2015 Kia Soul EV

2015 Kia Soul EV Review

We sing the praises of the body electric.

By: Andrew Krok

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: February 9th, 2015

Electric cars are here ... well, in most parts of the country, at least. Automakers still have a select few EVs that are only sold in certain parts of the country, and the 2015 Kia Soul EV is one of 'em. Even though it's not available nationwide just yet, we feel that it's ready for prime time alongside the Nissan Leaf and its contemporaries. Like the Volkswagen e-Golf, the Soul EV is a standard car that's been appropriated for EV duty. Rather than attempting to be some weird Car of the Future, the Soul EV takes what's great about the standard Soul (spoiler alert, that's nearly everything) and makes it quieter and, uh, torquier.

That's totally a word. You can trust us on that.

  • Interior

    The gas-powered Soul and the Soul EV feel nearly identical from a driver's standpoint, and that is very much a good thing. The Soul has great visibility (thanks in part to its taller roof), great head room (again, the roof), and a back seat that's not uncomfortable for full-size adults.

    If you stick with the base-model Soul EV, you'll be treated to comfortable cloth seats that heat up quickly and dashboard panels that feel at home in a car that starts under $20,000. That said, that feeling becomes a little cheap when you move up to the Soul EV's pre-incentive MSRP of $33,700. However, you can always opt for the Plus Trim, which swaps out the seats and surfaces in exchange for a healthy dose of leather and leatherette.

    In terms of attractiveness and aesthetics, the Soul has it nailed in both ICE and EV form. The shifter isn't some wacky space-age thing like it is in the Nissan Leaf. In the Soul, EV driving is no different than ICE; there's a standard PRNDL shifter, and a panoply of switchgear that minimizes the need to rely solely on the touchscreen. It's a good mix of new and old, and even though we're typically very against bright-white plastics in cars, the look of the Soul EV's trim seems appropriate in this application.

  • Exterior

    It's, well, it's a Kia Soul. There aren't too many quasi-crossovers like it; it takes the proportions of a short wagon and expands upon each dimension only slightly. It's function and form in the same package; the same straight roofline allows occupants plenty of space to move about, and the tall glass provides both light and forward visibility in large doses. The Soul EV comes with skinny, low-rolling-resistance tires and a unique wheel option; aside from the grille being replaced with the charging port, it's a little hard to tell the EV apart from its non-EV brethren.

  • On the Road

    Driving the Kia Soul EV is just like driving any other car. You get in, push the start button, put the shifter in the desired gear, and go. For the most part, it's a completely unobtrusive affair that resembles driving a standard car in almost every way. The key word there is almost; given the electric motor's penchant for silent operation, there is no engine noise, and torque is available anytime your foot goes to the floor.

    The lack of engine noise does enhance the road noise, which is not improved by those low-rolling-resistance tires, but it's no different than road noise in any other EV or similarly-priced gas-drinker.

    As for the torque, the electric motor's desire to thrust you forth at any time gives the Soul a liveliness that can't be matched by the cheaper Soul's gasoline engine. It'll get you up to highway speed, or just sit there and smoke the front tires, with very little effort. However, the traction control kicks in early and heavily, with some noises that had your author wondering whether the system was actively trying to destroy the vehicle.

    Otherwise, the Soul is still the plucky little vehicle that we've loved for many calendar pages. It will dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge with ease, and while the steering might be as dead as Jim Morrison, it's always a hoot to drive.

    Now, let's talk about the electric motor's range and capability. Yes, all the torque is nice, but every foot-to-the-firewall episode will drain the 27-kWh battery. With 93 miles of estimated range, that's not a problem on short trips, but it's best to exercise efficiency when possible. That's why the ActiveECO button is a great addition; it trims the ancillary systems and boosts the regenerative braking to provide for the longest possible drive. In a Chicago winter, that translates to roughly 65-70 miles, well under the estimated good-weather range.

    Here's a tip if you're a cold-weather EV owner: The heated seats draw less energy than the HVAC system does, so keep the temperature a little on the low side and crank up the seat heat.

  • Final Thoughts

    All in all, the Kia Soul EV makes for a solid purchase. It's about the same price as the other smaller EVs on the market (Leaf, e-Golf), and it presents itself as a good stepping stone from ICE to EV. There are a few niggles, but it's nothing that electric buyers won't already know before going into the dealership (although all buyers should be doing their research, not just those investing in new technology). While the range leaves some things to the imagination (like road trips), between the 480-volt DC fast-charging port and an EV infrastructure growing day after day, it's more reasonable than ever to make an EV your primary vehicle, and the Kia Soul is one we most definitely recommend.

    Just do yourself a favor and install a Level 2 (240-volt) charger at home. The trickle charger (which plugs into your standard outlet) takes nearly 10 hours to charge 33 percent of the battery, whereas the 240-volt hookup will do it nearly four times faster. If it's your second car, you might be able to get away without the faster charging, but we do recommend that homeowners look into Level 2 installation.

  • Specs & Price

    Engine: Synchronous AC permanent-magnet electric motor

    Transmission: Single-speed automatic

    Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive

    Power Output: 109 horsepower / 210 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy (MPGe): 120 city / 92 highway

    Base Price: $33,700

    As Tested: $34,625 (incl. $800 destination, not incl. government incentives)

    Available Features:

    Plus Trim: Power-folding side mirrors, front fog lights, front and rear parking sensors, leather seating surfaces, auto-dimming rearview mirror, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats

    Individual Options: Auto-dimming rearview mirror, illuminated scuff plates, puddle lamps, carpeted floor mats

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