Christopher Little

Artificial Heart: 2016 Kia Soul EV

You can’t build an opinion with one data point. After a mostly-successful week with our first-ever electric vehicle test, Kia wanted to know if we’d like to try another. Without much consideration, we decided that yes, we would. After all, once you’ve driven the world’s most affordable EV, there’s nowhere to go but up in price. And by stepping up a few thousand, choices abound. Will Kia’s gas-turned-electric Soul impress or depress?

Kia Soul EV 1

Kia’s Soul is one of the few EVs that has an internal combustion counterpart. Competitors like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt are solely electrically driven. The Soul EV has several distinct design elements to set it apart. With no fuel-burning engine, the Soul EV has minimal cooling requirements and, therefore, no front grille. In its place is a panel covering the Soul EV’s Level 120v/240v AC charger and DC fast-charger. This gives the Soul a huge benefit in terms of ease-of-access compared to a more “traditional” placement, especially in narrow parking lots or tight garages. The unique two-tone paint scheme and distinct 16” alloy wheels finish off the Soul EV’s looks.

Kia Soul EV 5

Beneath the square hood of the Soul EV, an 81.4kW electric motor powers the front wheels. At peak output, that equates to 109 horsepower and 210 lb-ft torque. A 27kWh lithium battery beneath the rear floor stores an EPA estimated 93 miles of range.  The immediate torque makes running around town quick and easy. When it comes to your daily commute, at least for us, the Kia will keep up with highway traffic and has enough range to get you there and back again without any anxiety. If you do run the Soul EV down completely, it’ll take 24 hours to fully recharge using a standard 120v outlet. If you happen to have a 240v outlet, that time drops impressively to under five hours. The DC fast charger will top you up to 80% in just 30 minutes.

The Soul’s quirky character fits perfectly with the nature of an EV. It’s different, but not just for the sake of being different. In Caribbean Blue with its white roof, the Soul EV stands out from the crowd visually. The success of the Soul EV, however, is that the EV technology takes a backseat when you’re driving. Other than the unusually quiet ride, the Soul EV is like any other car. There’s an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, separate drive modes, a functional (and smart) HVAC system, and real-world practicality for passengers and cargo. This is a massive improvement over our first EV experience. Very few experiences in the Soul EV feel cheap or contrived. When you’re away from the car, embedded Verizon data connectivity allows the Soul EV to communicate with its owner via the UVO EV app. From your phone, you can check the battery charge, set charging times and levels, find nearby charging stations, and precondition the cabin with HVAC controls. The last feature helps heat or cool the car with line power, reducing the draw on the battery to run the HVAC more aggressively once you’re underway.

Kia Soul EV 6

When it comes to living with an EV every day, it’s difficult to with the Kia Soul EV’s capabilities. With an as-tested price of $36,000, the Soul EV costs 10 grand more than the gas-powered Soul! we tested two years ago. While the $7,500 government tax credit still applies, there are cheaper alternatives if your only goes is to ditch the gas station. What we’ve learned so far, however, is that the Soul EV represents a point where the features and real-world functionality of an all-electric vehicle exceed current limitations – at least for life in Upstate New York. The departure of the Soul EV left us thinking that maybe, with a 240V outlet in our garage, we could learn to live with it every day….if we had to.

-Christopher Little

2016 Kia Soul EV+
$35,950
Destination Charges $825
As Tested MSRP $36,775

Related:
New Generation: 2015 Kia Soul !

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