Kia Soul EV: “ … one of the best small family electric cars on the market today.”




Think of a van merged with a family hatchback, possibly with a dollop of a crossover SUV on top, and that’s the Kia Soul EV.

It is a small family car built for practicality, with a high roof all the way to the rear which promises more spaciousness than you’d typically find in its class.

But if the van-like traits sound off-putting, they shouldn’t be, as it’s a lovely motor with plenty of round edges and a sporty front.

The latest Soul is offered in just two trims: Urban and Explore, with the former offering a shorter range and less clout and the latter offering the opposite with some SUV-style cladding, plus roof rails.

The Urban model features 17-inch alloys, an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen with digital radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and a seven-inch digital instrument cluster. It also has cloth upholstery, dual full-LED headlamps, a smart entry system and plenty of safety features, which I’ll come on to later.

Changes in the Explore edition include a larger 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation, black leather upholstery and heated front seats.

The most significant difference between the two is battery size, with the Urban model getting a 39.2kWh battery capable of travelling a claimed 171 miles. In contrast, the Explore variant gets 64.8kWh, managing 280 miles before it runs out of sparkly juice.

I spent a long while in the Urban version, which has 136PS and gets from 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds. The Explore brags 204PS and will do the nought to 62mph dash two seconds quicker. But the test car still feels pacey, moving away the instant you touch the accelerator.

Of course, it isn’t lightning quick but, for a vehicle intended to be driven to the shops and around town centres, it’s perfectly acceptable.

The Soul EV’s suspension setup provides for fairly sharp handling, too, gripping well on corner entry and limiting the body lean as much as possible.

The steering could be weightier when tackling bends at speed, but it can provide some entertainment for those who like to enjoy themselves behind the wheel.

As a result of the Soul EV’s agility, some ride comfort is sacrificed, although not to an excessive degree. But it can feel firm and a tad bouncy over poorer road surfaces.

The Explore Soul is 140kg heavier, so it doesn’t feel quite as alert to respond to steering inputs, but you won’t notice the difference enough to care.

One-pedal driving is possible due to the Soul’s regenerative braking system. This tech puts the charge back into the batteries under deceleration and can bring the Kia to a halt when you lift your foot off the accelerator pedal.

Inside, the cabin is well designed with heaps of piano black surfaces and the odd dash of silver trim, with the infotainment screen embedded into the centre of the dashboard beneath a couple of air vents. It is a well-designed, intuitive system with a clear screen and is responsive to your touches. But you must put up with a smaller display in the Urban-trimmed car, whereas the Explore gets a larger screen with navigation.

Of course, you can still pair your smartphone to the infotainment system and use something like Google Maps instead. So those with the Urban grade won’t necessarily miss out on the lack of an in-built sat nav.

The digital instrument cluster is equally clear and informative, although unlike in some cars, its layout can’t be customised.

The seats are comfy, and there is sufficient travel in the front seat adjustment, manually controlled by levers in the Urban. However, the Explore variant gets electric adjustment on the driver’s side, plus adaptable lumbar support.

Visibility is also notable out of the front due to Kia’s design of the front pillars, which are as thin as possible. And, although it’s less impressive out of the back, the Soul EV comes with rear parking sensors and a reversing camera as standard.

You will find lots of places to store bottles and belongings in the cabin. But the boot is smaller than the car’s shape suggests, measuring 315 litres, expanding to 1,339 litres with the rear seats folded away in a 60/40 split.

The Kia Soul EV boasts meagre running costs. There is no fossil fuel to put in it, and, despite increasing electricity costs, it’s still cheaper to charge it up than it would be to fill it up.

Charging the Urban edition takes six hours for a 10 to 100% top-up if you use a 7.2kW home wall box, but this increases to just over nine hours in the Explore variant due to its larger battery.

Road tax is free for the next couple of years until the Government begins charging for electric cars to use the roads. Meanwhile, servicing costs are generally lower in electric vehicles.

Kia’s cars also come with an industry-leading seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty, with unlimited mileage for the first three years.

Regarding safety, the Soul EV hasn’t been put through its paces by crash-testing experts Euro NCAP since 2014. Therefore, the four-star rating it earned bares little relevance today, given that the testing criteria and safety systems have evolved considerably since then.

However, Kia has a remarkable track record for safety. All Soul EVs get automatic emergency braking, a driver attention warning, tyre pressure monitoring, lane follow assist, lane keep assist and adaptive smart cruise control as standard.

The Explore model also gets blind spot monitoring, highway driving assist, safety exit warning and rear cross-traffic alert.

Although the Explore offers more extended range, additional power and a few extra luxuries, the Urban feels powerful enough to compete and is still generously equipped.

If practicality is the order of the day, then its smaller-than-expected boot might be a stumbling block, but at least it has a spacious cabin considering it’s a small car.

The latest Soul EV is good to drive, and although it’s not the best in class for ride comfort, it treads the delicate line between handling and suspension absorption well. It also offers some entertaining characteristics for those who want to enjoy themselves.

With low running costs, the Soul EV is undoubtedly one of the best small family electric cars on the market today.

Fast Facts – Kia Soul EV [Urban trim, as tested]:

  • Max speed: 97mph
  • 0-62 mph: 9.9-secs
  • Range: 171 miles (39.2kWh battery)
  • Powertrain layout: Single electric motor, front-wheel drive
  • Max. power (PS): 136
  • CO2: 0g/km
  • Price: £32,845

Photo credits: All photos courtesy of Kia Soul EV

Tim Barnes-Clay

Tim Barnes-Clay is Sorted Magazine’s Motoring Editor. He test-drives the latest cars and attends new vehicle press launches around the world. The dad-of-three has a postgraduate diploma in broadcast journalism and has been a presenter and producer at ITV Central. He has also worked as a radio reporter and undertakes video and voiceover work. You can follow and interact with Tim on Instagram @tbarnesclay

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