Another manufacturer has joined the electric car marketplace – enter the Kia Soul EV, the first all-electric supermini-sized SUV, and it promises a longer range than rivals.
To stand any chance of achieving the UK’s CO2 targets, we’ll all have to be driving around in cars with some degree of electrification by 2050 at the very latest. So manufacturers need to start developing electric cars now, even though EV sales in the UK are still very low. We’ve already had a number of manufacturers dip their toes in the water, and now Kia is joining the party with the Soul EV, the company’s first electric vehicle to be sold globally.
Kia only expects to sell 100 Soul EVs in the UK each year, so it’s not likely to become a familiar sight on our roads, but it represents the start of various new model introductions such as plug-in hybrids and even hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Two distinct types of electric cars are now emerging – ones that are designed from the ground up as electric cars – such as the Nissan LEAF and BMW i3 – and ones that are standard models with the petrol engine replaced by an electric powertrain – such as the Volkswagen e-Golf, and now the Kia Soul EV, which is built on the same production line as the petrol and diesel Souls.
So this is a regular Soul, but with a 275kg lithium-ion polymer battery bolted underneath the floor and the electric motor (producing the equivalent of 109bhp) under the bonnet.
The rest of the interior and exterior is virtually the same as a petrol or diesel Soul, apart from aerodynamic features such as the blanked-off front grille and special lightweight alloy wheels (the basic Soul body is not the most aerodynamic of shapes). There are also super-low rolling resistance tyres, which can reduce energy consumption by as much as ten per cent compared with regular low rolling resistance tyres.
The electric powertrain has no impact on space inside the car apart from an 80mm higher floor for rear seat passengers, and luggage capacity is reduced by 31 litres to 281 litres to accommodate charging cables underneath.
The Soul EV’s interior heating controls can just be used by the driver only, to save energy. It also has an intelligent heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system which includes a heat pump to recycle air that has already been heated or cooled within the cabin. The interior can be heated or cooled while the car is plugged in, so saving battery power on the move.
Kia claims that its battery has a class-leading specification of an energy density of 200 Wh/kg and an energy storage capacity of 27 kilowatt-hours, and there’s a heating and cooling system to keep it at an ideal operating temperature.
The Soul EV can be recharged using a standard domestic socket, a wallbox supplied as standard with the Soul EV, a public fast charger, or a public rapid charger. Using a UK 230-volt domestic power supply, the Soul EV can be fully recharged in 10 to 13 hours. With the wallbox or a public fast charge point, the time can be reduced to around five hours. Using a public rapid charger the batteries can be topped up to 80 per cent of capacity in 33 minutes.
The thing is, most electric cars drive in a very similar way. They’re refined, quiet, there’s lots of torque (285 Nm) available at all times, and the weight is generally low down due to the battery position, which enhances handling. The Kia Soul EV shares all these attributes.
The Soul EV launch was in central London and the car was an ideal vehicle to pilot through the nightmare of London traffic; it’s essentially an automatic car, so there’s no clutch or gear changes, and it has responsive acceleration, well weighted steering, and of course no noise.
When you first drive off in the Soul EV it automatically selects eco mode; you can press a button to override this, which make the car more responsive. If you want to eke out as much range as possible, then you can pull the gear selector all the way to the back and engage ‘B’ (Brake) mode, which provides greater levels of regenerative braking.
The Kia Soul emits zero tailpipe emissions, and your electricity could also emit zero CO2 if it’s on a renewable tariff. The official range of the Soul EV is 132 miles on one charge, which is slightly more than most rivals, and based on our drive through London, it looks like a believable range in real life, as long as your driving is of a gentle urban nature and not on motorways.
There’s only one Soul EV model and it costs £24,995 after the £5,000 government Plug-in Car Grant. You can choose between two colours, blue (with a white roof) or silver. Kia will also install a recharging point at your home if you buy a Soul EV – as long as you have suitable off-road parking. The Soul EV is no different from any other Kia in terms of the reassurance offered; it comes with a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty.
The Kia Soul is perfectly acceptable to drive; it’s smooth, refined, quiet and has good performance and handling. These are all features of most electric cars, so in terms of unique selling points, the Soul is the only ‘electric B-segment SUV’ (although we’re not sure that it is actually a sports utility vehicle), and it has a slightly longer range than most competitors. Like all Kias, you can expect it to do everything you want a car to do, and it will be easy to live with, well built and reliable. Like most electric cars, it has a finite range before you need to recharge, so it won’t suit everyone’s driving habits. But overall it’s another welcome addition in the marketplace and the Kia Soul EV gets a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.