Road Tests

First drive: Kia Soul EV – quirky electric car that shuns the conventional

Time 1 year ago

Car Dealer Magazine’s Darren Cassey gets behind the wheel of the quirky Kia Soul EV

What is it?

In an era when SUVs can look all the same, the Soul stands out because it’s genuinely unique. It’s not just another SUV in a manufacturer line-up but one does its own thing when it comes to styling. Its blend of a boxy, small van-like shape with funky styling cues give its practicality a youthful appeal.

In the UK it’s only available as an electric vehicle, using the same powertrain as the hugely popular Kia e-Niro. The question to be asked, then, is does it have the substance to go with its appealingly unique character?

What’s under the bonnet?

The Sould EV uses the same electric motor and battery pack set-up as the Kia e-Niro. So the electric motor makes 201bhp and 395Nm of torque (considerably more powerful than the previous Soul EV) while the battery is a 64kWh unit promising up to 280 miles between charges.

Kia says its battery cells are more power dense than most other EVs, so it was able to keep the battery compact, which helps to reduce weight, while still offering an impressive range.


What’s it like to drive?

As with all electric vehicles, the Soul offers punchy acceleration and a quiet, relaxing drive. It’s at its best around town, where the sharp steering and responsive motor make traffic easy to navigate. It’s comfortable, too, which will have been helped by that new suspension setup.

However, the sharp steering is also the main culprit of one bugbear with the driving experience. At higher speeds the sensitivity doesn’t appear to be toned down at all, meaning you find yourself constantly fidgeting in your lane or not reducing lock enough when exiting a corner, making for a less than smooth drive.

How does it look?

It’s great to see Kia isn’t afraid to think outside the box and produce something that doesn’t look like anything else in its range. A boxy, van-like car like this shouldn’t look so ‘cool’, but there’s no denying its youthful appeal – you can just imagine mounting a surfboard to the roof and heading to the beach.

The refreshed front end, which houses LED headlights as standard within the narrow bar beneath the bonnet, is sleek and imposing, while the claw-like rear lights give the boot a cute, rounded look that hides the size of the car well. The side angle is perhaps its weakest point, with the awkward rear window section swooping upwards and leaving a featureless block of metal, but overall it looks great.

What’s it like inside?

Kia has stepped up in recent years and now makes some of the best interiors at its price point. That’s true of the Soul, which has plenty of soft-touch materials throughout, and design-wise continues the curved theme of the outside. It’s not quite as funky and fresh inside as it is outside, but there’s no denying it’s a spacious, comfortable cabin that feels as if it’s worth every penny.

The driving position is spot on, too. No matter how short or tall you might be, the pedals are positioned a good distance from the seat, so you can get comfortable with a high driving position that gives a good view of the road ahead. Rear passengers are well catered for too, with decent leg and headroom, but the boot is quite small at 315 litres.

What’s the spec like?

The Kia Soul starts at £34,295 with the government’s plug-in car grant, which sounds like a lot of money, but is reasonable in the electric vehicle market given the size of the vehicle and its range. To make the cost more palatable, it gets a decent equipment list as standard, including leather upholstery, heated front seats and steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, a 10.25-inch infotainment screen with sat nav, and a Harman/Kardon premium sound system.

There are three colour combinations – white or black with a red roof, or blue with a black roof – which are all free options. Because it’s so well equipped there aren’t many aspects worth upgrading, with the most exciting extras being a ski carrier (£130), a velour carpet set (£60) and a luggage carry hook (£25). The great thing about this is that you can go pretty mad with the options and be unlikely to tip the price over £35,000.

What do the press say?

Autocar said: he Soul is also easy to drive, practical and comfortable. The saving [in price over the e-Niro] comes at the expense of some practicality, but the Soul should appeal to those seeking a bit more character and charm from their electric Kia.

What do we think?

At the start of this review, we asked whether the Soul’s undeniably funky styling that will appeal to younger buyers was backed up by substance that would make it a great ownership experience. The answer is that yes – much like most of the Kia range, the Soul is great to drive, practical and well built.

Despite some grumbles about the steering, something owners would likely adapt to quickly, there’s little to complain about. Those who regularly do big shops might find the boot cramped, but otherwise this is a spacious, characterful car that won’t cost the earth to run.

The Knowledge

Model: Kia Soul EV
Base price: £34,295 (after PICG)
Engine: Electric motor with 64kWh battery
Torque: 395Nm
Max speed: 104mph
0-60mph: 7.6 secs
Range: 280 miles
Emissions (CO2): 0g/km

Family buyers who feel the Kia e-Niro is a little too conventional

Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe, MG ZS EV

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  1. Long range that’s realistic in the real world
  2. Spacious interior
  3. Good build quality

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