Good, Clean Fun
Kia dipped its toe into the green car world a few years ago with the Optima Hybrid and now digs into the Crayon box for even a deeper shade of green with the all-new 2015 Soul EV. This fun, zip-around-town car is a kick to drive and, of course, you won’t spend a dime on gas and oil.
The front-wheel drive 2015 Soul EV is powered by an 81kW electric motor good for 109 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque with an EPA range estimate of 93 miles. This range is better than EV competitors Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Spark EV and Fiat 500e. Only the Tesla Model S, which costs three times as much as the Soul EV, can go further on a charge.
Available in two models, Base and Plus, the Soul EV gets you to 60 mph in about 12 seconds with an electronically limited top speed of 90 mph.
The Soul EV is currently (October 2014) only available in California so be warned there is little dealer support outside of the Golden State. The Soul, which also comes in a gasoline version, is a small car, sometimes also classified as a city, urban or sub-compact. Similar diminutive cars are the Scion iQ, Nissan Versa, Toyota Prius c and Mitsubishi Mirage, to name a few.
A Lithium-Ion battery (Li-Ion for short) packs the power for the Soul EV with charging accomplished through a regenerative braking system and two plug-in ports offering three charging levels (based on a fully discharged battery):
• 120V (Level 1) 24 hours To a full charge
• 240V (Level 2) 5 hours To a full charge
• 480V (Level 3) 33 minutes To an 80% charge
The regenerative braking system converts braking or coasting into electricity, charging the battery. The charge and mileage range is shown by dashboard gauges. It is quite common to start an in-town journey of stop-and-go driving, to return with more or only a few miles depleted from the beginning range. However, where the regenerative braking system does not offer any help in charging the battery or adding to the driving range is on the freeway. Cruising along at 55 – 65mph over an extended period will result in the battery charge and driving range depleting right before your eyes.
Initially, at least 17 Kia dealers in California will have Level 2 chargers available for free quick charge, which brings the total number of public Level 2 chargers in California to 215 (as of November 2014).
A safety net in California, if you are a AAA member, is a limited area program where you can get an emergency charge from one of their service trucks. Just like if you ran out of gasoline and AAA dumped a five-gallon can in your tank,
select AAA trucks are equipped with a 480V generator that will give you about 20 miles of driving range to get you to a dealer or charge station. But do not rely on AAA to get you to your destination, just plan better.
Driving Experience: On the Road
The Soul EV weighs in at 3,289 lbs. which is evenly distributed as the Li-On batteries are located low (under the seats). This balance helps with good handling, even though the 16-inch aluminum wheels and super low rolling resistance tires aren’t the best combination for spirited corning. To help get around the corners you have an electric motor-driven steering system coupled to front independent MacPherson struts and coil springs, along with a rear torsion beam suspension. Overall, the car felt sprightly and was fun to drive.
Stopping comes from front and rear active hydraulic boost-assisted, vented disc brakes, with ABS, which are part of Kia’s regenerative braking system. The stops were straight and consistent and, as can be common with regenerative braking systems, the brakes were not touchy nor did they produce an unpleasant whine.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The Soul EV has the same body design as the gasoline-powered version with a few tweaks differentiating the two. Changes include two-toned paint schemes with the roof carrying a different color than the body, unique wheel covers, “eco
electric” fender badging, LED head and taillights and a different front fascia that includes the charge port door centered in the grill. Overall, the Soul EV has an identifiable shape that is unique among hatchbacks.
Driving Experience: Interior
The Soul EV is very nicely equipped as a base model with the Plus version Clean Fleet Report drove having just the right finishing touches.
Standard equipment includes a six-speaker SiriusXM/FM/CD/AMHD with MP3 playback capability, two-toned cloth seats (the Plus has leather) with accent piping and stitching, voice-command navigation with an 8-inch screen, rear
back-up camera, Bluetooth for hands-free telephone operation and music streaming, power windows, outside mirrors and driver seat, heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise control and audio/telephone controls, push button start/stop, automatic climate control, tilt and telescopic steering column and Kia’s UVO infotainment system.
