Kia Soul EV hatchback (2020 - ) review
The Kia Soul EV is a small, all-electric SUV-like hatchback that rivals cars like the Hyundai Kona Electric, Volkswagen e-Golf and Nissan Leaf. It arrives in the UK in late 2019.
Interested in buying a Kia Soul?
How good does it look?
The Soul has always been a bit different from the mainstream, and this latest version continues that trend. It's got narrow headlights and the familiar boxy shape that continues from previous incarnations, and is slightly larger than the car it replaces. Exact UK specs haven’t yet been announced, but expect all models to have full LED headlights and at least 17-inch alloy wheels, as well as a choice of vibrant paint colours and options to have a different coloured roof.
What's the interior like?
The interior design of the Soul is a bit more funky than other models in the Kia range. You'll even be able to specify an ambient lighting system that pulses in time with whatever music you're playing. The seating position is high, looking out over the bonnet, and visibility is pretty good thanks to the boxy shape.
The plastics used aren't particularly premium, but they’re all put together well with no rattles or creaks on the move. We’ve only had a short test drive of the car on its international launch, so haven’t had time to properly play with the infotainment system, which has plenty of features including in-car telematics. This means you can check on features like levels of charge using a smartphone app. It's all works well and is pretty intuitive.
How practical is it?
There’s plenty of space even for tall adults in the back, with more-than-adequate head and legroom and plenty of places to put drinks and odds-and-ends. Boot space is up on the previous Soul, but it’s still not particularly cavernous, so if cargo haulage in your Kia is particularly important to you, the larger e-Niro might be worth a look instead. Still, the Soul’s rear seats fold down if you need to carry larger items.
What's it like to drive?
The advantage of an electric car is that the batteries tend to be in the floor, which lowers the centre of gravity compared to more traditional vehicles. This has a positive effect on the handling, and the Soul EV feels solid and nimble through the corners, with steering that’s nicely weighted for a bit of heft in the bends, but light enough to make low-speed manoeuvring straightforward.
However, the suspension that’s set up stiffly enough to keep the car from rolling around in the bends makes for quite a firm ride. We’ve only tried it so far on well-maintained European roads, but we’re concerned British B-roads and their associated lumps and bumps might have an adverse effect on ride comfort.
How powerful is it?
There are two versions of the Soul EV, and at the time of writing it hasn’t been confirmed if both are coming to the UK. The standard model has a 39.2kWh battery attached to an electric motor that develops 136 horsepower and has a range of 172 miles, while the long-range model sports a 64kWh battery and a 204-horsepower electric motor, and will do an impressive 280 miles on a charge.
The latter is the one we’ve tried, and it’s impressively perky to drive, with quick response from the accelerator and strong pull no matter what speed you’re doing. Change the set-up to sport mode and it’s positively frisky, with really sharp reactions for a car of this type.
Paddles behind the steering wheel control how much the car recoups energy during braking and coasting, when you lift off the accelerator. Doing so will recharge the battery but also acts as a brake. During our short time with the car, we’ve found the automatic setting works well, cranking up the recuperation during lower speed manoeuvring but loosening it on the motorway so you don’t inadvertently slam the brakes on when you lift off the accelerator.
How much will it cost me?
UK specifications for the Soul EV have yet to be released, and as such it’s impossible right now to know how it’ll stack up against the opposition. We’d expect it to cost less to buy than Kia's other electric car, the e-Niro, and we’d also expect the resale value to be strong, as demand is likely to be high. As an all-electric car, it’ll cost much less to fuel than a petrol or diesel vehicle. Kia says both battery versions can be charged from 20-80% in 42 minutes using a 100kWh fast charger.
How reliable is it?
Kia has an excellent reputation for reliability. JD Power’s 2018 Vehicle Dependability Study placed Kia third of all manufacturers, so customers should be pretty confident their Soul EV won’t give them much trouble. Should anything go wrong, however, Kia offers an excellent seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty which includes the battery and electric motor.
How safe is it?
There are plenty of safety systems available on the Soul EV, but again we don’t know which will be standard in the UK and which will be optional. Most of the latest systems you’d expect to find will be available, including camera and radar-based systems like automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist and blind spot warning. Up to six airbags will be included, and there will be Isofix child seat mounting points in the back. We’ll update this review with more detailed information once it’s announced.
How much equipment do I get?
This is another area it’s hard to comment on until UK specifications for the Soul EV are confirmed. However, we do know it’ll likely have an SUV pack as standard, which will add some robust-looking plastic wheel arches and bumpers to the bodywork, as well as the upgraded infotainment system.
A great many of the Soul EV’s customers will be drawn to its impressive range and battery life, which should widen the appeal of electric vehicles. But it’s also a quirky machine that stands out from some of its drab competitors, and has the added bonus of being practical and fun behind the wheel. We expect it to do very well.