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2015 Kia Soul EV

Thu, 16 Oct 2014

You'd be forgiven if you weren't fully aware of this vehicle's existence. While the Soul EV is a big deal for Kia, as it marks the Korean brand's first foray into the world of pure electric vehicles here in the US, it simply has not a been able to garner much regard from the average car fan or, really, the automotive press.

As a green car, it has to be tough to compete with Elon Musk's remarkable ability to consistently hold our attention with nearly everything he touches at Tesla. Add that to the fact that the Soul EV doesn't offer a ton in the way of aesthetics to differentiate itself from its gasoline-powered sibling – save a few tweaks here and there – and its limited initial availability (CA only for now), and you end up with a vehicle that just isn't on a lot of people's radar. And that's too bad.

You see, none of the above is meant to imply that this is a bad car. In fact, as you read through our driving notes, you'll see that the reality is actually the opposite: Kia has a genuinely solid product on its hands.

Driving Notes
  • Those limited exterior changes we spoke of include a larger, sealed-off 'Tiger Nose' grille with integrated charge port, blue-tinged lighting, unique front fascia, ultra-aerodynamic Cuisinart-spec alloy wheels, plus the obligatory badges and unique color and trim options.
  • The Soul EV employs an 81.4-kW electric motor fueled by a 27-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. The latter weighs a whopping 620 pounds with its warming system, taking the car's overall curb weight up to about 3,400 pounds. Considering that the regular Soul comes in at just 2,784, that added mass makes the Soul EV pretty hefty for a hamster.
  • In spite of the car's added weight, the instant torque provided by an electric powertrain means that acceleration is a hoot. It doesn't take much to get the tires to chirp when starting from a dead stop, and even though the 0-60 time isn't anything to write home about, the initial boost of power that the car experiences off of the line is enough to make scooting around town an enjoyable affair. All told, the powertrain makes 109 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque.
  • Electric vehicles have progressed in many ways over just the past few years, but one thing that impresses here is how much the feel of regenerative braking has improved. The Soul still suffers from a noticeable sharp-bite-then-fade when stopping or slowing down, but it's not nearly as jarring as EVs we've experienced in the past. This makes driving in traffic especially nice, which is particularly important since that's where the vast majority of EVs live.
  • Like the regular gas-powered Soul, this EV isn't really intended for aggressive drives along winding mountain roads, but I did it anyway, and I have to admit that I walked away impressed with its handling. Its electric power steering is on the heavier side, and is responsive to quick and minute inputs. The aforementioned weighty battery pack keeps the center of gravity very low, which inspires confidence when taking a turn at speed. All in all, the Soul EV is more about efficiency, and that's evidenced in its small wheels and super low rolling resistance tires that are geared more towards extending range than spirited handling. Even so, we'd venture to call this a fun little hatch to drive.
  • The Soul EV has a range of 93 miles, depending on how you're driving. That's a solid number – in fact, the Tesla Model S is the only electric that beats it, according to Kia – but there's still a limit to this vehicle's utility. Buyers in urban areas with short commutes should be able to get by owning just this vehicle, but for anyone in the suburbs, the Soul EV will likely serve as an addition to any potential buyer's existing fleet.
  • The Soul EV offers both an SAE J1772 port for Level 1 and Level 2 AC charging as well as a CHAdeMo DC fast-charging port (480v). Charging takes five hours with a 240-volt outlet, and using a 50-kW quick charger will give the batteries an 80-percent charge in as few as 33 minutes.
  • In many EVs built on an existing internal-combustion platform, there are noticeable bumps and/or indentations carved out for the battery pack – as a result, there's less room in the rear seats or the trunk. Hats off to Kia engineers, though, who have managed to shoehorn all of the cells into this model without sacrificing any interior space. Since a big selling point for the Soul has been the versatility of its spaciousness and cargo room, that's a big, big win.
  • Speaking of this Soul's interior, it's a really nice place to be. The new version of the gasoline-powered Soul has made tremendous strides in its improved cabin materials, ride and noise levels. Since this vehicle eschews the normal rumble of an internal combustion engine, it's even quieter, leaving only faint traces of road and wind noise to experience. Additionally, the seats are comfortable and Kia's newest iteration of its UVO infotainment system makes controlling media and other functions easy. Its EV-only digital instrument cluster is crisp and easy to read.
All told, this is one of the better EVs we've driven over the past couple years. That speaks to both Kia's aptitude for making a green vehicle, and just how much the genre has improved in a relatively short period of time in regards to their range, cost and overall driver experience. Heck, compared to the Nissan Leaf, this thing feels downright posh.

The Soul EV is not going to change the landscape of alternate-fuel vehicles, but it's a legitimately nice vehicle. For a driver in an urban area or for someone outside the city who wants something a little greener for grocery runs, this is a sensible and enjoyable option.

Vital Stats

Soul EV +
AC Synchronous Motor
109 HP / 210 LB-FT
Single-Speed Auto
0-60 Time:
11.8 (est)
Top Speed:
90 MPH (limited)
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,340 LBS
18.8 CU-FT
120 City / 92 HWY (MPGe)
Base Price:
As-Tested Price:
$36,500 (est)

By Michael Zak

See also: Kia's brand perception still painfully lags behind reality, Kia GT five-door approved, will tackle A7, Panamera, 2015 Kia Sorento shows its new face in fashion-forward Paris.