First Drive: Kia Soul EV
Clearly the styling is a moot point, and the aerodynamic alterations on the EV won’t sway opinions, but this is an underrated and clever car which works brilliantly in urban environments. It’s roughly the same length as a Nissan Juke, but deceptively roomy inside with its flat, boxy roofline, and cabin aesthetics have advanced markedly in the latest car, lifted further by a digital instrument cluster and large central touch screen which are unique to the electric version.
Packaging the battery under the front and rear seats has reduced leg space in the rear footwells, but the boot volume is unaffected. There are rivals with more volume, but few can match the upright loading capacity of the Soul, and the EV retains the flat load floor and wide-opening boot of its petrol and diesel counterparts which means it’s good for moving larger items when needed. For urban families needing versatility in a small footprint, this all works well.
As will the drivetrain. It’s Kia’s own, comprising a 109bhp electric motor and a larger-than-normal 27kWh battery, offering a range of up to 132 miles from a full charge. Performance is typically brisk off the mark, even in range-boosting Eco mode, and ride quality is excellent on its small aerodynamic wheels. On an urban route, with plenty of opportunity to use Eco mode and the increased regenerative braking, it indicated a range of around 100 miles.
To maximise versatility, Kia is bundling cables to suit a domestic plug, which will fully charge it in 10-13 hours, and another for public charging points and wallboxes, which cuts that down to nine. Soul EV customers will also get a free upgrade over the government-funded home wallbox grant, offering a full charge in four and a half hours, and uniquely that offer extends to company car drivers as well as retail buyers.
As an added string to its bow, the Soul EV uses the same charging system as the Nissan LEAF, which means it can take advantage of the best-established network of rapid chargers in the UK. This includes motorway services, some of which now have two compatible rapid chargers, IKEA stores and – as a backup when deviating from major routes – many Nissan dealers have them too. With an 80% charge available in less than half an hour, and the ability to handle even faster charging in future, this means it’s usable for longer trips when needed.
With pricing in line with key electric rivals and a generous level of standard equipment, the Soul EV actually makes a better case for itself in the UK than the diesel versions. Sales predictions may be cautious, at less than 200 in its first year, and dealer support stands at 13 sites nationwide, but urban drivers seeking a versatile electric car have plenty of reasons to investigate further.
This meeting of modern design and technology is one of the best electric cars on the market – a thoroughly capable, characterful piece of engineering which deserves wider appeal than petrol or diesel versions.
Type: Battery-electric vehicle
Price: £24,995 (after £5,000 Plug-in Car Grant)
Electric range: 132 miles
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 0g/km
Charging Port: J1772 AC and CHAdeMO DCFor more of the latest industry news, click here.