Kia has had great success with its Soul five-door small wagon since its introduction a few years ago, both because of the way the vehicle looks and the cute TV ads with the hamsters. Now, the Korean automaker is taking the Soul to the next level with the Soul EV, an all-electric vehicle that gives Kia some serious green credentials.
With the Soul EV, Kia can continue to boast of the affordability of the vehicle. Compared with a number of other all-electrics, the Soul EV is much more within reach of those with modest incomes who want to be green on wheels.
The Soul got some styling tweaks from designer Peter Schreyer, whom Kia lured away from luxury brand Audi to give its vehicle lineup an injection of sophistication. For the Soul specifically, a little bit of the boxiness is gone, replaced by a little more sleekness. But the distinctive Soul look remains.
And the Soul has been praised for its roomy interior, thanks in part to that boxy design. The roominess is still present in the Soul EV, which only loses a little bit of room in the back seat because of the battery pack.
Of course, the design is something that you’ll either like or dislike – not much middle ground on this one. Which means if you like it, your next question is probably how far the Soul EV can go on a charge. The answer is approximately 86 miles, which isn’t bad.
So, if you’re a super commuter who drives a long way to take the kids to school, then has a lengthy trek to work, and might also do some other out and about stuff during your day, this, or any other plug-in electric only vehicle, is probably not right for you. But if you’ve got a pretty modest commute, and especially if your workplace is near a charging station, you’re good to go.
And Kia says it will provide the 240-volt charger free (well, we all know it’s built into the price of the vehicle, but still, not bad).
The Soul EV has a 27 kilowatt hour lithium ion battery. The motor makes 109 horsepower and an impressive 210 pounds-feet of torque. The Soul EV has an energetic yet smooth ride. Mind you, it’s not an ideal car for thrill rides, but if you’re going green, you shouldn’t be seeking thrill rides, right?
The Soul EV clocks in from 0 mph to 62 mph in a modest 11.2 seconds. But again, in both highway and urban settings, it proved to have adequate pickup for merging, passing and the like.
It is noticeably heavier than its gasoline powered sibling, carrying an extra 330 pounds, because of all the tech stuff needed to make it an electric only car. But it’s still more powerful than the Nissan Leaf, a car that has become wildly popular, especially in the Atlanta market.
The Soul EV, when charging on a 240 volt outlet, fills up in under five hours. You can also charge it on a 120 volt outlet or at a fast charge DC station, Kia says.
The Soul EV has two trim levels: base and EV+. Base starts at $33,700 and EV+ starts at $35,700. The Soul EV comes in three color schemes:black and red, blue and white and all white.
It offers rearview camera, navigation and Bluetooth standard, as well as a five-year subscription to Uvo eServices, a package of apps that link to your smartphone and do all kinds of neat things for you.
There’s a neat technology option – a heat-pump based climate control system that helps extend the range of the car. It can be tuned to driver only mode, so that if you’re driving alone, heating or cooling isn’t being wasted by being sent to empty seats. It can also heat or cool the interior while it’s linked to the charging station.
To further boost its greenness, the Soul EV has interior components made of plastics that are sourced from sugar cane and corn. When asked if these materials were cheaper than using regular stuff, a Kia official seemed to suggest that there is no cost saving involved, and in fact using this stuff might boost the cost a little. But Kia figured it was worth it to tout the green aspect. Nissan has done the same with its Leaf, using recycled plastic water bottles as a base ingredient for its seat material.
Kia has been in the U.S. market for 20 years now, and after an initially thoroughly unimpressive start, it has really found its stride in the last five years or so. It has focused on making quality, stylish cars and putting some slick marketing behind them.
And while the company acknowledges that there is still a sizable section of the buying public that perceives Kia as a low-quality brand, the company and the performance of its vehicles have made great progress in shrinking that segment. Getting into the electric only market probably will help with that objective as well, because let’s face it, smart people tend to buy eco-friendly vehicles.