Learning to Love Electric: A Review of the 2015 Kia Soul EV
Before getting into my views on the 2015 Kia Soul EV, I want to clarify a few points on my experiences with both electric vehicles and with the traditionally powered Kia Soul.
I have had the pleasure of driving a handful of pure electric vehicles – those which do not have any sort of range extending gasoline engine – including the Nissan Leaf and the Fiat 500e. However, I only got to put a few miles on those cars and in terms of longer test sessions, the only “electric vehicles” with which I’ve spent any significant amount of time have been the Chevrolet Volt and the Cadillac ELR. Both of those vehicles use an electric drive system, but they also feature a range extending gasoline engine which allows you to essentially ignore the remaining electric range, as when you run out of battery power – the Volt and ELR have a gas engine to keep the battery charged.
On the other hand, when the battery in the Kia Soul EV is dead, there is no fallback plan, so daily driving the electric Kia would require more careful planning than did the Volt or ELR – but we will get to that later.
The Kia Soul
The Kia Soul is an interesting little vehicle that really doesn’t fit into any of the traditional automotive types in the US market. It is hard to call it a crossover, as it is small, low to the ground and only front wheel drive, but it does offer a ton of cargo space and seating space like you would get with a crossover or small sport utility vehicle. It is hard to call a station wagon because it really isn’t shaped like any of the station wagons, as they are generally car-based and the Soul clearly isn’t a “car”. On paper, the Soul isn’t the kind of vehicle that I would enjoy, as I am a lover of muscle cars and other high performance, rear or all-wheel drive sports cars along with full sized trucks – but having spent time in a traditionally powered (non-EV) Soul in the past, I have no qualms stating how much I enjoy driving the Soul.
While it might not really fit into any vehicle class in the United States market, it is efficient, affordable, incredible roomy, nicely appointed inside and – surprisingly – very fun to drive. The Soul is not a vehicle that I should enjoy, but I do…and I look forward to spending time driving the funky little Korean station wagon/crossover vehicle.
However, would the electric version of the Kia Soul offer all of the attributes that lead me to enjoy driving the gasoline powered models?
For the most part, yes, but driving the 2015 Kia Soul EV taught me a great deal – not just about this Korean EV – but all pure electric vehicles.
Living with an Electric Vehicle
My first key lesson on living with an electric vehicle came on my second day with the Kia Soul EV, as I had to drive to a media event in Detroit. From my house, Detroit is about a 45-48 mile trip depending on the path chosen and the Kia Soul has an EPA electric range of 93 miles. However, when the Soul EV was fully charged, it was “only” reading around 88 miles of range. If you do the math, a vehicle with 88-93 miles worth of range would have a hard time making it from my house to Detroit and back without charging.
Fortunately, during my first day with the Soul, when I was running errands closer to my home, I noticed that I was able to use my electric range very efficiently. I started my day with 88 miles of range and I drove about 30 miles yet I only used around 24 miles worth of range. Based on those numbers, I found that I was able to squeeze at least 10% more mileage out of the Soul EV than what the on-board diagnostic system predicted so with 88 miles of range, 10% more would put me around 96 miles and 96 miles is – in theory – enough to get from my house to Detroit and back, without charging. Mind you, my 10% figure was fairly conservative, so I was confident that I could make the trip into Detroit without worrying about running out of juice.
When the time came to make the trek to the D, I unplugged my Kia Soul EV and headed out with 88 miles of range on the high tech odometer and when I had reached my destination in Detroit, I had driven 46 miles and I had only used about 40 miles worth of electric range, leaving me 48 miles to make the 46 mile trip home.
While driving home from the event, I continued watching the miles count down as I got closer to home, and while I was pretty sure that I would make it, I used the Soul’s built-in charging station locator to see where I might be able to stop if I was getting too close to running the Kia out of battery power. This system really is cool, as it can direct you to all of the public charging stations in your location, including the exact mileage so that you can see which is within the available range. Later on, out of curiosity, I did drive around to see how accurate the charging station location system was – and I found it to be 100% accurate, so the Soul EV will safely guide you to a public charging station if you get in trouble with your range.
