Review: KIA Soul EV
- Tested: KIA Soul electric vehicle, in ‘First Edition’ specification.
- RRP £37,295 as tested (£34,295 after £3,000 Plug-in Grant)
The KIA Soul isn’t a new car. It’s been around since 2009, but during those intervening years, over 1.6 million have been sold – mostly in the USA where the car acquired its boxy, Tonka-toy design and styling.
In our European market, the second-generation KIA Soul (2014-2019) was offered as internal combustion-engined (ICE) and battery electric-only (BEV) variants. With the take-up of BEVs in the UK increasing exponentially year-on-year, the KIA Soul Electric performed remarkably well last year, outselling its combustion-engined sibling in the UK.
So, while this third-generation 2020 KIA Soul is still available in some markets with a conventional ICE, KIA UK is offering the Soul as a BEV-only. It adopts the same powertrain as the hugely successful KIA e-Niro and Kona Electric from sister Korean car maker, Hyundai.
I went to Danesfield House near Marlow, Buckinghamshire for its UK media launch and spent a few hours with ‘WMV’ – a KIA Soul EV presented in First Edition specification…
For its 2020 model year, the KIA Soul EV received a significant battery upgrade from an air-cooled 31kWh pack to a liquid-cooled 64kWh unit, which has more than doubled its storage capacity and driving range.
At 4,220mm, the new KIA Soul is 80mm longer than its predecessor, distributed by a 50mm longer front overhang, while its wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels) has been extended by 30mm. Every exterior body panel on the 2020 model is new, yet remains instantly recognisable as a KIA Soul.
Full LED headlights are standard and the alloys wheels have increased in size from 16 to 17-inch. KIA has also introduced three exterior bi-tone paint colours, with contrasting roof and door mirrors as standard.
The cabin is a decent place to spend some time, although swathes of black plastic do have a dulling effect on the senses. However, its design and layout is good and quite upmarket and trumps its e-Niro sibling in that department.
There is now a large 10.25-inch touchscreen borrowed from the XCeed, to which two mobile phones can be connected at once, which facilitates streaming from one and calls from another. There’s also a seven-inch digital driver’s display and head-up display (HUD), which shows speed and satnav directions, among other things. Sadly, KIA hasn’t taken the opportunity during the model year update to project the HUD onto the windscreen. It continues to be shown on a piece of flimsy Perspex – soooo last decade.
Only the driver’s seat has electric adjustment on this First Edition model, as the passenger will need to adjust their seat position and height manually. The seats are comfortable and nicely supportive and even very tall passengers will feel comfortable up front.
Headroom in the back is impressive too – those below six-foot will have no problems in this regard — and they shouldn’t have too much issues with knees either, assuming the person sitting in front doesn’t have their chair set all the way back.
Practicality and space
Thanks to the additional wheelbase distance, the interior is impressively spacious. Boot space has grown by 34 litres, but at 315, is still smaller than a Volkswagen Polo, for instance.
Things don’t get rosier 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 each.
However, if you need more space and are not carrying passengers at the time, you can fold down the 60:40-split rear seats to liberate a more useful 1,339 litres. There is also a dual height load floor should a bit more extra space be needed or to hide valuables from prying eyes.
Trim grades and equipment
Currently, the Soul EV is only available in ‘First Edition’ trim, which is a range-topping specification in KIA's other models. Kit includes satnav, auto lights and wipers, full LED front and rear light clusters, a head-up display, heated leather seats, heated steering wheel, a seven-inch OLED screen within the instrument binnacle, active cruise control that keeps you a set – but adjustable – distance from the car in front and an auto dimming rear-view mirror.
Techies may also appreciate Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a wireless phone charger, UVO App connectivity, rear-view camera with reverse sensors and a 10-speaker Harmon/Kardon sound system complete with subwoofer. There are also the usual USB ports and two 12v sockets (one in the front and one for rear passengers).
Battery, powertrain and range
The KIA Soul EV has the same 64 kWh battery and charging technology as its larger e-Niro sibling and boasts an official driving range of 280 miles (WLTP), which is excellent – even by the standards of far more expensive electric cars. Test drives suggest a real-world range in the region of 240-250 miles, which is still none-too-shabby.
