Kia Soul EV hatchback
"The Kia Soul EV is a distinctive zero-emissions car with impressive performance"
- Cheap to run
- Great acceleration
- Small boot
- Expensive to buy
- Light steering
Many manufacturers are scrambling to introduce their first electric cars, but not Kia. The Kia Soul EV is now in its second generation, and it joins the highly regarded e-Niro in Kia's fully electric range. It also moves the Soul into a new, EV-only era, because it's no longer available with petrol or diesel engines.
While the original petrol Soul was a quirky, cheap and cheerful runaround, the new Soul EV is quite a bit more upmarket. It has a smoother, less polarising SUV-inspired design and the interior is well-appointed and equipped, as befitting a car that costs over £35,000 before the Government's Plug-in Car Grant is deducted.
Available only in the lavish First Edition trim, features such as a head-up display, wireless smartphone charging and a 10-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system all come as standard. There's plenty of room inside courtesy of the Soul's high roofline but the 315-litre boot may disappoint, as it's smaller than the boots in the latest crop of superminis.
The advanced technology underneath the Soul EV's body goes some way to justifying the car’s price. It's fitted with a large 64kWh battery pack - the standard Nissan Leaf has a 40kWh pack - and a potent 201bhp electric motor. This gives it an impressive driving range of up to 280 miles, along with acceleration from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Costing from around £33,000 after the Plug-in Car Grant is deducted, the Soul EV is quite expensive for a crossover-style hatchback. However, once on your driveway you'll start recouping money almost instantly. For a start, a full charge should only cost a few pounds, as opposed to around £50 for petrol or diesel. Road tax is also free for electric cars, a saving of £145 per year. Business buyers will also benefit from lower monthly payments, especially from spring 2020 when the Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rate drops to 0% for electric cars.
The Soul EV's range of 280 miles is almost identical to the 282 miles of the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia e-Niro, while surpassing the 200-mile range of the DS 3 Crossback E-Tense. It's not quite as fast to charge as the DS though because it's only able to accept up to 50kW via its Type 2 connection, which is half the 100kW of the DS. Charging at 50kW from a DC rapid charging station takes the battery pack up to 80% in just over an hour, while a standard plug takes around 9.5 hours.
A warranty might not usually be seen as a cost-saver but the Kia's seven-year standard policy certainly should be; you’ll save money on repairs over the seven years, and extending the warranties of most rivals (usually to just five years in length) costs hundreds of pounds.
Engines, drive & performance
Setting off in the Soul EV is begun by twisting its circular gear selector from N to D, after which you can drive away in near silence. It’s no slouch, with 201bhp and 395Nm of torque giving it hot hatch levels of power. Use all the electric motor's performance and the Soul can get from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds, while its 0-30mph is even brisker and lag-free, making nipping into gaps easy. It's possible to provoke some scrabbling from the front tyres if you’re too aggressive with the accelerator.
There are Normal, Sport and Eco driving modes - we found the steering too light in Normal and Eco, with little feel on offer. Play with the paddles behind the steering wheel and you can adjust the level of regeneration and the braking effect of the electric motor when you come off the accelerator. In the highest of the four settings this will bring the EV to a complete stop, allowing 'one-pedal' driving, where the conventional brakes are only really needed for more sudden stops.
Interior & comfort
Lugging around a heavy battery pack means many EVs end up with stiffer, less comfortable suspension. The Soul EV models we've tried so far rode fairly comfortably, with only sharper bumps sending a shudder inside.
If you've been disappointed with the interior quality of the older Soul, you could be in for a surprise because it's taken a noticeable step up in desirability with this latest model. Not only are there soft-touch plastics on top of the doors and dashboard, the switchgear feels good to press and twirl, and the 10.25-inch widescreen looks impressive. The larger screen also allows different pieces of information like the sat nav and trip computer or media to be displayed alongside each other.
Currently the Soul EV is only available in First Edition trim, which is a range-topping specification in Kia's other models. This includes a head-up display and seven-inch OLED screen within the instrument binnacle. Tech fans may also appreciate a wireless phone charger, rear-view camera and 10-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system with a subwoofer.
Practicality & boot space
While most electric cars struggle with boot space because of their large battery packs, the Soul EV's has jumped in size to 315 litres (a 34-litre upgrade on the previous model). That's still fairly compact for a crossover though - even the stylish DS 3 Crossback E-Tense boasts 350 litres, despite its more rakish roofline. Things get even worse if you compare the Soul EV against non-electric models like the Volkswagen T-Roc and MINI Countryman, which have around 450 litres of luggage space. If you need more space, you can fold down the rear seats to liberate up to 1,339 litres.
Reliability & safety
In theory, electric cars should be far more reliable than their combustion-engined counterparts. There are less moving parts and service items like spark plugs and oil filters, and energy recuperation takes a lot of strain off the brakes. This isn't Kia's first EV, so you'll be buying a model from one of the most experienced manufacturers of electric cars. The Soul is backed up with Kia's standard seven-year/100,000-mile warranty.
Kia also performs well in safety tests, and the Soul EV is loaded with the manufacturer's latest safety kit. This includes autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind-spot detection and systems to help warn of oncoming traffic when reversing.