6.3.2020Kia Soul EV UK first drive
Having had an early opportunity to test drive the latest Kia Soul EV, we’ve now had the chance to drive it on UK roads. Now only available as a pure-electric model, Kia’s Soul looks to build on the success of recent electric cars from the Hyundai Kia Group. Sharing a powertrain with the excellent e-Niro, the Soul EV adds a bit more style and youthful appeal to Kia’s pure-electric line-up. We head to the Kia Soul EV’s UK launch to see how it gets on.
Review by Chris Lilly
Those that decide such matters have decreed that the UK will have one option of Soul EV - the 64 kWh version. Other markets get a smaller battery model too, but there is certainly enough demand in the UK for the longer-range Soul EV here. It sees the Kia powered by a 150 kW electric motor, good for a 0-62 mph time of 7.9 seconds. It’s sprightly then, and as with many EVs, feels quicker than the sprint time might suggest. The instant pick-up from the electric motor sees shorter dash dispatched rapidly, and the Soul EV can’t be criticised for a lack of performance. It continues its predecessor’s comfort at motorway speeds, though is clearly more suited to urban roads and twister routes. Here, the brake energy recuperation system will help boost range, rather than sit at a constant speed. The braking performance is very good too, with four settings to allow for one-pedal driving much of the time. With plenty of oomph from the motor and strong braking performance, the Soul EV can prove a genuinely enjoyable drive.
The Soul EV may be a tall car, but with a square footprint, wheels pushed into each corner, and a low centre of gravity thanks to the battery placed in the floor, the Kia drives well. It’s fairly stiffly sprung, which will put some buyers off over the likes of a Nissan Leaf or Kia e-Niro for example - those which prefer a more comfortable ride - but it’s not uncomfortable. The stiffness in the springs means the Soul EV corners well both in town and on country roads, with a good level of grip available from the front-wheel drive car. In cold, wet, and slippery conditions, a big boot of throttle saw the car struggle to put the power down, but that’s no worse than a great number of EVs. In tight confines, the compact crossover proves well suited to town driving, while it offers solid performance on open roads. There are more comfortable motorway cruisers, but the Soul EV still performs well here, and on A- or B-roads, the Kia keeps body roll to a minimum. The steering is well weighted if a little lacking in feedback, and turning is precise. Over rougher surfaces, the ride can shudder a little, particularly over shallow but consecutive pot-holes. In general, it’s very well set-up for a good all-round driving experience, and the Soul EV will appeal to a great many buyers.
The new Soul EV is certainly a Soul in terms of design, but Kia has managed to position the new styling somewhere between evolution and revolution. The squared-off shape remains, and Kia has retained some features that retain the Soul lineage, but it’s a far sharper design than before. I like it, and it’s certainly more striking than the Kia e-Niro. Bright paint options with contrasting roofs help the Soul EV stand out, and the Kia certainly catches the eye. It’s a design that translates well in terms of practicality too. The Soul EV has a more practical interior than its closest rival, the Hyundai Kona Electric. A squarer shape and higher roofline make for space inside for four adults, and the boot - whilst not cavernous - is certainly of a useful size. There’s a little space under the floor for storage too, handy for cables and the like.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Kia’s latest infotainment system is a clear benefit in the new Soul EV’s interior. The widescreen set-up has good quality graphics, is responsive, and versatile in terms of displays - at least those are initial impressions. Set into the centre console, the system retains some manual shortcuts beneath the screen, which always speeds things up on the move. The driver gets a good-sized digital display as part of the instrument cluster, which also has plenty of functionality. The set-up is easy to read, complements the infotainment screen, and the overall impression is one of a high-tech and high quality car. The feeling is matched by impressions of interior quality. Materials used are of good quality, and fit and finish feels excellent, as you would expect from a Kia. There’s a little less individuality from the latest Soul EV over the last. Instead, the Soul EV has grown up somewhat, and splashes of gloss black trim inside help add an air of class to what would otherwise be a somewhat drab cabin. Visibility is generally good, and there’s plenty of light able to get into the cabin thanks to the large amount of glass surrounding the place. The C-pillars can get in the way a little over the rear three-quarter view, but generally visibility is good, and there is a reversing camera to help with backing up. It’s not a cabin to sell the Soul EV to customers by itself, but it’s a good interior and one that certainly doesn’t let the side down.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The key figure here is Kia’s 280 mile range on a single charge. It’s a very good figure, and although not quite class leading, it’s certainly up there. For the money, there are only a handful of rivals that can offer a better driving range, and as such, the Soul EV is a very appealing proposition in the electric car market. Driving range couldn’t be fully tested during our day’s driving, as the route was never going to push things in this respect. However, the Kia stood up to a pretty comprehensive test. The route around Henley and the Chilterns included country roads, town driving, and motorway work - including the long climb up to the Stokenchurch Gap on the M40. Temperatures were chilly too, to the extent that there was a good covering of snow on top of the hills, so the route and conditions put the Soul EV through a tough test. An average rating of 3.2 miles/kWh - after sharing with another driver - puts the range on this drive at a little over 200 miles on a charge, though I suspect this would be lower than a typical average. Having usually found the WLTP-derived figures to be pretty accurate, in normal conditions, a range of at least 250 miles or so in warmer conditions wouldn’t be a surprise. Having tested the Soul EV in Germany in spring last year, I calculated a range of 270 miles on a charge, which backs this up. We’ll get the Soul EV on a week’s test at a later date for a more thorough look at the Kia’s range.
With a very good driving range and pure-electric drive, the Soul EV scores highly in the green stakes. There is plenty to support drivers too, with charging possible at up to 100 kW DC via the CCS inlet. Charging on AC using the Type 2 inlet is possible at up to 7.2 kW. Kia reckons the Soul EV is 30% more efficient than Europe’s current best-selling vehicle, aided by the four-stage brake recovery system. This can automatically slow the car down prioritising brake regen, or can be controlled by the driver by using the paddles behind the steering wheel. By holding the left paddle, the car will come to a complete stop, whilst setting the car into the lowest setting will allow the Kia to coast. A heat pump improves the efficiency of the heating and ventilation system, and there is a drive mode select system which includes Eco, Eco+, Normal, and Sport. The latest infotainment system includes Kia’s Uvo connected car system, which allows status checks and control via an app, helping with pre-conditioning and charger timing.
The Kia Soul EV comes well equipped, with kit including 17-inch alloys and the 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system including Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, DAB radio, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity. A 10-speaker Harmon Kardon stereo is also fitted, as are a head-up display, brake region paddles, Uvo Connect system, a suite of safety systems, drive mode select, wireless phone charger, reversing camera with rear parking sensors, 7-inch driver’s instrument display, smart cruise control, and LED headlights.
The Soul EV is an excellent addition to Kia’s line-up; both electric and otherwise. Kia has a great range of cars currently, and the Soul EV complements the range nicely. It’s more compact and stylish than the superb e-Niro, whilst retaining a high level of equipment, practicality, and efficiency. The range is going to attract a great many buyers, and the price is in line with what you can expect from a mass-market EV with this driving range. Add in Kia’s market leading seven-year warranty, and the Soul EV is a top-class proposition.
Model tested:Kia Soul EV
Engine / CO2:150 kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades:Only one
On-road price: ￡33,795 (after PiCG)
Warranty: Seven years / 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.5 Stars