The 150kW electric motor which drives the front wheels delivers an enjoyable 201hp and is no slouch when it comes to getting off the line.
The Soul EV can charge at up to 77kW through its CCS port located in the car’s nose, so it's can benefit from the 100kW rapid chargers that have started to pop up across the UK in bigger numbers from late 2019. It also comes with KIA's ‘UVO App Connect’ telematics system – an app that allows you to check on the car’s charging status, adjust its charging parameters, programme the car to pre-heat, and more.
The KIA Soul EV is able to charge at up to 77kW, which will boost range from 10 to 80% in just 45 minutes. Many public rapid chargers in the UK top out at 50kW (which will do the same charge in an hour and 15 minutes), but more 100kW locations are starting to appear around the country and you'll need to seek out one of these to charge the Soul EV at its fastest possible rate.
The standard Type 2 charging cable provided with the car works with pretty much all the public chargers you'll find in town-centre car parks, big shopping centres or supermarkets. KIA has an official partnership with PodPoint, one of the biggest home charging-point providers. The company will fit a 7.4kW wallbox to your off-road parking area for under £300 (after the government subsidy). That'll charge the Soul EV up to 100% in around 10 hours – this is how the vast majority of users charge their electric cars.
Also provided is a three-pin cable that allows you to plug the car into the standard domestic power sockets in your house. However, it’ll take some 30 hours or more to charge using this method and KIA suggests it as an emergency backup solution only.
Drivetrain, performance and drive
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 snail at the off, with 201hp 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 quicker 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 but the steering may be deemed too light by some. Play with the paddles behind the steering wheel and you can adjust the level of energy regeneration and the braking effect of the electric motor when you come off the accelerator. In the highest of the four settings (zero, one, two and three), 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.
The battery pack weighs a hefty 457kg, but is positioned under the floor pan which aids the car’s centre of gravity. Its weight is felt when steering through the twisty bits but overall most won’t even notice it’s there.
Safety and reliability
Electric cars tend to be far more reliable than their combustion-engined counterparts as there are less moving parts and no service items like spark plugs and oil filters. In addition, energy recuperation systems divert much of the strain away from the brakes.
Bear in mind that this isn't KIA's first EV, so you'll be acquiring 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 transferable warranty – which includes the electric motor and battery pack, too.
KIA also performs well in safety tests, and the Soul EV is loaded with the manufacturer's latest safety kit which includes autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind-spot detection and systems to help warn of oncoming traffic when reversing.
The KIA Soul EV is a top three finalist in the 2020 World (Urban) Car of the Year Awards, sharing the podium with the MINI Electric and the Volkswagen T-Cross.
It remains a likeable choice in an increasingly populous EV market. With its reasonable RRP from £34,295 (incl. VAT) and strong level of standard equipment, the Soul EV’s 280-mile WLTP range is a key part of its appeal.
The updates to this new KIA Soul EV keep it looking as chic and novel as it did when we first saw it eleven years ago. It is impressively refined, suitably quick and very easy to drive.
Despite the initial lack of trim choice, KIA UK is confident of the Soul EV's potential. The firm already has some 2,000 units on order, along with 8,000 e-Niro models. When you consider that almost 38,000 BEVs were sold in the UK during 2019, KIA UK is sharpening the knife to carve out a generous slice of the EV cake during 2020.
KIA Soul EV timeline:
- 2014: March: First-generation KIA Soul EV introduced, alongside ICE variants.
- 2019: November: Refreshed, third-generation Soul revealed as BEV only for UK market.
- 2020: February: Order books open.
- Powertrain: Front-mounted electric motor, FWD.
- Max output: 201hp / 395Nm of torque.
- Transmission: Single-speed to front axle.
- Acceleration: 0-62mph: 7.9 seconds.
- Top speed: 104 mph.
- Range: 280 miles (WLTP).
- Power consumption: 225 Wh/mi (178mpg/equivalent)
- Emissions: 0 CO₂/km.
- Kerb weight: 1,757kg.
- Luggage capacity: 315 / 1,339 litres.
- Towing weight (braked/unbraked): Nil kg
- Roof weight: 100kg.
- Annual VED: £0.
- Insurance group: 34.
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