Kia’s Soul targets hearts and minds
Kia’s latest Soul EV has a genuinely useful real-world range, useful tech and it’s comfortable, says Craig Thomas
Slowly, surely, car buyers are beginning to be won over by electric cars.
Many people are discovering the switch from conventional cars to electric vehicles is easier than they expected. Though, clearly, switching from the familiar internal combustion engine (ICE) to an electric motor will seem a much bigger change for some people than it will others.
In practice, getting used to plugging in a car, rather than visiting a petrol station, might end up not being such a huge adjustment after all. Some people will just see the advantages; especially those who will give it no more thought than plugging in a smartphone before bed and waking to find it fully charged.
For now it’s still early days. EVs currently make up a fraction of the sales of new vehicles. Part of the reason for this is that there are relatively few electric models on sale at the moment, although that is all set to change over the next few years.
One model, which is available now, is the second generation Kia Soul, which is launching with a number of improvements.
The original Soul EV arrived in the UK in 2014, with a 27kWh battery and an official range of just 132 miles; meaning real-world range was a lot less. This second generation model is considerably more promising. Equipped with a much larger 64kWh battery, it has a range of 280 miles, which is similar to the all-electric e-Niro Kia launched in 2019, and genuinely useful in the real world.
The Soul retains its boxy exterior design, which might not be to everyone’s taste. While it’s not exactly the most aerodynamic and efficient shape, it does offer real practicality, with easy access to the car’s cabin. It’s also fair to say that the design has been tightened up: it’s slightly sleeker and sharper than the original Soul.
In an attempt to meet the expectations of European car buyers, Kia and its Hyundai sister brand have both upped their game in all aspects of car-making over the last decade and the design of their vehicles has improved significantly.
This is true of the new Soul. The Soul’s boxy shape allows for bags of space inside the cabin and there’s plenty of headroom and legroom for rear-seat passengers.
It has a cabin that is quite conventional – the plain black leather upholstery is a case in point – yet it contains some neat touches. Kia says the Soul’s interior is inspired by music – which thematically makes sense, for a car called Soul – and has mini tweeter speakers at each end of the dashboard juxtaposing the air vents. There’s also plenty of technology in the Soul, including a 10.25 inch display in the centre of the dashboard which is the focus for infotainment functions. This includes navigation and smartphone connectivity and the car is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible.
The cabin feels relaxed and protective which can partly be explained by the way in which the Soul rides on the road. It feels compliant; easy-going. The car soaks up all but the most potholed surfaces, with very little jarring. And though the high-sided boxiness of the Soul’s design does little to help when the car is cornering at higher speeds, the positioning of the car’s heavy batteries – under the floor of the car – helps in this regard. There’s little body roll.
The Soul is easy to drive, with accurate and direct steering, making it feel sure-footed when turning – something that is also helped by the low centre of gravity.
There are four settings in the Drive Mode Select system – Normal, Eco, Eco+ and Sport – to enable drivers to choose one to suit the driving conditions. Eco and Eco+ are designed to help drivers make the most of the Soul’s battery and maximise the car’s range: there are a number of power-saving measures, as well as the ability to increase the amount of regenerative braking that the Soul can draw on, which helps top up the batteries with energy that would otherwise be lost.
Despite its non-aerodynamic shape, the Soul doesn’t lack performance. The batteries feed a 201bhp motor that enables the Soul to hit 60mph from a standing start in a very respectable 7.6 seconds (it goes on to a achieve a top speed of 104mph). Usually, electric cars are very quick over the first few hundred yards but, all too often, the acceleration can tail off. Thankfully, you don’t get this impression driving the Soul.
Clearly, if you enjoy the Soul’s acceleration too much it will affect the range. In which case your battery isn’t going to last anything like 280 miles. On our morning-long drive we found the gauge was accurate in relation to the car’s remaining range. It pretty much reflected a mile-for mile rate. This should mean its 280-mile range is achievable in the real world – especially as the e-Niro, which uses the same technology, can match the official range in real-world driving conditions, without too many driving compromises.
For charging, the Soul uses a Combined Charging System (CCS) DC fast charger. It can be charged at 50kW charging points at motorway services and supermarket car parks and at newer, quicker 100kW chargers, where it can recharge from 20 per cent to 80 per cent capacity in 42 minutes.
The Soul’s natural environment is on urban streets, where it feels right at home, making almost silent, emission-free progress. Owning this for primarily driving around town certainly won’t give you any inner city blues – and neither will the Soul’s reliability, as the car is supported by Kia’s standard seven-year warranty.
In common with many EVs currently, the Soul isn’t cheap. The on-the-road price is £37,295, which comes down to £34,295 after the government’s plug-in car grant. However, while the initial purchase price of an EV is usually more expensive than a traditional ICE vehicle, whole-life costs – which include the cost of having the car serviced plus day-to-day running costs such as fuel – can make it a cheaper proposition in the long run.
If you want an electric car with a range that allows longer trips as well as shorter journeys around town; and one that feels modern and looks unlike anything else on the road, the Soul might well be the car for you.
What we like…
+ 280-mile range
+ Comfortable ride
+ Well-equipped cabin
…but can we live with?…
– Quirky design
– Wind noise at cruising speeds
– Limited bootspace