2018 Kia Soul EV

6.8
2018 Kia Soul EV

The Basics:

The 2018 Kia Soul EV is a compact, battery-electric hatchback that's versatile and fun, albeit with a slightly more serious price.

The 2018 Kia Soul EV is the kind of electric vehicle we like to see. It’s fun, capable, and inconspicuous. We just wish it were easier to find at dealers.

This year, the automaker increased the battery capacity from 27 kwh to 30 kwh, which bumped up the overall combined range to 111 miles. That’s better, but still behind rivals that offer more range for less money.

It still earns a 7.4 on our overall scale thanks to its efficient powertrain and good looks. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Kia Soul EV is offered in EV-e, EV, and EV+ (plus) trims starting from $33,145, but base models are available only in California. The EV trim starts at $34,845 before federal and applicable state and local tax rebates or incentives.

With the Soul EV, Kia offers a good-looking hatchback with a forward-thinking powertrain. The Soul EV takes the same boxy shape and practical interior from the Soul, without wearing its battery-electric powertrain on its sleeve.

A 109-horsepower electric motor provides motivation and the Soul EV benefits from a competent chassis made better with most of its mass close to the ground. It’s quiet and fun to drive around town, but its mission is efficiency.

Like most new electric vehicles, the Soul EV doesn’t compromise comfort. The Soul EV features room for four adults, five in a pinch, with available heated seats for all four primary positions. The Soul EV offers 18.8 feet of cargo space, which is better than many mid-size sedans.

The electric Kia hatchback doesn’t have a complete set of crash data, but it’s based on the Soul hatchback, which is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ winner. The Soul EV lacks the critical advanced safety features from the Soul, which we wish the automaker would reconsider.

The Soul EV features a full complement of airbags and a rearview camera, but skips the advanced safety features found on the Soul.

The Soul EV comes well-equipped in most trims, including a heated steering wheel and heated seats (they’re more efficient at warming up passengers), Bluetooth connectivity, and most models will have an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment. Cooled seats and leather are available on EV+ trims.

We’re jazzed with the Soul’s pizzazz. See what we did there?

The Soul EV doesn’t spoil the Soul’s good looks—and that’s a good thing. We give the Soul EV an 8 out of 10 for style. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Read more about the Soul’s styling here.

Performance isn’t the 2018 Kia Soul EV’s prerogative. The electric car benefits from a 109-horsepower (81.4-kwh) electric motor. It’s enough to power the car smoothly and quietly, but its top speed is limited to 90 mph.

With most of its weight low in the chassis, common with electric cars, the Soul EV is surprisingly fun to drive and competent, but its aim is efficiency—not enthusiasm.

We give it a 5 out of 10 for being completely average, and that’s high praise for a small car built for efficiency. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Soul EV corners well for a tall hatchback, and its steering is responsive, although not very communicative.

An aggressive regenerative braking system means the Soul EV can be driven by using just one pedal—like a golf cart—and it’s best around town. Drive the Soul EV on highways and its range drops roughly 10 percent.

At its heart, the 2018 Kia Soul EV is a small car. Its boxy shape and upright stance give it more interior room than some small cars, but we’d stop short of asking too much.

From a base score of 5, the Soul EV gets points above average for good front seats and good cargo space. It earns a 7 out of 10 for comfort. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Front passengers have good head room and leg room, with enough support for most body types, but the seats lack thigh support for long legs.

Rear seat passengers get 36 inches of leg room, which should be adequate for most adults. The Soul EV’s compact dimensions reveal itself in shoulder room—it’s not wide enough for three adults in the rear.

The Soul EV offers 18.8 cubic feet of cargo room, which is impressive among small cars but lags other hatchbacks. Every Soul EV is equipped with a split-folding rear seat that opens cargo space up to 49.5 cubic feet.

Without a lithium-ion battery tucked into its cargo floor, the gas-powered Soul offers 24.2 and 61.3 cubic feet of cargo room, respectively.

