GOT SOUL 2015 KIA SOUL EV DRIVEN
KiA SouL EV - Kia’s first electric car offers 132 miles of range and plenty of technology but what is it like?
WORDS: Jonathan Musk. PHOTOS: Lucy Hargrave.
At first, Kia’s Soul EV seems to be nothing more than an ordinary old Soul. Scratch the surface and it is much more.
Having decided an electric car is for you, today there are now more options than ever before. Kia’s Soul EV is one of the latest introductions, being relatively late to market as compared to competition like the now well-established Nissan LEAF.
On the face of it, the Soul EV is simply a standard Soul that has been converted to electric drive. Dig a little deeper and it becomes plain to see there is far more on offer here and this car has not simply been a re-hashed petrol/diesel car to get Kia into the electric vehicle market.
To begin with, Kia have developed a class leading battery, which has a specific energy higher than any other electric vehicle currently on sale. In practice, this means the Soul EV is equipped with a powerful 27kWh battery, capable of powering the Soul EV to for an estimated 132 miles before needing to recharge. More about this later.
Our first drive in the Soul EV was around the streets of London. There, it was at ease amongst busy lanes and standstill traffic where the electric drive proved responsive and relaxing in equal measures.
Looks are standard #Kia
Soul apart from a few details, which mark it out as a little different. Firstly, gone is the front grille of the petrol/diesel version and in place Kia have smoothed it over and used the space to hide the charge ports.
Aside from this, the Soul EV sports some fancy UFO white wheels and a few subtle EV badges. The Soul EV is only available in only two colours; blue with white roof, or ‘titanium silver metallic,’ so customisation is not something a new Soul EV owner should expect. Upholstery is restricted to a single option; grey.
The word ‘adequate’ sums the Soul EV up perfectly. Around town, the instant throttle response with the electric drive means that it feels nippy and quick, at least to 30mph, which is all you’re ever likely to reach around town anyway. Moving onto country lanes, the weight of the car makes itself apparent, but if just used as a cruiser it feels extremely well poised due to the low centre of gravity. The steering wheel is home to a button that controls the responsiveness of the steering and switches between three modes. As you would expect from a purely electricity driven car, the motor is silent and only exhibits a subtle whine when pushed hard. A silent ride is an area the Soul EV scores highly too, as there is very little road or ambient noise audible in the cabin. It makes the Soul EV feel far more refined than many of its competitors, for example the e-Golf, which had unacceptably high levels of rear tyre noise.
Our average miles/kWh was an overall 4.8 at the end of our week with the Soul EV and it wasn’t always driven like a Good Samaritan. Motorway driving in the Soul EV is a similarly rewarding affair, with the car displaying plenty of power all the way to its reasonable, but low, top speed of 90mph. Acceleration from the 81.4-kW, 109bhp electric motor to 60mph is on a par with its immediate competition, but there has been no attempt to make it into a performance machine. Kia has made the right judgement for a car of this size and shape. The Soul EV is a very well judged car in terms of the way that it drives and given the keys to the LEAF, e-Golf and Soul EV, we’d likely go for the latter. Whilst in our charge, we put the Soul EV through several airport runs and it easily coped with both luggage and passengers and although the additional weight undoubtedly required more energy to push the car along, efficiency and performance appeared mostly unaffected. If desperate to eke out the maximum range, there is also a handy ‘eco’ switch that turns off unnecessary ancillaries and limits power too.
Allegedly, the Soul is marketed as an SUV, although we feel it might be more akin to a tall hatch as there’s little to indicate that it is any larger in any other respect than height. This does give a pleasingly raised driving position, but that is about all there is to report. However, looking beyond the obvious, subtle tweaks here and there appear to have made a marked difference. The gear stick is much like a standard automatic shifter, but controls the regenerative level between ‘D’ and ‘B’, as per a Nissan LEAF. It’s becoming standard fare for EVs and it works, so no reinventing the wheel here. Making a welcome appearance in the cabin is a subtle addition, by way of a, ‘Driver Only’ button. This has the effect of turning off any ventilation to the passenger and rear occupants, saving energy that would otherwise be wasted by blowing air where it isn’t required.
This simple little trick doesn’t give a driver hundreds more miles, but it does go to show Kia have given the electric driving experience quite a bit of thought. The excellent computer reiterates this too and provides every conceivable setting and information screen you could possibly hope for. It is more akin to a fixed position eightinch tablet computer, rather than an in-car entertainment module.
Due to the positioning of the batteries under the floor, rear occupants do have a slightly raised floor level but there is still plenty of space for knees, bags and other assorted items that worm their way into our lives. Materials are soft but hard wearing and the overall fit and finish is excellent. It reminded us most of a Nissan LEAF’s cosy interior, rather than the Teutonic solidity of the VW e-Golf.
Boot capacity is plentiful and there is a false floor where electric cables are stored, but there is space enough to tuck in a picnic blanket or pair of shoes. In comparison to the non-electric Soul, the EV does lose around 30-litres of boot stowage capacity, but in practice the clever Kia engineers have managed to hide-away all sign of large batteries extraordinarily well.
