Behind The Wheel Of Kia’s Latest Electric Car.
From its storm trooper face to its insane, two-tone rear and boomerang-shaped taillights, every inch of the Kia Soul EV’s exterior has been styled to be divisive. Think Nissan Juke – a generally safe and staid company building a car with crazy styling, then underpinning it with sensible power trains. In the Juke’s case, it was a massive success. Could the Soul EV enjoy the same treatment?
The first Soul EV (based on the second-generation car) rode on the coattails of petrol and diesel siblings, but in a further divisive move Kia won’t offer combustion engines for the European market. Instead, the UK gets just one power train – a 201bhp electric motor paired to a 64kWh battery inherited from its sister cars, the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia e-Niro.
So, strange styling, good mechanicals?
It certainly seems that way from the numbers. The single electric motor outputs 201bhp and 291lb ft to the front wheels, making for a 0-62mph sprint of 7.9 seconds and a top speed of 103mph. Kia claims a range of 280 miles on a full charge.
These numbers all compare very favourably with similarly-priced EV rivals – a Nissan Leaf is slightly faster, but offers a maximum of 239 miles of range, while a Tesla Model 3 tops out at 254 miles – or demands £47,000 for the Long Range model.
How’s the performance?
How do those numbers translate to the road? Rather well, as it happens. In typical EV fashion, performance starts out incredibly strong, with instant torque available from a standstill. Put your foot straight down on the floor and the Soul EV will chirp its tyres, but even acting more sensibly you’ll certainly be one of the quickest away from the lights.
Kia’s engineered in a minute delay to the accelerator, which gives it less of a hair trigger and actually makes it more relaxing to drive in stop-start conditions. It’s also introduced automatic regenerative braking, which uses radar to monitor the traffic ahead and adjust itself so that on lifting off, you coast right up to obstructions before stopping, instead of requiring braking or stopping short. Thankfully, you can override this easily using the paddles on the steering wheel to adjust the level of braking manually. You can even use them to regen yourself to a complete halt, but it’s not as easy to modulate as the Leaf’s e-Pedal mode.
Shaped like a brick, does it handle like one?
Thankfully, no the Soul EV may not be a hot hatch but it’s not a complete slug either.It’s slightly lighter than its e-Niro sister car, and that’s mirrored in accurate, easy steering and a general willingness to change direction without too much fuss.
It rides better than the e-Niro, too, though there’s a hard edge on lumpy roads that rivals such as the Leaf don’t really suffer from. Still, it’s relaxed enough elsewhere, and there’s less body lean than you’d expect from something this tall aided by the low-down weight of that battery pack.
There are four driving modes to cycle through Normal, Sport, Eco and Eco+. Sticking to Normal is the best bet Sport brings a cloying sense of artificial weight to the steering and twitchy throttle response, while the two Eco modes dull the car’s responses down.
Does the madness continue inside?
Sadly, no and that’s one of our biggest complaints. The first- and second-gen Souls were packed with quirky details. These new models do without some of our favourite mad features, such as light-up speaker grilles, in favour of an interior that really does look like it’s been pulled straight out of any other Kia. The few interesting textures – such as the scaly items on the door cards – are hard, unyielding plastic, and the switch gear lacks any reassuring weight.
It’s a sea of black plastic, devoid of colour or charm. Still, build quality is high and equipment is generous Soul EVs come to the UK in a single, highly-equipped trim level which gets a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen (with Apple Car Play and Android Auto), leather upholstery, heated front seats and steering wheel, LED lights all-round, a head-up display, a reversing camera, wireless phone charging and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.