by Chris Wall
Kia's Soul is an odd-looking compact SUV with bold and almost square styling reminiscent of the Scion SB, which is a big part of it's appeal over the current design trend that usually features rounded shapes. The Soul range has a spec for most needs and adding three electric versions (one for California only) has widened the car's appeal. The KIA Soul EV starts at $33,950 and that gets you an electric car with a permanent magnetic AC synchronous motor rated at an equivalent of 109 hp with 210 lb-ft of torque.
Inside the Kia Soul EV things are much the same as in the generic gasoline-powered one, but things are more tailored to fans of the tech side of life. There's the 6-way power adjusting driver's seat that's also heated and ventilated and is covered in biomaterial trim. This means that 19 interior components including the dash are made from corn and cane sugar extracts. It's the same for the seating, the gray cloth seats with blue-stitching are eco-friendly, again thanks to corn and sugar cane extracts that replace over 80% of the petroleum-based polyester used to cover seats.
Space is good, 5 adults can fit in reasonable comfort but it's better in the non-EV version, and when the 60/40 split seats are dropped then storage space is quite good. Just like with the exterior styling, there are some funky touches, like the ambient lighting. Of course if the bio finishings aren't of interest then there is the option of leather available, and that also comes with the contrasting blue piping.
The Kia Soul EV's electric powerplant is responsive as usually found with electric vehicles; the torque is good for the car's size and is enough to make sure the drive doesn't feel labored. It's not fast but the ride quality makes up for it, it's rather composed and thanks to the battery weight being more towards the back, it actually makes for a better handling package overall than what you get in the standard Kia Soul.
The batteries increase the overall weight of the Soul and that is felt when driving the car. Stopping distances are bigger and even with some electronic aids in play; you need to keep this in mind. Various tests show the EV version of car can take nearly 20 feet more to stop over the gasoline version. The suspension is good; it's been tweaked to accommodate the heavier overall package and keeps it composed when throwing it around.
The word performance and the name Kia rarely go together, even less so when you add an electric powerplant into the mix. Luckily the point of Kia's electric Soul isn't performance, it's made to be a people carrier that saves on costs and emissions and helps the environment. 109 electric horses aren't ever going to great any speed records and that's evident with the car hitting the 60 mph mark in just under 10-seconds. The 27-kWh battery pack doesn't hold as much charge as rival cars; in fact it can only get you a maximum of 93 miles on a full charge. That's enough mileage for daily driving for most people, but you'll have a problem taking the family on a decent road trip across the country.
You'll find a lot of the regular Kia Soul in this electric version with a few tweaks tailored for this specific setup. There's an 8-inch color screen heading up the infotainment system, but the EV version has some different screens to monitor and display functions specific to electric cars. UVO eco shows real time data on the battery life and where charging stations are. There's also a rear camera, a 6-speaker sound system, a multifunction steering wheel and the most of the usual features seen these days. Safety includes 6 airbags, a pedestrian warning system and vehicle stability management.
The Kia Soul EV and EV+ do look good, and are easily identifiable by the different front grille that's no longer open to allow for airflow, because cooling isn't needed. The electric compact SUV has good styling inside and out and is also lucky enough to handle better than the gasoline equivalent Soul. The Kia Soul EV does lose out to recent competitors in the electric vehicle market when it comes to the range possible on a full charge, just 93 miles.