Fortunately, my math worked out and I was able to make it home from Detroit with 3 miles to spare. In the end, I drove 93 miles with 3 miles left on 88 miles worth of range and I did so while driving normally, so throughout the duration of my 93 mile trip, I was generally traveling at or slightly above the posted speed limit. No hypermiling or special driving needed to squeeze extra mileage out of the Soul EV, although I definitely experienced the annoyance of range anxiety.
The rest of my trips in the Kia Soul EV were normal, shorter trips that posed no risk of running out of electric range, so all of my normal daily driving exercises were a breeze. I plugged the car in while I was home and every morning, I had just shy of 90 miles of electric range to get through my day and while I used some public charging stations simply for the experience, I didn’t actually need to use anything but the charging cable plugged into a standard socket at my house.
Soul VS Soul EV – Inside and Out
While the Kia Soul powered by the 2.0L gasoline engine, which offers 164 horsepower and 151lb-ft of torque, is hardly fast by today’s standards of performance cars, the funky little crossover is surprisingly fun to drive. It has solid acceleration from a stop, it pulls well through the midrange (highway acceleration) and it handles very well so while you aren’t going to dominate your local race track – I expect that most Soul owners do enjoy driving their little Kia. I enjoyed driving it when I had it and I prefer big trucks and muscle cars. It is spunky and nimble enough to keep the driver engaged and in terms of affordable, efficient crossovers, that can be hard to find.
On top of the driving excitement offered by the gas powered Kia Soul, it has plenty of room for four adults, a huge cargo area for such a small vehicle and tons of high tech amenities inside that come as a nice surprise in a vehicle that is so affordable, with a price topping out under $30k.
The issue is that the Soul EV costs a great deal more – my test vehicle had a sticker price, fully loaded, of $36,625. Also, the addition of the battery system often cuts into the interior space of many electric vehicles, so the Soul stood the risk of losing some of that impressive cargo and seating space in converting it to an EV…or at least I though.
Upon getting into the Kia Soul EV, there is really no indication that this vehicle is any different than other than the extra information displayed on the dash. The Soul EV has the same spacious interior with plenty of leg room for rear-riding passengers and the Soul EV has just as much rear cargo space as the gasoline powered Soul. The Soul EV also comes all loaded up with an impressive infotainment system, heated and cooled front seats, heated outboard rear seats, leather throughout the cabin and a great sounding stereo system. To get an idea of how well appointed the Soul EV is, consider that to get all of these features in the non-EV Soul, you have to order “The Whole Shebang Package”. It is actually called that – The Whole Shebang Package. How can you not love that?
Anyways, in short, Kia has managed to preserve all of the strong points of the Soul in the EV version from front to rear so having been impressed by the non-EV Soul, I am every bit as impressed with the electric version.
Finally, while the Soul EV has some unique features – such as the charging station integrated into the front grille area, the package specific wheels or the gorgeous bright blue and white paint scheme – it looks pretty much the same as the non-EV Soul, as that is a good thing. The EV package includes high tech LED headlight trim over dual projection headlight units as well as LED taillights out back. The gas-powered Soul looks sporty and kind of aggressive, and the EV maintains all of those attributes while incorporating the EV-specific features in a way that only adds to the good looks of this spunky little 5-door.
The Final Word
If you like the Kia Soul and you are considering an electric vehicle, the Soul EV might just be the best choice on the market. The Soul EV preserves the good looks and the spacious, loaded interior of the gas-powered Soul, but it ditches the gas engine for an electric drivetrain that provides tons of power for strong acceleration and a very solid range of around 90 miles on a charge. Basically, the Soul EV requires no compromise in terms of the features that make the original Soul such a great little vehicle, so if a pure electric vehicle with this range works for your daily driving routine, the Kia Soul EV is definitely a vehicle that you need to check out before making your next big purchase.
While I was sweating a little on that drive to Detroit, I enjoyed my time in the Soul EV just as much as I did the gas-powered Soul, so if I was shopping for a roomy EV, this would most certainly be at the top of my list.