Pacific Northwest prepares for invasion of the 2016 Kia Soul EV
On first look one doesn’t note anything exceptional when comparing the gasoline Soul 5 door hatchback to the EV offering. Outside of the aerodynamic, low drag wheel design, special compound tires, and a rear hatch EV badge, the electric-drive 2016 Soul EV hatchback looks identical to its gasoline engine powered cousin; in fact they roll down the same assembly line in South Korea.
But the identical body line shared with Soul EV and its best selling cousin, while intentional, is where the similarity ends, when comparing the drive and ride experience of the high torque output, front wheel drive plug-in, to Kia’s best selling internal combustion Soul 5 door hatchback.
For our readers that haven't experienced electric-vehicle-transportation, prepare to be pleasantly surprised. 2016 Kia Soul is not a souped-up, high end golf cart. In-fact, after spending 15 minutes behind the wheel of 2016 Soul EV, you’ll forget that you’re driving an electric vehicle.
On the tech side
Powered via a 27 KWH lithium, 8 module battery pack, Kia’s exceptionally quiet electric motor
(360 volt synchronous electric) produces 109 horsepower/210 ft-lb torque at 2730 rpm, transferring best-in-class torque to the road through a smooth and reliable front wheel drive (FWD) differential, and a 2-stage transmission offering drive and regenerative modes.
Kia Soul EV makes tracking your remaining drive range simple through a very easy to read live color efficiency Eco-graph. When you're driving in the green, you know you're good! Another nifty feature is an i-MID graphic displaying the rate of battery drain, and the path of regenerative current as a result of engine braking charge regeneration. We actually gained 2 miles of range while driving down grade on a country 2-lane road, cool stuff!
When not driving Soul EV, battery charging is easily facilitated via 3-mode charging (110 volt, 220 volt and 40 minute high-speed quick charge) and is available at many dealership and civic parking facilities throughout the Pacific Northwest. Kia has taken the worry out of battery charge degradation through its prorated 10 year battery module warranty.
Zero emission, little to no engine, drive generated noise
Our new friends at Kia like to refer to Soul EV’s styling as ‘cool looking and just a bit quirky’ as far as electric personal conveyance goes. Soul EV styling is a bit boxy, tall by subcompact standards and Kia fans like it that way. For 2016, Kia Soul EV presents a seamless transition from petrol to EV personal transportation, without compromise as to drive-performance, ride comfort and interior configurable-utility.
Best in segment quality control
As noted by J.D. Powers and Associates, Kia has stepped up its manufacturing quality control measures in recent years, and it shows throughout the Kia Soul EV.
Upon close examination, we found interior trim quality, leather covered steering wheel, heated and cooled seating, instant-on climate controlled heat-pump air conditioning, hard and soft-touch surfaces to be of premium quality, with balance of dash, touch screen personal interface and stereo sound to work exceptionally well.
An extremely rigid safety cage assembly, lends structural integrity to Soul EV, while ensuring a squeak and rattle-free drive and ride experience; we experienced zero, while driving Soul EV. Exterior window, door seal, and mirror wind noise is negligible. In fact, the only interior noise
(other than traffic) was generated by the special compound tires, where the rubber meets the road.
Huge “Greenhouse” drive and ride environment
Exterior visibility from within the Soul EV drive environs was very good, as was backing and parallel parking, as aided by a backup camera with cautionary (color changing) directional guidelines. Seating comfort was very good, with ample leg and shoulder room discovered in the front and second row seating of Kia Soul EV. This 6’ 5” journalist found exceptional headroom throughout Soul, thanks to it’s utility-box-like profile.
We find 100 miles between charging, without hyper-miling.
Setting out in heavy downtown Seattle traffic can be just a bit dissettling. But KIa Soul through engine brake regeneration, actually increases range when driven in stop and go traffic. On a downhill grade, you can actually feel Soul, recharge, with the results proudly displayed before you on a very prominent I-MID.
Torque is evenly distributed throughout the range, and very present when called upon in transitional traffic. With the push of a pedal, 210 lb-ft torque is at your command (nearly 2x normal torque for a compact hatchback) as the most efficient, highest torque output EV available in the U.S. for under $60,000, takes you down the road in an eerily-quiet interior driving environment.
She’s a bit heavy and “loose” of steering
Thanks to the 600 lb under-body mounted 8 module battery pack, 2016 Kia Soul EV as a very low center of gravity handling characteristic. While this leads to a heavier-car-ride feel, we found the 3 way adjustable steering to be a bit “loose” as to road feel.
Nonetheless, after driving 2016 Kia EV for 15 minutes or so, one forgets that they’re behind the wheel of an electric vehicle. While Soul EV’s launch off of the light is slow by I.C. engine standards( 0-60 in 11 seconds) the overall handling, drive-ability, rolling acceleration, braking and vehicle operation is identical to that of a gasoline fired compact 5 door hatchback, sans the eerie quiet.
Sitting in the second row was surprisingly comfortable
Kia Soul EV, while not claiming the interior volume of this vehicle, does feature a family friendly environment, folding second row seating, adequate storage and cup holder capacity, and a cubby storage space or two. Once we get past the initial sticker shock ( MSRP $33,700-$35,900+) less applicable federal and state tax credits, we discover a superior drive and ride experience, and in-fact gain a bit of perspective as to what the future holds for personal, Eco-friendly, low to no carbon footprint transportation.
Range anxiety explored
2016 Kia Soul EV claims the highest MPGE (electric-mpg equivalent) in the segment. We realized a real-world, mixed driving range of 110 miles or so between charges while driving Soul EV in the Seattle Metro region. However, your mileage will vary depending on your driving style, heat pump, seat heater, stereo, and the use of accessories.
However, with an expansion of quick charge stations in the Pacific Northwest, (Seattle is #3 in the nation) and the continued evolution-revolution of the lithium battery, Kia and other EV manufacturers are quickly closing in on market-saturation-viability. Sooner or later EV and FCEV will be the norm in personal transportation, not the exception
Performance is subjective
For me, Kia Soul EV may be the perfect daily commuter and part-time work and haul vehicle. While it doesn’t sport the 0-60 mph stats of the Tesla S, nor the newly claimed extended range of the Chevy Volt, or is it Bolt?, it’s much larger than the BMW, Smart-Car EV, and Mitsubishi EV hatchback, and, when factoring in the tax rebate, the fuel cost equivalent, and drive manors of Soul, it’s quick enough for me.
Pulling into traffic, breaking away from a stop light or onto Seattle freeways was not a challenge. By the end of the morning, Soul EV driving became second nature, one forgot that they were piloting an electric vehicle.
As Kia expands its Oregon, Washington EV network
Within the coming decade, electric propulsion will be the norm, not the exception. Is the Pacific Northwest ready for the Kia Soul EV invasion? Kia’s betting on it with a partnership expansion of quick-charge station networks and dealership availability throughout the Pacific Northwest. How many units and how soon, we don’t know yet. But according to Kia’s Steve Kosowski, vehicles are being shipped to participating Pacific Northwest dealerships as you read this article.
With an average at-home daily recharge cost often under $5.00, when factored into a rebate-adjusted purchase price or low monthly lease rate of $249-$279, nominal to no maintenance cost and a 10 year, 100,000 mile product warranty, Kia may have effectively taken the hesitation out of EV ownership.
Seamless acceleration, drive and ride comfort, eerie interior-quiet, decent fit and finish.
What we’d change
Greater exterior color palette, softer ride, tighter steering feel, and perfect voice command recognition, that’s it...
Our thanks to Aaron and crew, the “Drive Shop” of Seattle Washington and American Kia Motors.