalling figures with 201bhp and 395Nm of torque, so if you really want to go for it you’ll get from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds. In town 0-30mph acceleration is more important and here it feels super-quick – handy for nipping in and out of traffic.
The front wheels of our Nexen-shod Soul scrabbled for grip a couple of times when we were brutal with the accelerator, but whatever drive mode you’re in, you’ll drive with a smile on your face.
As with most EVs, the most fun comes from the acceleration, but we weren’t fans of the steering in its current set-up. It feels too light and lacks the weight to its self-centring; you end up making too many minor adjustments as you’re driving. Select Sport mode and more weight is added and it feels better, bit it still feels artificial. It would be better if the Sport steering mode was the standard setting – hopefully Kia can tweak that before the car arrives in the UK at the end of the year.
Our Korean-spec cars rode reasonably well – a bit firm at times over nastier bumps (as many EVs are with all those heavy batteries to carry around), but it’s not uncomfortable. Kia has a habit of stiffening things up for Europe, but on this basis we’d hope it doesn’t bother.
As well as the Normal and Sport drive settings, there are Eco and Eco + modes – the latter eking out the maximum range by upping the brake energy regeneration and turning the air-con off. You can play with the levels of brake regeneration using paddles behind the steering wheel, too, holding the left one to get to the highest of four settings that will bring the car to a complete stop.
Kia has also fitted a battery heating system to improve the car’s efficiency in cold weather, while a heat pump helps on that score and the air-con is smart enough to direct air just to where it’s needed.
We’re big fans of the Soul EV’s bigger brother, the eNiro, so it stands to reason that we’d love the similarly–powered new Soul, too. However, the Soul seems have a more youthful spirit and more character, in keeping with the car’s slightly smaller size and funkier design. And Kia hopes it will be cheaper than the eNiro. A lot can happen between now and when the first cars arrive at the end of the year, but Kia would like it if the first cars could come in at just under £30,000 including the current government EV incentive.
Kia could have another ace up its sleeve, too. In some countries it’ll sell a Soul with a 39.2kWh battery, giving a range of 172 miles. It hasn’t decided if it will bring that to the UK yet, but given the speed with which its EV range has flown out of showrooms so far, we’d say that would be a wise move.
And on the subject of cars leaving showrooms, Kia promises that the supply problems – that mean it’s sold its entire allocation of eNiros for 2019 – will be fixed soon, so 2020 will be better. By which time it’ll have the Soul on sale, too.
- Model: Kia Soul EV
- Price: £29,950 (estimated after grant)
- Engine: Single electric motor
- Battery: 64kWh
- Power/torque: 201bhp/395Nm
- Transmission: Single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
- Range: 280 miles (WLTP)
- CO2: 0g/km
- On sale: End of 2019
Rate your car in our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey