2015 Kia Soul EV : Review
The 2015 Kia Soul EV is the all-electric zero emissions vehicle at the centerpiece of Kia’s ‘Clean Mobility’ efforts. Instead of introducing a completely new EV, Kia has taken its wildly popular Soul and added an electric model. It’s a strategy that has some tradeoffs, but could prove successful as satisfied 1st generation Soul owners look for an upgrade in coming years. In typical Soul style, the EV was announced with a humorous Hampster commercial which features the sexiest animated rodent since Brittany from Alvin and the Chipmunks.
Recently Kia invited us to California to experience the new Soul EV in person. We’ve spent extensive time behind the wheel of the current Soul, and we’ve been looking forward to checking out the Electric version ever since it was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show. Sadly the sharp-looking black and red paint scheme from the commercial wasn’t available for our drive, so we were offered more environmentally sensible color combinations to drive instead.
Designated as Shadow Black and Inferno Red, we think the above color combination is an interesting choice in the EV world. It signifies that Kia is targeting their electric vehicle at hip young drivers who are stylish and tech-savvy, and not just Eco-conscious tree huggers. It shows that the shift away from fossil fuels can be cool, and not just the right thing to do. Ultimately that is what is needed to help the alternative fuel vehicle movement succeed.
The Soul EV utilizes an 81.4-kW electric motor power by a 27-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that weighs 620 pounds and produces 109-hp and 210 lb.ft of instantaneous torque. It moves off the line relatively quickly, but getting up to highway speeds is more of a challenge. Combine that with range anxiety, and the electric urban crossover will certainly feel more at home in the city than in the suburbs. For those interested in the battery details, we’ll quote the big words from a press release that appears to be written by Professor Frink.
The 360 volt, 192 cell, lithium ion polymer, gel electrolyte battery has been engineered for high-capacity, thermal stability and safety. Accordingly, the battery features a nickel cobalt manganese cathode, which helps increase capacity, and a carbon graphite based anode, which increases durability while reducing weight. HOYVIN-GLAVIN!
What most of us want to know though, is how far we can drive this thing before we have to plug it in. The Soul EV has an EPA estimated range of 93 miles, which is better than all other EVs on the market except the exceptional Tesla Model S. While we pushed the Soul EV harder for testing purposes (we encountered the electronically limited top-speed at just over 90 mph), we discovered the range to be as advertised assuming you don’t drive like an idiot.
In our afternoon driving the Soul EV, we found it ridiculously quiet and surprisingly fun to drive. The tiny Super Low Rolling Resistance (SLRR) tires help to improve range, but also make drifting around corners a bit easier than we anticipated. When utilizing Drive “D” mode with Eco off, we think an uninformed driver may not even realize they’re driving an electric, which will make transitioning to the Soul EV easier for new buyers. In Brake “B” mode, the regenerative braking becomes more aggressive, and you get a more typical EV experience. The Soul EV uses Kia’s third generation regenerative braking system to capture up to 12 percent of the car’s kinetic energy, which is fed back into the battery while the Soul EV is coasting and braking.
Besides the new color choices, there isn’t very much to distinguish the Soul EV from its gas powered brother. Initially, the Soul EV will be offered in four color choices: Caribbean Blue lower body with Clear White roof, Shadow Black lower body with Inferno Red roof, Titanium Gray and Clear White. We totally dig the two tone paint themes which are exclusive to the EV and inspired by a similar treatment seen on the 2012 Track’ster concept.
The EV exclusive front fascia includes the most obvious difference, a larger sealed tiger-nose grille that accommodates two charging ports.
The Soul EV makes charging easy by plugging into any standard 120v outlet or a conventional 240v EV charger. Two charging ports are standard, including a SAE J1772 port for Level 1 and Level 2 AC, and a CHAdeMo DC fast charging port (480v). Recharging times vary from 24 hours for a fully depleted battery using a standard 120v outlet and under five hours when plugged into a 240v outlet. An 80 percent charge can be achieved from empty in as little as 33 minutes with a 50 kW output DC fast charger.
Other exterior Soul EV features pictured above are projector headlights, LED tail lights, special badging, and the distinctive 16-inch alloy wheels. They oddly are white on every model, including the Black and Red version that you see at the top of this article. Maybe they’ll throw in a free can of Red touch-up paint if you want to fix that design choice on your own.
We like the upgraded premium interior in the 2014 Kia Soul, and it essentially is duplicated here in the 2015 Kia Soul EV with a few adjustments. The most pleasant surprise is that the under-mounted batteries did not intrude into the cabin space of the Soul EV, helping to maintain the open roomy feeling that we appreciate in this vehicle.
The bright white accent trim on the center console, instrument panel and door panels, is supposed to feel light and modern but it made the more expensive Soul EV actually feel cheaper. Overall we were left underwhelmed by the interior color palette, and puzzled by how it would work with the black and red model.
The light colors were clearly selected with air conditioning in mind, as its one of the largest energy drains in any electric vehicle.
The Soul EV’s HVAC system is designed to provide optimum comfort while also helping to extend the car’s range by minimizing energy use. The Soul EV uses four key technologies to maximize HVAC efficiency: a standard heat pump, individual ventilation, scheduled ventilation, and air intake control.
The Soul EV has received UL’s first ever automotive environmental claim validation for its 52.7 lbs. of bio-based organic content in interior plastic. Biobased plastics derived from cellulose and sugar cane are found in many places within the cabin, including the door panels, headliner, seat trim, roof pillars and carpeting. Unfortunately we never did receive an answer on whether we could eat the interior of our Soul EV if stranded with a dead battery.
The 2015 Kia Soul EV is a compelling offering that expands Kia’s existing successful Soul lineup and offers an easy gateway to electric vehicles for their customers. With a starting MSRP of $33,700 and an anticipated lease deal at $249 per month after a federal tax rebate of $7,500, Soul EV is competitively priced and should certainly be considered by Soul lovers and EV shoppers. Its limited availability and conservative launch in California only will likely build demand but could also cause Kia to lose ground to other EV manufacturers.
While we prefer the two-tone black and red paint scheme, we believe it was a last-minute marketing addition and the interior and wheel styling will need to be updated to match. Hopefully they’ll get that sorted out when they’re ready to launch Soul EV in more states because we think that design really helps to set the Soul EV apart from the Nissan Leaf and other boring electrics on the market.