Our Plus model had two-toned heated and ventilated leather seats for the driver and passenger with the driver’s being power six-way adjustable. The rear outboard seats are heated and split 60/40. Cup holders abound and soft-touch dash and upper door panels had a good feel and look.
The cockpit design is driver friendly with the gauges in easy sight and the controls within easy reach; all are easy to understand. A unique feature aiming to reduce energy use is the button that isolates the ventilation only to the driver, therefore eliminating running the climate system for the full interior when it is not needed.
Kia has equipped the 2015 Soul EV with active and passive safety features including six air bags, TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), Hill Start Assist Control (HAC), Pedestrian Warning System, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) and the aforementioned four-wheel disc with ABS and push button start/stop.
Depending on your taxable income, you could potentially reduce your final purchase cost by as much as $10,000 through Federal and California State programs. It is recommended contacting your CPA before considering a Soul EV purchase so you are completely clear on the tax credits. Not relying on the dealer to provide this information will serve them and you best.
2015 Soul EV pricing before any Federal or State tax programs, but including the Destination Charge of $800 is:
In California the Soul EV automatically qualifies for the coveted HOV sticker, which allows driving in the Carpool lane even with only the driver. If you haven’t heard the stories, people buy electric vehicles just for this benefit. Also expect some competitive lease deals to help move these cars.
The 2015 Soul EV comes with these warranties:
• 10 year/100,000 mile Powertrain
• 5 year/60,000 mile Basic
• 10 year/100,000 mile Electric Vehicle System
• 5 year/60,000 mile Roadside Assistance
• 3 year/36,000 mile Non-impact paint repairs (fading, cracking, chipping or flaking)
• 5 year/100,000 miles Anti-Perforation
Observations: 2015 Kia Soul EV
The biggest electric vehicle purchase considerations are how far you drive daily and if, when you get to your destination, you can recharge the battery. It doesn’t sound like much, but these factors are no small thing when owning a fully electric car.
Before starting the Soul EV, you need to do some simple math. Your days of leaving the house with a 1/4 tank of gas knowing you can fill up at dozens of stations in mere minutes are over. If you run out of electricity in the Soul EV you will
need to find a charging station and wait until the car has sufficient battery charge to get you to your destination. So, is this enough to scare you away from considering owning a Soul EV? Let’s talk about the car and what to consider before pushing the Start button, then we will come back to if a Soul EV should be in your garage.
If you are not familiar with electric vehicle technology, let’s lay down some basics:
• There is no engine (gasoline, diesel, natural gas) so there are no tune-ups, filters and belts to change, oil to check or add, etc.
• There are no transmission fluids or filters to service
• You will never, ever buy any type of petroleum product to make your car go down the street
The gasoline use part of an EV purchase is significant, especially if you are currently spending $200 – $500 monthly on gasoline for your work commute and around town driving. If 90-percent of your driving is within 60 miles of your house, a Soul EV could be right for you as you would never need to buy gasoline again. Ever. But what about a longer trip where the Soul EV range can’t get you there and back? In this case, the Soul EV is probably your second car or you would rent a car for the day, weekend or week.
Before visiting your local Kia dealer, call ahead and make an appointment with one of their certified EV sales representatives. Do not speak with anyone at any dealership, regardless of brand, who has not gone through the factory training and education programs of what makes an electric vehicle unique, which includes its benefits and limitations. Once at the dealership, make sure to take a lengthy test drive, which replicates your longest and most common trip, as this is the only way to truly see if the 2015 Soul EV is right for your lifestyle.
Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!
Related Stories of Kia Soul EV Competitors You Might Enjoy:
Road Test: Chevy Spark EV
Road Test: Fiat 500e
Road Test: Nissan Leaf
Road Test: Mitsubishi Mirage
Road Test: Toyota Prius c
Road Test: Nissan Versa Note