The aforementioned driver-only button is but one aspect of the climate and heating controls in the Soul EV. Of course, no components could be used from the non-electric version and so a new approach was taken. Kia engineers installed a very energy efficient system called HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning). The system recycles air that has already been heated or cooled within the cabin. As little as possible fresh air is added to maintain the desired temperature and humidity. Satellite navigation is very good, one of the best we’ve seen in any car, and the menu system is simple to operate for anyone even remotely familiar with a touch screen. Controls are well laid out, designed and there is clear evidence someone has actually bothered to try and test it. It is modern, functional and coherent. The Soul EV doesn’t lack for anything either and every acronym you can name – and some you can’t – has been installed, whether you’ll use them or not. Giving the car a little ‘soul’, are the mood lit speakers mounted on the doors. There is a choice of two modes, and ‘off’. The first setting aims to pulse the lights in time with whatever music you’re listening to and the louder the beat, the brighter the light. The second cycles through the light spectrum and gently provides some ambient light to the cabin, in time to music. It is a little over the- top, but quite fun and does offer a glimpse at the Soul’s less serious side. The most abundant technological aspects of the Soul EV cannot be seen, however, as efforts have been concentrated on both the powertrain and batteries.
Kia went to great lengths to improve the fast-charge ability of the lithium-ion battery, by cleverly playing with the separator material, anode and cathode. It’s a scientific engineering approach, which is exactly what’s needed when building an electric car. No longer is it acceptable to rely on old-school mechanics and the Koreans have, expectedly, risen to the challenge. Because the Soul EV only comes in one trim level, every car is fully equipped. Without listing it all, here’s a brief summary of the seemingly endless list: Keyless entry, sat nav with European maps and traffic, rear parking assist camera plus sensors both front and rear, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, Bluetooth connectivity, DAB, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, cruise control, speed limit, auto lights, auto wipers, cabin climate timer and charge timer control. It is a very long list. Although we doubt Kia will approve, the Soul EV does give the impression that if Samsung were to make a car, it would end up like this.
We found the #Kia-Soul
EV extremely good at managing its energy use. Furthermore, its range calculator appeared to be very well judged, which helped alleviate any range anxiety that might otherwise have crept in. We were left feeling that we could well believe the class-leading claimed range of 132 miles – not something that can be said of a few other EVs we’ve driven. Our average energy use was 4.8miles/kWh, which when combined with the 27kWh battery equates to a healthy 129 mile range. As mentioned previously, we didn’t exactly drive cautiously either, as one of the perks of this job is to perform a thorough test! While testing the car, the climate was warming up in the UK (despite what the heavy sky pictures might imply) and although the Soul EV does not feature a liquid cooled battery pack, which has proven to be effective for other cars, Kia are keen to state that it shouldn’t be a problem. Certainly plenty of cold weather winter testing was undertaken before the final sign off, if that’s anything to go by. That said, even if range does drop in cooler climes, the fact is the battery still has more energy capacity than competing models offer. A final ‘geek’ fact is that Kia has opted for wafer type battery cells, rather than the more common cylindrical type found in the majority of its competitors. Allegedly, these are better able to store electrolyte.
Kia has had the foresight to install a convenient popopen flap at the front of the Soul EV, where the radiator grille would be found on a non-electric Soul. This neat design hides both a three-pin and #CHAdeMO
socket and is illuminated well, avoiding unnecessary stabs in the dark. As is usual, 0-80% charge with DC takes around 30 minutes, while normal AC charging from 0-100% on a 6.6kW charger is within 4.5 hours.
It is certain Kia will not want returns during the excellent 7-year warranty that comes as standard with all Kia, Soul EV included, and this comes across in almost every aspect of the Soul EV. Amazingly, Kia officially and publicly stated they only expect to sell around 100 Soul EVs annually in the UK. Not every Kia dealership will be trained to sell them either, so should one be desired, it is best to check their website to see if your local dealer has one. Qualifying for the PICG helps the Soul EV shed £5,000 off its asking price and resultantly it can be had for £24,995. At first glance, this might seem like a big ask, it isn’t. Considering its comprehensive equipment list, rewarding driving experience, excellent acoustic properties and relatively fun nature we have no problem in highly recommending the Soul EV. When compared to top spec competitors such as the e-Golf and LEAF, the only thing the LEAF Tekna offers over it is leather upholstery. In every other respect, the Soul EV is every bit as good as the best selling LEAF – and in many cases better. The computer is a particular delight and a genuine pleasure to use. And, considering the realistic driving range of 132 miles, the Soul EV is perhaps the best electric car experience to be had for under £30,000.
LEFT CHAdeMO & 3-pin sockets are hidden behind the front charge flap.
RANGE Suited to all driving environments, town, country and motorway, the 132 mile range makes itself useful.
INTERIOR There may be a vast array of buttons, but the Soul EV’s interior has excellent fit & finish. It certainly isn’t lacking in equipment either, with electric seats and steering wheel as standard. The computer is sensible, attractive and functional. Refined driving and good sound insulation add to the quality feel.
Specification #2015 #Kia-Soul-EV
Motor - AC Synchronus
Power - 109 hp
Max Speed - 90 mph
0-62 mph - 10.2 sec
Battery - Li-ion 27 kWh
EV Range - 132 miles
Torque - 285 Nm
Fuel Type - Electricity
EV Economy - 4.8 m/kWh
Charging - CHAdeMO, 3-pin
CO2 Emissions - 0 g/km
Weight (kerb) - 1,588 kg
Length - 4,140 mm
Width - 1,800 mm
Height - 1,593 mm
Price inc. PICG - £24,995 OTR
LEFT TO RIGHT FROM TOP Rear occupants will be comfy and have plenty of space. Boot is generous and has handy underfloor storage (filled with cables). Handy USB and aux ports are guarded by two 12V sockets.
DRIVER ONLY button is a neat idea. Gearstick selects between D and B modes. 8-inch touch screen computer is a joy to use.
REAR VIEW From the back, there is little to differentiate the Soul EV from a petrol or diesel Soul.