In the process of writing about cars, you see certain trends come and go, with some being more prominent than others and some standing the test of time. One ‘trend’ that cannot be ignored and that’s definitely here to stay, however, is the wholesale movement in the car industry to look for a cleaner, more efficient and less harmful form of propulsion. Electric cars have come and gone, but in this era, it’s becoming easier to pick an option from a range of manufacturers that will get you from A to B without hassle, provide a plethora of quick charging options and offer an excellent driving experience in the process. One of the new kids on the block is the Kia Soul EV – an electric version of the increasingly popular crossover from the Korean manufacturer. Here is my full Kia Soul EV review.
Kia is a car maker people wouldn’t normally associate with being ahead of the sustainable driving curve, but the Soul EV is a fully-fledged, 100% electric model that sits well against competition – a large amount of manufacturers are now offering hybrid or electric models, and I can only see this increasing as technology improves.
The thing is, nobody said adapting to electric life would be easy. Upon delivery, it was clear that a fair proportion of the Kia’s charge had been used on the short motorway drive down the M5 to Bristol. It didn’t bode well, I thought, and I started to wonder quite how I would manage to take it on my 80 mile round trip at the weekend without finding a charging point, pronto. As soon as I got into the car, however, my worries subsided. It’s clear that the EV version of the Soul isn’t meant for long trips, but that’s not really the point. The driving experience is wonderfully quiet and serene, and I thought how much quieter and peaceful the world would be if a larger proportion of the population went electric. The 81kw motor up front is equivalent to just over 100bhp, powered by a 27kWh battery. It does change the driving experience a lot – it weighs a fair bit – so the car feels a little nose heavy, but the increased availability of power and nippy acceleration around town is more than welcome. I got used to the familiar buzz of hard acceleration, and the regenerative braking does an excellent job of feeding back power into the battery so enthusiastic driving, at least for small periods, isn’t punished too harshly. On the motorway, however, it’s a slightly different story, with a low top speed and a very different way of driving, you feel like every overtaking manouver is literally sapping energy from the car. Long spells in the fast lane not recommended.
Driving this car with a heavy right foot, however, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be stopping every time you see a plug. The Kia Soul EV has an excellent regenerative braking system and a very simple way of stipulating how much you’d like this to be used – there are two drive modes – a normal ‘D’ drive mode and ‘B’ Brake mode, adjusting the level of braking to a higher level which means more of the power that has gone into driving the wheels feeds back and charges the battery when you’re slowing down. Very useful, and a great addition that contributes to the Soul EV being one of best performing electric cars out there when it comes to range.
The are some other clever touches that are noticeable when you’re in the driving seat and contribute to the car’s appeal. Like more conventionally driven cars, there’s an eco mode, but unlike other cars you’ll find yourself using it most of the time and with real purpose. What it does though is really clever – it directs air conditioning to the driver’s seat only, for example, using a heat pump which directs air round the cabin. The result is a very pleasant cockpit to be in and it feels refined, smooth and comfortable, with ultra-low rolling resistance tyres contributing to the cause somewhat.
There’s only so long you can enjoy being in the cabin in one stretch however, as the call of the plug socket is never far away. Having said that, there are a huge amount of options, and the Soul EV really benefits from these. There’s a conventional plug socket charger, which you can expect to take about 14 hours to 100% – there’s also a faster charger which will take around 4.5 hours to full (pictured). Increasingly found around service stations and business parks, the car can also be charged using the 50Kw rapid chargers supplied, powering the car to 80% in just 30 minutes. I was disappointed not to have found many chargers of any kind outside of expensive car parks in Bristol (so I had to pay to charge, essentially), but for the buyer, every new Kia will come with a wallbox.
Overall the Kia is a fantastic indication of where sustainable driving can go, and genuinely an electric car I wouldn’t hesitate to own. There still needs to be investment in electric infrastructures, and more charging points that don’t inconvenience your journey because you have to stop for so long, but otherwise I see the Kia Soul EV as a real step up in electric motoring. It’s a refined, easy, comfortable and stress-free drive, whilst being simple enough for anyone to use and charge and fun enough to drive to warrant a look in its own right. Really recommended, and even though there’s nothing truly groundbreaking in the car from a technology point of view, it is one of the most accomplished cars out there if saving money and being green is top of your agenda.
Want to read more about electric car reviews? Read my review of the Tesla Model S.