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2015 Kia Soul EV Review By Steve Purdy +VIDEO

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2015 Kia Soul EV

By Steve Purdy
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Here in the U.S. our choices of pure electric vehicles are limited for good reasons – primarily cost and range anxiety. Electrics, and even full hybrids, still constitute a tiny fraction of the automobile market and that number is not growing much. Battery technology has not yet advanced to the point that costs come down significantly, so to add range is very expensive. We recently reviewed VW’s Golf EV that will go about 100-miles on a full charge and this week we have the Kia Soul EV with a nearly equivalent range.

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The Kia Soul, in all its iterations, is one of my favorite small cars for a variety of reasons we can sum up as being charming and functional with a big personality. When people ask for recommendations of what car they should buy (we auto writers get that a lot) I’ve often ended up recommending the Soul to a broad demographic for precisely these reasons. In fact, just this morning a friend of mine in southern California told me she is thinking of something new and she wants to downsize from her current car. She’s been retired for many years and is very active. I suggested she take a look at the Soul.

Soul is a Korean-made compact 5-door, front-wheel drive hatchback (some call it a wagon or CUV - and it is all those things) with a quirky, boxy shape. I’ve described it in the past as “cute as an anime puppy.” Soul’s vertical demeanor means it is much easier than most compacts to get in and out of with head and legroom better than the usual compact.

The appearance of the EV version of the Soul is punctuated by blue trim and badging, A body-color charging port door is half of what would be the grille of the conventional car. Blue accents around the car along with unusual-looking, aerodynamic white alloy wheels help set this one apart from its conventionally powered brethren. Blue-accented projector beam headlights add to the ambiance. The 16-inch wheels, by the way, are shod with SLRR (super low rolling resistance) tires.

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Inside, the Soul EV feels roomy and airy, partly because of the light colored materials but also because the high roofline allows for a larger greenhouse than most other compacts.
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We have white leather seats and trim with blue piping. The dash is a nice white material and the control panel in the center of the dash is made of a shiny, almost translucent plastic with a retro look. USB, auxiliary input and two 12V outlets are conveniently located in the cubby ahead of the console. On each side of the dash a stylish tower houses vents and speakers. Rear seat area also feels roomy and comfortable. Split rear seat backs fold 60/40. Cargo capacity is 18.8 cubic-feet with seat backs in position and 49.5 with them folded. Total passenger volume is a good 97.1 cubic-feet.

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It looks almost as if there is a small, conventional engine under the plastic cover when we open the hood. But really it is an electric motor and all the electronic stuff it takes to make it work. The 27-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack located under the car stores enough electrons for an advertised EPA estimated 93-mile range and a miles-per-gallon “equivalent” of 105 in the combined cycle. The AC motor is good for just 109 horsepower but a sold 210 pound-feet of torque. The big advantage of the electric powertrain is that the full measure of torque is available right from a dead stop, and we can really feel that. Acceleration is impressive. We found the readout in the IC that indicates the number of miles of range remaining on the charge to be accurate. As a disclaimer, though, we should note that our week with the car was so nice we needed neither the AC nor heater.

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Soul EV prices start at $31,950 before application of the federal tax credit worth $7,500. Net cost then, for most folks, will be about $24,500 on the entry level Soul EV. Without the credit I would consider the car overpriced, but with the credit it is a bargain – particularly if you want to make a statement about your environmental cred. It is important to note that the $33,950 price of our mid-range Soul EV includes some premium content like leather seating, projector beam headlights, LED accent lighting, privacy glass and 16-inch white w/matte satin-metal spoke alloy wheels. Our test car’s leather seats have bold stitching and blue piping that is listed as standard on the top trim EV+ model but our sticker says this is standard on our mid-range car. Compare this to the conventionally powered Soul with base prices ranging from $16,690 to $21,090. A loaded top-trim conventional Soul will be around 25 grand.

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>Soul EV is currently available in limited markets. After initial launch in early 2015 in California, Georgia, Texas, Washington and Hawaii, Kia just announced in late 2015 availability will soon expand to New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland. Only nineteen dealers across these last four states will be certified to sell and service the EV in the beginning.

Driving dynamics of the Soul EV had me grinning most of the time. Firm suspension, good steering and that notorious electric motor torque allows for spirited driving whenever we like. A good test is our tight cloverleaf with short entrance ramp onto I-96. The firm suspension allows us to push it around the last 20 degrees of the leaf and the torque gets us well ahead of the trucks in the right lane conspiring to get in our way. In spite of the SLRR tires we heard no squeal and felt no squirming.

Kia’s warranty covers the Soul EV for 5 years or 60,000 miles and both the powertrain and the batteries for 10 years or 100,000 miles.

So, if you are in one of the areas where the Soul EV is offered and if you like the idea of a full electric car you ought to take a look at this one. In my case, I’m neither in the right area nor would any EV suit my driving habits, but I sure enjoyed my time with this cute and competent electric Korean.

©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

2014 LA Auto Show Kia Press Conference