by Roger Biermann
First introduced in 2015, the Soul EV is the electric version of Kia's popular Soul hatchback/ subcompact crossover SUV. It has the same quirky styling as the normal Soul, except that instead of a traditional grille, it has a flap that covers the charging ports. There are only two models offered in the Soul EV range, and these are the base Soul EV and the Plus (+). Both models use the same electric motor connected to a lithium-ion battery that makes 81.4 kilowatts, which translates to 109 horsepower. Starting at around $34,000, the Soul EV has some stiff competition from the Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf, and Hyundai Kona Electric, amongst others in this fast-growing segment.
The 2019 model was given a battery capacity upgrade from 27 to 30 kWh by adding eight more cells to the battery pack. Additionally, for 2019 the Kia Soul EV gets a new five-inch driver display, as well as voice recognition and a rearview camera. Keep in mind that the Soul is due for a complete update with the new model arriving soon with an expected range of 243 miles compared to the 111-mile range of the current version.
The Soul EV is a very distinctive looking vehicle with a boxy shape that might not be to everyone's tastes. The front has big bug-like headlights with HID and LED lighting. Both the base Soul EV and the EV Plus feature 16-inch alloy wheels and LED daytime running lights, while the EV Plus gets the option of a panoramic sunroof.
The Kia Soul EV is a small car that looks big due to its boxy shape. Both the base model and the Plus are the same size and have similar dimensions. They both sit on a wheelbase of 101.2 inches and have a length of 163 inches. The Kia Soul EV has a height of 63 inches, a width of 70.9 inches and a ground clearance of 5.9 inches. Despite the addition of batteries, not much toll is taken on the Soul EV's weight, however, with both models tipping the scale at 3,289 lbs, less than 100 lbs more than the heaviest combustion-powered Soul.
Both the base model and the Plus share six exterior colors, with an additional hue for the higher specification Plus model. Shared colors include Clear White, Cloud White, Bright Silver, Titanium Grey, Shadow Black, and Caribbean Blue, the latter paired with a clear white roof. The Plus model gets an exclusive two-tone combination called Shadow Black and Inferno Red which gives it a modern, sporty look. The Soul EV misses out on luminous hues like Wild Orange and Alien II found on the combustion models.
Both the base and the Plus models share the same electric motor, which is connected to a new 30-kWh lithium-ion battery. The electric motor driving the front wheels is rated at 109 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque, enabling acceleration from 0-60 mph in 11.2 seconds, which is slower than the Chevy Bolt at 6.5 seconds and Nissan Leaf at 7.4 seconds. The top speed of the Soul EV is only 90.1 mph, limited for the sake of preserving range.
One of the drawbacks of the Soul EV is its range. When the Soul EV first came out a range of around 100 miles was acceptable on an electric vehicle. Now that technology has improved, that sort of range is unacceptable, especially when rivals like the Chevy Bolt have a range of 238 miles.
Both the base model and the Plus use the same electric motor connected to a 30-kWh battery pack. It produces 109 hp and 210 lb-ft. Like other electric cars, the Soul EV has no conventional gears and just has a one-speed direct drive transmission at the front axle.
The Soul EV has great acceleration when taking off due to the instant torque that the electric motor provides. Unfortunately, this surge of power dies down pretty fast as the Soul EV picks up speed. By the time it reaches 60 mph, the acceleration has considerably dropped off and it begins to feel sluggish but bearable. This doesn't bode well for highway driving, and high-speed overtakes take a hefty amount of forward planning with the driver willing the Soul on to make it past whatever obstacle blocks their path.
It shows the age of the Soul EV's powertrain, as newer offerings from within the Hyundai/Kia group are far more practical in this regard and offer vastly improved performance. Take the Kona Electric, for example, with hot-hatch rivaling acceleration paired with a massive range.
Driving a car with no engine noise feels a bit strange at first, but starts to feel comfortable in no time. The Soul EV emits a low electronic noise at low speeds to warn pedestrians of the oncoming vehicle but becomes silent after the Soul EV passes 20 mph. There is a little kick when the Soul EV takes off, but it's short-lived and as the car picks up speed, it peters out.
It's easy enough to drive but nowhere near as quick and nimble as the gasoline-powered Soul, and the placement of the battery under the seats has an impact on the driving maneuverability and cornering of the Soul EV, resulting in it feeling wobbly and unpredictable at times. This suggests a change in the Soul's suspension setup too, which is a pity since the regular Soul was sublime in this regard.
The steering has a natural and intuitive feel, which is more than can be said for the brakes. Due to the regenerative braking, the brakes have a very mushy feel and it's hard to tell how much pressure to put. There are settings to change the amount of brake regeneration, but the driver won't feel much of a difference.
The Soul EV only has a short range of 110 miles. For people who do low mileage, or live in areas where charging stations are abundant, this won't be an issue, but for those that do long distance driving, things could get difficult. To make charging as easy as possible the Soul EV comes with a normal AC charger which can charge the battery between 10 and 29 hours depending on the power source (Level I or II). The provided DC fast charger works at fast-charge stations and can charge the Soul EV to full in around 50 minutes in ideal conditions.
Compared to more modern electric vehicles, the Kia Soul EV's 111-mile range is very low. Rivals such as the Chevy Bolt boast a range of 238 miles, while the Hyundai Kona has gone beyond that still, highlighting the age of the Soul EV and proving it's in dire need of a replacement.
Both base and Plus models are fairly spacious and comfortable compared to other cars in this category. The Soul EV has a similar interior to the gasoline-powered model, but instead of black, it has a futuristic grey and white interior. The sporty looking three-spoke steering wheel with lots of controls dominates the cabin while the easy to use infotainment unit sits dead center of the dash for easy use. The overall finish, while not premium standard, still looks fantastic due to its unique colors and clean lines. Passengers have the option of either cloth or leather seats depending on the trim, and the seats have a high position which is fairly comfortable. Despite battery packs housed under the rear seats, rear seat space is still generous for this segment, one of the Soul EV's highlights.
The Kia Soul EV claims to be a five-seater, but realistically, four adults can sit most comfortably. The seating position is high-up, giving a great all-around view and due to the big doors, it's easy to get in and out. The front seats offer typically generous seating space for taller and broader adults, but in the rear, some toe room has been sacrificed due to the Soul EV's batteries being stored under the seats. The rear seats are still generous for taller occupants, though, with 39.5 inches of headroom and only 36 inches of legroom nearly matching the figures up front and catering for regular adults. Both models have driver's seats that are six-way adjustable with standard heating on both front seats, while the Plus adds ventilation to the mix.
The two models of the Soul EV come in different interior colors. The base model has the option of two-tone gray cloth with sky blue stitching or two-tone gray cloth with gray stitching. The Plus model gets either synthetic gray leather with sky blue accents or synthetic gray leather with black accents. To match the gray seats, the steering wheel is also gray, with the dashboard following suit and adding chrome and gloss white accents around the shift knob and infotainment unit. The Kia Soul EV has a unique, futuristic look on the interior although the gloss white looks a bit flimsy and will probably scratch easily.
The Soul EV has decent cargo space for its class but loses some of the space of the gasoline version due to the battery pack occupying some space in the trunk. As such, it has a respectable 18.8 cubic feet of cargo space with all the seats in place, and 49.5 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded down - they do so in a 60/40 split. In comparison, the Nissan Leaf has 23.6 cubic feet with the seats up while the Chevy Bolt only has 16.9 cu-ft.
The Kia Soul also has ample internal storage space, including a large glove box, as well as storage pockets on the front and rear doors, overhead console with storage, front seatback storage, and front and rear cupholders.
The Soul EV boasts digital instrumentation which displays the battery information
such as level and range in addition to the normal information. It also comes with a fairly high level of standard equipment like a rearview camera, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, heated steering wheel, a trip computer, power windows, and smart key with push-button start. It also comes with automatic climate control, pedestrian warning system, heated front seats, and a tire monitoring system. The Plus model comes with ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and park assist with front and rear sensors. LED interior lighting and speaker lights are optional features on both the base and Plus models.
Another strong point of the Soul EV is the infotainment unit. Unlike many cars out there, the Soul EV has an infotainment unit which is intuitive to use with both the steering wheel-mounted controls and console-mounted dials and knobs, positioned conveniently for both the driver and passenger to use. There's also an eight-inch touchscreen with rearview camera, six speakers, built-in navigation, SiriusXM HD radio with three months' subscription, Bluetooth connectivity, as well as a USB and auxiliary input. Both models also come standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, as well as Kia's UVO system which allows for users to perform vehicle diagnostics, set curfews, use their mobile and more using voice commands. Unlike the gasoline version, the Soul EV has no option of adding a Harmon Kardon premium audio system.
The Soul EV has a great reliability record with no complaints and no recalls. That said, the volume of Kia Soul EV sales is very low compared to the gasoline models with sales restricted to a few states only. Kia is a leader in terms of warranties, and as with all its cars, the Soul EV gets a basic warranty of five years/60,000 miles, a powertrain warranty of ten years/ 100,000 miles, rust warranty of five years/ 100,000 miles, and roadside assist of five years/ 100,000 miles. In addition to these warranties, the Soul EV also gets a ten year/100,000 warranty on the EV battery.
Unfortunately, the Kia Soul EV hasn't been tested by the NHTSA or the IIHS as of yet. However, the gasoline-powered version, on which the EV is based, was chosen as a 2019 Top Safety Pick by the IIHS due to its great safety, and it also has a best possible five-star rating with the NHTSA.
While the Soul EV has a decent level of safety features, it still lacks many collision prevention features that are found on some of its rivals. It does, however, get a rearview camera, dual front airbags, dual front seat-mounted side airbags, full curtain airbags, a rollover sensor, ABS brakes, brake assist, hill-start assist, vehicle stability management, and a tire pressure monitoring system. Unfortunately, some of the driver aids such as blind-spot detection, forward collision mitigation aren't offered on either of the Soul EV trims.
The Kia Soul has a lot going for it. It has a stylish interior that is unique and functional, as well as decent ride and handling. It also has a comfortable driving position and a decent amount of interior space for passengers. Cargo space is larger than most of its rivals with massive trunk space, as well as enough storage for small items. Overall, the Kia Soul is a solid car with great features.
Despite all the good features, the Soul EV's Achilles' heel is the dismal range of only 111 miles. With most new electric vehicles having more than twice the range of the Soul EV, it's at a huge disadvantage. With such low range, it might be wiser to wait for the replacement model that is imminent rather than buying the 2019 model.
The base model Kia Soul EV has an MSRP price of $33,950 and the Plus goes for $35,950. These prices exclude any registration, licensing, tax, and a destination fee of $995. Being fully electric, the Soul EV is eligible for a maximum federal rebate of up to $7,500. There are also state rebates, for example in California and Oregon, with discounts up front at the time of purchase as well as HOV lane eligibility. In comparison, the Nissan Leaf starts at $29,990, the Chevrolet Bolt at $36,620, and the Volkswagen e-Golf at $31,895, making the Soul EV a middle-of-the-road option in price.
The Kia Soul EV only comes in two models, namely the base model and the Plus. Both are front-wheel drive and powered by an electric motor connected to a battery to make 109 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque. They also have a range of 111 miles, as well as many other shared features.
The base model comes a standard with power windows, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, eight-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port, AM/FM radio, three months of paid SiriusXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Kia's UVO system. The base model also gets cruise control, keyless entry, push-button start, a heated steering wheel, and heated mirrors, amongst many other features.
The Plus has the same features as the base model but adds multi-level heating and front fog lights, while the Sun and Fun package adds a panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, ventilated front seats and leather upholstery.
With a limited line-up and low sales volumes, there aren't many options to add to the Soul EV.
The Sun and Fun Package is only available on the Soul EV Plus, and for a fee of $1,100, it adds a panoramic sunroof, LED interior lighting, and speaker lights.
In addition to the packages available, there are also other accessories available such as wheel locks for $55, puddle lamps for $260, carpet floor mats for $135, and a cargo net for $50.
Since both of the models share most of the same features and have the same performance, as well as space, it's a difficult decision, but the base model comes out on top. It has the same infotainment unit, as well as most of the comfort and convenience features of the Plus model, and has a more affordable price of $33,950, so $2,000 cheaper than the Plus. For the extra $2,000, the Plus model fails to motivate itself well enough for us to recommend it. In truth though, you'd be better off looking at a pricier rival like the Hyundai Kona Electric, or waiting until next year's all-new Soul EV.
The Soul EV and Nissan Leaf have completely different styling, with the Soul EV taking the form of a crossover and the Leaf looking more like a conventional hatchback. Due to its shape and size, the Soul EV has much more interior space, as well as cargo space. The Soul also has a longer warranty, but Nissan has more dealerships should there be any issues with the vehicle. However, the Nissan Leaf wins in the critical areas of performance, range, and price. The Leaf also has a power advantage of 147 hp to the Soul EV's 109 hp. But where the Leaf cements its dominance is in its range, offering 151 miles on a charge while the Soul only lasts for 111 miles. Considering that the Soul EV starts at $33,950, and the Leaf starts at $30 000, getting the Leaf seems the obvious choice.
In the compact EV game, Chevrolet has leaped to the front of the pack with the outstanding Bolt EV. But the Bolt is substantially smaller than the Soul, and as such lacks the cargo and interior volume of the Korean offering. Additionally, the Soul has better warranty coverage in case this fairly new tech goes wrong. But that's where the Soul EV's advantages end, as the Bolt has far better safety options with standard surround vision, and optional low-speed automatic braking, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, and cross path warnings. Crucially, the Bolt is a rapid performer, and is capable of a range of 238 miles on a single charge, more than double that of the Soul EV. The Bolt may be more expensive, but in most aspects that count when buying an EV, it's superior, which is why we recommend the Bolt.