2015 Kia Soul EV First Test
Toeing the Line
Jay Leno once said in an old "Top Gear" segment with James May that the Toyota Prius was the car that people got to show the world all the good they're doing for it anonymously. Leno was on to something there. Green-car buyers, especially those searching for EVs, appear to have very distinct tastes — they all want others to know that the car they're driving is good for the environment. The end result is that electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 sell well, while others such as the Ford Focus Electric and Toyota RAV4 EV don't. With this bit of anecdotal evidence in mind, Kia has come out with the 2015 Kia Soul EV, and it's got a lot for EV and non-EV buyers alike to get excited about.
The 2015 Kia Soul EV is more than just an electron-sipping version of the new-for-2014 Soul. Developed concurrently with its gas-swilling sibling, Kia designed the 2015 Soul EV from the ground up to be an electric car its owners wouldn't be afraid to drive every day, thanks to standard Level 3 quick-charging and an EPA-estimated 93 miles of range.
The Kia Soul is a 2015 Motor Trend Car of the Year contender - find out soon whether it has what it takes to win.
Visually, the Soul EV should tick all of the boxes electric car buyers want to check. Already a bit of an oddball in gas form, the Soul EV sports a more aerodynamically clean exterior design with its grille replaced by a charging port, new headlights and bumpers, and flat-faced wheels. Knowing full well who buys EVs, Kia loaded the Soul EV's interior with eco-friendly and techy gizmos it hopes its buyers will love. The Soul EV features a unique instrument cluster and an Apple-esque white interior trim, and it uses a custom version of Kia's Uvo infotainment system. This new version of Uvo can get pretty geeky: It does everything from show the electric car's maximum range on top of a digital map to showing you exactly how much electricity things such as the headlights, windshield wipers, turn signals, and more are using. As for those eco-friendly features, the Soul EV sports an air-conditioning mode that only blows air on the driver if they happen to be traveling solo, and it uses sugarcane and corn-based materials throughout the cabin.
The Soul EV's powertrain is more interesting than its looks. The vehicle is powered by a water-cooled AC synchronous permanent magnet electric motor good for 109 hp and 210 lb-ft of twist mated to a one-speed automatic. Backing the battery up is an SK Innovations-built 27 kW-hr lithium-ion polymer battery that Kia says is incredibly energy-dense for its size. EPA test figures would appear to support that: The Soul EV is good for 93 miles on the EPA cycle, turning 120/92/105 city/highway/combined mpg-e. Well aware of how popular Tesla's proprietary "Supercharger" fast-charging network is, Kia's attempting to do the same with the Soul EV, albeit on a much smaller scale. Seventeen Kia dealers across California will be equipped with Level 3 fast chargers, which the automaker says can charge the Soul EV from empty to 80 percent full in just 33 minutes. All Soul EV buyers will get a charge-up card to access the Level 3 network for free. The Soul EV's other charging options consist of a Level 2 home charger that will fully charge the Soul's battery in 4-5 hours and a Level 1 charger that plugs into a normal wall outlet, charging the battery from empty in up to 24 hours.
As interesting as the Soul EV might be intellectually, its test numbers are somewhat less so. The Soul EV needs 9.2 seconds to accelerate from 0-60 mph and 17.0 seconds to complete the quarter mile at 80.4 mph. Braking from 60 mph takes 126 feet. Throw a corner the Soul EV's way, and it'll lap the figure eight in 28.6 seconds at an 0.64g average. Those figures are about par for the segment, with the Soul EV just a tenth of a second slower to 60 mph than the Volkswagen e-Golf, though significantly slower than both the Chevrolet Spark EV and BMW i3, which needed 7.5 seconds and 6.4 seconds, respectively, to hit 60 mph from a standstill.
The Soul EV drives much better than its test numbers would suggest. The one thing the gas-powered Kia Soul is missing is torque, and the Soul EV has tons of it. The electric Soul rips off the line faster than its numbers would suggest, and it accelerates from any speed quickly thanks to that always-available torque. Like most other electric cars, the Soul EV's transmission has two drive modes: Drive and Brake, the latter of which acts as a low-range of sorts. In Brake mode, the regenerative brakes are heavily dialed up to maximize range, meaning you can drive the Soul just using throttle inputs. Drive cranks down the automatic regenerative braking, allowing the Soul EV to coast like a traditional gas-powered car does. Drive ends up being better-suited for highway work, while Brake is best for zipping around town.
Although electric-car buyers around the country might be intrigued by the 2015 Soul EV, it's currently only available in California, but Kia says it's looking at other markets, including Oregon, New York, and Georgia. The Soul EV is currently only available in one trim, though a higher-lower spec model is coming. The 2015 Kia Soul EV starts at $36,500, with our carpeted floor mat-equipped tester coming in at $36,625. With federal incentives, that price drops $7,500 to $29,125. Add California's $2,500 rebate into the mix, and you're looking at a $26,625 Soul, which Kia says you can lease for just $249 per month.
The 2015 Kia Soul EV ultimately does many things well. It's great to drive, economical with near segment-best range, and it's just weird-looking enough that it'll let its drivers show off how green they are without turning off those just looking to save a few thousand bucks per year commuting. The Soul EV has in-your-face eco-cred and is a great all-around car, and that ought to help Kia tempt buyers out of BMW i3s and Fiat 500es and into its showrooms.
|2015 Kia Soul Eco Electric (+)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$36,625|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback|
|ENGINE||0.0L/109-hp/210-lb-ft -valve plus 000-hp/000-lb-ft front and 000-hp/000-lb-ft rear electric motor(s)|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3336 lb (58/42%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||163.0 x 70.9 x 63.0 in|
|0-60 MPH||9.2 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||17.0 sec @ 80.4 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||126 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.76 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.6 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||120/92/105 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||28/37 kW-hrs/100 miles|