2015 Kia Soul EVPosted on October 2nd, 2014
Versatile crossover gets a new green variant
By Nina Russin
Although the Soul was launched in 2009 as a competitor to the Scion xB and Nissan Cube, Kia’s compact crossover has taken on a life of its own, eclipsing its direct competitors. While the Nissan and Scion were both adaptations of Japan market cars, the Soul was designed in Kia’s Orange County, California studio for American drivers. Its youthful styling and peppy performance have built a loyal following for the Soul, now in its second generation.
Following on the launch of an all-new model last year, Kia is rolling out the Soul EV. Power comes from a 109 horsepower electric motor with a rechargeable 360-volt lithium-ion battery pack packaged under the floor. Pricing for the base model begins at $33,700, while the Soul EV Plus starts at $35,700. The rollout for both grades begins in Southern California with a 36-month lease plan.
Kia expects the Soul to be cross-shopped against the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric, Volkswagen eGolf and Fiat 500e. With its unique styling, surprisingly spacious cargo bay and 93-mile driving range, the newest Soul should give those cars a run for the money.
Test drive in Southern California
I recently had the opportunity to test drive the Soul EV at a media event in Southern California on surface streets and highways in south Orange County. Although its electric motor gives the newest Soul a different character than its gasoline-powered siblings, it retains the youthful spirit that made the gas-powered Soul such a hit.
The Soul EV is at its best in the type of stop-and-go traffic Orange County seems to specialize in. Electric motors develop peak torque at extremely low speeds, so a relatively small motor can hold its own against a larger gasoline engine. Zero-to-sixty acceleration for the Soul EV is just over 11 seconds.
Our test drive began in the mid-afternoon and continued through the heaviest part of rush hour. It was a good opportunity to see if the car had enough range to work in a real-world situation, as well as testing its maneuverability on crowded streets.
Engineers made some modifications to the car’s HVAC system to extend the range when necessary. An induction control feature sets the inside temperature to match ambient temperature so the driver can keep the windows closed and stay comfortable. There is also a driver-only ventilation feature.
The most noticeable difference between the Soul EV and the gas-powered car, aside from its electric motor, is the low rolling resistance tires. They produce some noise and give the car a different steering feel that takes a bit of getting used to. Aside from that, the Soul EV is one of the most intuitive, user-friendly electric cars on the market.
The car’s short wheelbase makes it an ideal urban vehicle: highly maneuverable and easy to park on the street. A 34.8-foot turning circle makes it easy to perform the occasional U-turn.
A large greenhouse makes for good visibility around the perimeter. A standard rearview backup camera eliminates blind spots in back of the car.
The suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam rear axle. With a car this small, the solid rear axle works fine and adds some room for packaging the battery.
A charging port in front can plug into 120, 240 or 480-volt outlets. A complete recharge takes about 24 hours using 120-volt current, 4-5 hours using 240-volt or 30 minutes using the high-powered 480-volt outlet.
In keeping with its eco-friendly theme, designers used 53 pounds of recycled corn and sugar-based plastics on the Soul EV interior. Recyclable materials are used in the headliner, carpeting and A-pillar trim.
My driving partner and I found the interior to be stylish and comfortable, offering the same UVO infotainment and premium audio options as the gasoline-powered models. Kia has partnered with Sirius XM to offer a database of public charging stations. Navigation is standard on all models.
Engineers added additional support beams in the floor to protect the battery so the car feels quite solid. The Soul EV is one of the best electronic vehicle choices for buyers with active lifestyles because of its large cargo bay. A 12-volt outlet is standard in back making it easier to load up with gear after dark.
The Kia Soul EV comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, electronic stability control, tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist and an electronic parking brake.
The battery pack is covered by a 10-year/100,000 mile warranty that is transferable.
Like: An affordable, practical green car with good range and a spacious, configurable cargo area.
Dislike: The Soul will be available in a limited number of markets that at this point does not include the Southwest or Midwest.
Model: Soul EV
Base price: $33,700
As tested: N/A
Horsepower: 109 Hp
Torque: 210 lbs.-ft.
Zero-to-sixty: 11.2 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 120/92 mpge city/highway. Range: 93 miles2015, Green Hybrid 2015, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Kia, performance, pricing, standard safety
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