By Shari Prymak
With environmental issues and increasing gas prices becoming areas of concern for more and more consumers, electric vehicles are gaining traction as a viable purchasing option. Ongoing advancements in EV and battery technology mean that the latest variants are more usable, practical, and affordable than versions of the past. A great example of this is the Kia Soul EV. The latest version boasts impressive driving range, strong performance, and a real argument to consider going electric.
The Soul largely maintains the distinctive, quirky, design language that has been emblematic of the model since 2009. Slim LED headlights help modernize the appearance, and a nice colour palette with a few ultra-bright hues adds to the sense of character. The Soul’s boxy proportions may not be to everyone’s taste, but there’s no denying the space benefits that it provides. Both the front and rear seats offer a generous amount of room for occupants, including taller adults. The cargo area is a quite deep and spacious as well with no noticeable penalty as a result of the EV’s models large battery pack.
The interior is rather conventional-looking when compared to the exterior, but everything is functional and easy to use. The infotainment system consists of a wide 10.25 inch touchscreen that is easily one of the best of its kind on the market. The menu structure is clear and straightforward with pleasing graphics and an abundance of features. The EV model adds several features related to charging and battery status, including the ability to set charge times and plan a trip from your phone using Kia’s UVO intelligence connected service. The system is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well. In terms of active safety technology, the Soul EV is well covered with a list that includes forward collision avoidance, blind sport monitoring, and an extremely effective adaptive cruise control with lane keep assist.
The Soul EV Limited model’s electric drivetrain consists of a 64 kWh battery pack and an electric motor producing 201 horsepower and 291 lb-ft of torque through the front wheels. The power delivery is totally smooth and silent with plenty of torque on hand to overwhelm the front wheels when in a hurry. Regenerative braking is available in different levels from pure coasting to aggressive one pedal-style braking depending on your preference. The large battery pack means that the driving range is quite respectable as well. The Soul EV can manage as much as 400 km between charges under ideal conditions. If you can find a high-speed level 3 charging station, the battery pack can be charged to 80 percent in less than one hour. Figure more like 10 hours for the more commonly available 240V level 2 chargers.
Most of the EV-related figures apply to the higher trim EV Limited model, which carries an MSRP of $51,595. In addition to the aforementioned performance and range, the Limited model comes equipped with features such as a head-up display, heated and cooled leather seats, and a Harmon/Kardon premium sound system. A more stripped down EV Premium model is available as well for an MSRP of $42,595. The Premium model, however, gets a less powerful electric motor and a smaller battery pack that is only capable of a driving range of about 250 km. If you want a lower price point but don’t want to sacrifice power or range, Kia offers the Niro EV with a starting MSRP of $44,995 as well.
Although the Premium model is less worthy of consideration due to its sacrifices, the Limited model is an exceptionally well-designed vehicle that should make EV ownership quite pleasurable. It is also more visually interesting than most rivals which tend to be rather generic looking. Like competing models such as the Chevrolet Bolt, Hyundai Kona Electric, and Nissan LEAF Plus, the steep price point means that you will pay a significant premium for the privilege of going green over a comparable gas model. With the help of incentives and factoring in significantly reduced running costs characteristic of all EVs, however, the Soul EV could make a strong case for itself for those determined to experience EV ownership.