The Car Connection Kia Soul EV Overview
The Kia Soul EV is the first electric car sold in the U.S. by the Korean automaker that's lately moved away from economy cars to recast itself as a stylish, hip import brand with a distinct European flair.
The electric Soul adds a new powertrain to its enormously popular Soul small wagon that should give it some credibility among tech-focused buyers.
MORE: Read our 2017 Kia Soul EV review
Kia launched its second-generation gasoline Soul for the 2014 model year, and the battery-electric Soul EV arrived a year later for 2015. In its second model year, 2016, the Soul EV picks up a new, more basic trim level as well as the existing pair, and Kia tweaked a few features slightly. Despite rumors of a higher-capacity battery pack that would give it more range, the Soul EV carries on unchanged for the 2017 model year.
With its 27-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack powering an 109-horsepower motor that drives the front wheels, the Soul EV is roughly similar in specification to the Nissan Leaf, the Volkswagen e-Golf, the Ford Focus Electric, and other compact battery electric hatchbacks.
The electric Kia stands out from the rest of the pack in two areas: it has somewhat more interior space, due to its tall-wagon shape; and its battery pack is about 10 percent larger than the rest of the group, giving it a 105-mile EPA range rating—which was around 10 miles more than the others when it was released. In practice, this means that around town the Soul EV delivers a real-world 100 miles of range in temperate weather. It's not the 150 to 200 miles that would largely eliminates range anxiety, but the three-digit figure is more reassuring to drivers than it might seem.
The Soul EV looks pretty much like a tricked-out version of the regular Soul. It has some unique colors, and rather than a grille, there's a blanking plate over the opening with a door for the charging port on neat articulated hinges that swing it out and to the side when opened.
Kia is to be complimented for including a CHAdeMO DC fast charge port in every Soul EV. (For 2016, a plug lock was added as well.) The electric Soul also has a standard 6.6-kW onboard charger for 240-volt Level 2 charging (versus the 3.3-kw chargers fitted to some competitors). Both heated front seats and a heated steering wheel make driver and passenger feel warmer in cold weather, minimizing the use of cabin heating to save energy and maximize cold-weather range.
The only drawback to the Kia Soul EV, is in fact, its limited availability and low volumes. Kia itself has said it underestimated how popular the little electric wagon would be, and it's trying to get more production from the factory in Korea to expand sales to territories beyond California, Oregon, and Georgia—which were the only three markets where the car was initially available.