New Car Review
2017 Kia Soul EV: New Car Review
The 2017 Kia Soul EV delivers all the cuteness and utility of the gasoline-powered Soul, but with zero emissions. When it debuted a few years back, the Soul EV was the king of the affordable electric car hill, offering a longer range than a comparably equipped Ford Focus EV, Nissan Leaf or Honda Fit EV. However, thanks to improvements in a number of its competitors, as well as the debut of the new 238-mile range Chevrolet Bolt, the Soul EV's 93-mile range now places it near the back of the electric car pack.
When plugged into a standard 120-volt outlet, the Soul EV takes about 24 hours to fully charge, but that time drops to a mere five hours when using a 240-volt outlet. A 94 percent charge can be reached in as little as 43 minutes with the standard DC Fast Charging port. The Soul EV can even recharge its batteries while in motion thanks to a regenerative braking system that helps capture and store energy.
As good as it is, the Soul EV isn't the consumer's only choice. Sizewise, the $33,000 Soul EV's closest competitors are the Nissan Leaf and the Ford Focus Electric, each coming in around $31,000 and $30,000, respectively. The Volkswagen e-Golf is closer to the Soul EV in price, and like the Focus, now has a longer range than the Soul EV; the Fiat 500e is also similarly priced but has a shorter range by about 10 miles. When considering the overall cost of owning an electric car, remember to factor in the government's tax credit, which can be as high as $7,500 if you qualify.
What's New for 2017?
For 2017, the Kia Soul EV receives an improved fast charge port delivering a 94 percent charge in about 43 minutes. New features include available dark gray 16-inch wheel covers, a rear center armrest and on EV-e models, a new audio system with a 5-in color display and rear backup camera. UVO eco (EV and EV plus) is the new app that allows remote control of the HVAC, speed alter, curfew alert and vehicle diagnostic all via your smartphone.
What We Like
Handles well; loads of cool features; good range on a single charge; roomy interior; batteries don't impede on cargo space
What We Don't
Price is a bit high; limited number of select markets
The Soul EV is powered by an 81.4-kilowatt electric motor producing the rough equivalent of 109 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque. The electric miles per gallon gasoline-equivalent rating for the Soul EV is 120 mpg in the city and 93 mpg on the highway, and 105 mpg combined. The range for a fully charged Soul EV is 93 miles.
Standard Features & Options
The Kia Soul EV is offered in three trims: EV-e, EV and Plus.
The Soul EV-e ($33,145) includes DC Fast Charging port, 6.6-kw on-board charger, 16-in lightweight alloy wheels, keyless entry with push-button starting, power windows, mirrors and door locks, auto headlights, automatic climate control with driver-zone-only feature, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver's seat, a tilt-telescopic steering column, a trip computer, a unique EV-oriented gauge cluster, climate scheduling (allows preset heating or cooling of the vehicle while charging), FlexSteer driver-selectable power steering, an AM/FM/CD/satellite radio with 5-in color screen, rear backup camera monitor and six speakers plus an iPod/USB port.
The Soul EV base ($34,845) adds a heat pump HVAC system, 16-in alloy wheels, outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, 8-in color display with navigation and UVO voice-activated infotainment.
The Soul EV Plus ($36,845) adds fog lights, leather seats, power-folding mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, heated and ventilated front seats, a padded leatherette dash pad and door armrests, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and heated rear seats.
The Soul EV-e and base EV are a complete package with no factory options, although a few dealer-installed items are available. The EV Plus can be equipped with the Sun & Fun package (see the What's New section for details).
The 2017 Kia Soul EV comes with a complete armory of the latest safety features including front, front-side impact, and front and rear side-curtain airbags. Also on board are anti-lock brakes, electronic traction and stability control, hill-start assist, and because EVs run so silently, a pedestrian warning system that creates a virtual engine noise at low speeds.
As for crash-test results, neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tested the Soul EV. The gasoline-powered Soul does very well, however, earning an overall 5-star rating from the NHTSA and a top scores in all the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests.
Behind the Wheel
Like most electric cars, the Soul EV is quick, quiet and efficient. Thanks to its batteries' additional weight, the Soul EV feels more substantial than its gasoline-powered equivalent, but it also takes about a second and a half longer to reach 60 miles per hour. Handling is good but not as sharp or well-mannered as in the VW e-Golf. The Soul EV's 3-mode FlexSteer driver-selectable steering is an interesting attempt at improving feedback, but we found little noticeable difference between the Sport, Normal and Comfort modes.
The 81.4-kw electric motor in the Soul EV produces 210 lb-ft of torque, which gives this little compact impressive power for off-the-line starts. It takes some time to get used to the way an EV accelerates, as the 1-speed transmission never shifts. Even more unsettling is the aggressive nature of the regenerative braking system that, once the driver's foot is removed from the accelerator, rapidly decelerates. Kia says the Soul EV will run to 60 mph in 11.5 seconds, with a top speed of about 90 mph.
Other Cars to Consider
2017 Nissan Leaf -- The Leaf costs less and has a more eccentric design than the Soul EV, but it also has less standard content. The Leaf can travel further than the Soul EV, up to 107 miles on a single charge.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt -- The Bolt costs about $5,000 more than the Soul EV, but it delivers better performance and can travel up to 238 miles on a single charge.
Used Chevrolet Volt -- The 2011-2015 Chevrolet Volt isn't a pure electric but rather a hybrid gasoline-electric that runs solely on electric power for about 40 miles. After that, a small gasoline engine powers the generator, which in turn provides power to the electric motor. Although it's not a zero-emissions vehicle, the Volt is much more practical for long trips.
Considering there's only a $2,000 difference between the middle and top trims, we say go for the Soul EV Plus. Its heated and ventilated front seats are worth every extra penny, and the park-assist feature is a nice way to ensure that the bumpers won't get beaten up when parallel parking.