The 2018 Kia Soul EV hasn’t been separately rated by federal or independent testers. As a result, we’re withholding our score until more information is made available. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

It shares a structure with the Kia Soul, which received a five-star overall rating from NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick+ nod from the IIHS. That’s a good place to start, but it’s not directly applicable to the Soul EV.

Every Soul EV is equipped with a rearview camera and six airbags, with dual front airbags, seat-mounted side bags, and full-length side curtain bags.

Top trims are equipped with front and rear parking sensors. Unlike the Kia Soul, the Soul EV does not offer automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, or blind-spot monitors. That’s an oversight, according to us.

 

The 2018 Kia Soul EV is identical to last year’s model. Sold in three trims, EV-e, EV and EV+ (plus), the Kia Soul EV starts at a reasonable $33,145, but that’s with a catch. The base model is available in California only; the rest of the country gets middle and top trims.

Base Soul EV models are equipped with heated cloth seats and a heated steering wheel, which are more energy efficient than air conditioning on cold days. Keyless ignition, a 3.5-inch driver instrument display, 16-inch wheels, a rearview camera, and a 5.0-inch display for infotainment with Bluetooth and USB connectivity are all standard.

Every Soul EV includes a 6.6-kwh onboard charger for quicker charging times. Kia said when connected to a standard 120-volt wall outlet, the Soul EV will take more than 33 hours to recharge. Plug the Soul EV into a Level 2 charger, and that time plummets to just over 5 hours. Plug the Soul EV into a DC fast charger, and the Soul EV can charge from 0 to 80 percent in roughly 30 minutes.

That’s good base equipment, particularly the 6.6-kwh onboard charger that some electric automakers charge extra for. We give it at a 7 out of 10 for features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The mid-grade Soul EV swaps in a more efficient climate control system that draws less power from the batteries, which boosts range. It upgrades infotainment to a slick 8.0-inch touchscreen and better-looking 16-inch wheels.

At the top, the EV+ trim comes with leather upholstery, cooled front seats, heated rear seats, and parking sensors. A single options package for EV+ trims includes speaker lights, interior LED lights, and a sunroof for $1,100. Its value is debatable.

All Kia Soul EVs are eligible for a federal tax rebate, and they may qualify for state and local incentives, depending on the area.

The news for the 2018 Kia Soul EV is good for shoppers this year. This year, Kia increased the overall battery size from 27 to 30 kwh, which bumped up the range for the Soul EV from 93 to 110 miles.

That lags some competitors, but it’s still good enough for a perfect score on our fuel-economy scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Some Soul EV competitors do better. The 2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV is rated for 238 miles of range, and the 2018 Volkswagen E-Golf is rated at 125 miles and the 2018 Nissan Leaf is rated for 151 miles of range.

Buying Tips:

The base Soul EV is limited to California only. That effectively makes the entry price nearly $35,000 before incentives.

Other Choices:

  • 2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV
  • 2018 Nissan Leaf
  • 2018 Volkswagen Golf
  • 2018 Tesla Model 3
  • 2018 Ford Focus Electric

Reason Why:

The Kia Soul EV is on the back foot compared to other mainstream EVs because of its limited availability. The Chevy Bolt EV is a revolutionary car in its availability and range. Its importance is hard to understate. The Volkswagen e-Golf is similarly hard to find, but like the Soul EV, it’s nearly indistinguishable from its combustion-engine counterpart. The Tesla Model 3 is slowly making its way into customers’ hands, but we haven’t yet driven one. The Focus BEV is extremely scarce and may be past its sell-by date. The Nissan Leaf is new this year, and improved range should propel it toward the top of consumers’ lists.

The Bottom Line:

The 2018 Kia Soul EV is the kind of electric vehicle we like to see. It’s fun, capable, and inconspicuous. We just wish it were easier to find at dealers.

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