Affordable Electric Car? Kia Soul EV ‘Special Edition’ Review.
For – cute, high quality, terrific drive, impressive performance.
Against – too expensive, inadequate motorway range.
Highway cruising range – 133.2 miles
The Kia Soul EV is a fantastic little SUV, with Germanic interior and exterior quality, every known gizmo, and a huge battery offering great electric-only performance and range of a claimed 280 miles.
Its looks are striking but not to everyone’s taste. The blue paint job on my test car looked the business.
I’ve only ever observed Kia Souls from afar, and liked its funky, trendy looks. I’d always imagined it to be an affordable city-car type runabout for the yoof, so wasn’t prepared for the news this admittedly loaded first edition of its uprated electric car was priced at £37,295, admittedly before the government subsidy of £3,000 kicks in.
Now I know that even cars which look pricey if you just consider the sticker price can be more affordable with a leasing deal – I spied one at just under £300 a month including VAT for this EV – but this did knock me sideways. So, did this price justify its electric performance compared with internal combustion engine vehicles?
It is a familiar tale. Around town and country, it performs extremely well, and with copious use of regenerative braking it easily makes or even exceeds the range claims. But step on it on the highway, or more accurately drive on to the fast cruising lane on motorways, and range anxiety quickly takes hold. The Soul EV munched miles at close to twice the indicated availability rate at cruising speeds maintained by normal people, resulting in an average range of only 133.2 miles. The fact refuelling will only get you to 80% of capacity then you have a recipe for a very irritating and drawn-out long-distance trip up the motorway, with each segment seriously shorter than the last.
Snappy but silent response
The Soul EV drives exceptionally well, with the standard electric car’s snappy but silent response to any request for acceleration. When you climb aboard, the doors slammed with a satisfying clunk. Inside, the cockpit is snug and appealing, with a big 10.25” screen communicating necessary information. There was an electrically driven seat in this top-of-the range version.
Staring at you from behind the wheel, a graphic showed exactly when you were returning power via the regenerative system, which was activated by pulling paddle shifters behind the steering once, twice or three times for maximum action. Touch the right-hand one to stop regeneration. I didn’t find the system as effective as the Vauxhall Corsa E though, (although to be fair I didn’t actually measure it) which seemed to return more free miles to the battery. When recharging the battery with my ChargePoint system a big blue light shone on the top of the dashboard. Previous electric cars left me wondering whether the car was taking on board any new juice.
This is the 3rd generation Soul, and this ‘First Edition’ model has black leather seats as standard. The alphabet soup of high technology safety gizmos includes UVO CONNECT telematics, High Beam Assist (HBA), Driver Attention Warning (DAW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) and Forward Collision Warning with Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), and blind-spot detection (BSD) with Rear-Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA). You have Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay™ smartphone compatibility as standard, and 10-speaker Harman/Kardon® premium sound system with subwoofer, external amplifier and front centre speaker, and wireless smartphone charger.
Kia said the Soul offers a roomy interior for five occupants, and high levels of space and versatility. This new Soul iteration is the first to feature fully independent multi-link rear suspension, replacing the torsion beam rear axle on 1st and 2nd generation models. This makes the car more engaging, responsive and comfortable to drive, Kia says. The car’s electric powertrain packaging gives it a lower centre of gravity than many ICE vehicles. The flat battery pack is located beneath the cabin, giving a centre of gravity more like a saloon or a hatchback. Most of the weight is located between the axles, enabling a relatively equal distribution of weight.
The ‘First Edition’ also includes 17-inch wheels, privacy glass for rear windows and tailgate, dual full LED headlamps, LED daytime running lights, front LED fog lamps and LED rear combination lights. The door mirrors fold electrically, are heated and feature LED indicators and there’s automatic headlight control and rain sensing front wipers with aerodynamic blades. But 37,000 odd quid?
What to buy?
My previous favourite electric car was the Kia eNiro so I was expecting the Soul to emerge as the best candidate in my affordable electric car quest. The sticker price put paid to that, but the Soul is a terrific vehicle which scores heavily on almost all counts. And it’s a reminder how far Kia has come over about 20 years. It started out as the Dacia of its day, offering cheap, cheerful and solidly reliable motoring. Kia has steadily improved its quality and ambition over the years, and now can compete with the Germans on quality, if not quite yet in the premium echelons. That premium assault is now being prepared by its sibling Hyundai, about to launch its upmarket Genesis brand in Europe.
My search for the affordable electric car is clearly going nowhere because the industry has set itself an impossible task. There is no way an electric car in the lower price ranges can compete with the all-round qualities of ICE, which includes competitive long-distance cruising. I’m waiting for the first sign of some realistic thinking, and it won’t be long before we see a more down to earth attempt with the emergence of a souped-up golf cart. A cheap electric car designed for limited utility – shopping, local commuting, school runs – range 40 miles, top speed 45 mph, price £4,000, featuring a small battery and therefore less damage to the environment. Let’s face it, expensive long-range electric cars can’t even fulfil their basic raison d’etre, because they emit just as much CO2 over their lives as ICE cars.
|Kia Soul EV ‘Special Edition’|
|Battery:||64 Kw lithium ion polymer|
|Electric motor:||198 hp @ 3,800 to 8,000 rpm|
|Torque:||395 Nm @ 0-3,600|
|Claimed range:||City 402 miles
Combined 280 miles
|WintonsWorld Test:||achieved battery capacity 260-273 miles
*Highway cruising range – 133.2 miles
|Charging:||DC 100 Kw 80% in 54 minutes|
|Acceleration:||0-60 mph 7.6 seconds|
|Top Speed:||104 mph|
|Suspension:||Independent Macpherson strut/independent multi-link|
|Service Intervals:||10,000 miles/one year|
|Warranty:||7 years/100,000 miles|
|Boot capacity:||315/1,339 litres|
|Competition:||Honda e, Hyundai Kona, Kia e-Niro, Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe, VW ID.3, Mini e, Fiat 500e, Vauxhall Corsa E, Peugeot e208, Tesla Model 3, Hyundai Ioniq, Citroen eC4, BMW i3, SEAT Mii electric, Skoda Citigo e, Smart e, Skoda Enyaq, MG ZS EV|
|Price:||£37,295 (before government subsidy)|
|For:||cute, high quality, terrific drive, impressive performance|
|Against:||too expensive, inadequate motorway range|
(*Highway cruising at real world indicated 80 mph)