2014 Kia Soul EV: Sneak Peek
To fully understand the Kia Soul EV, you have to understand the car's home country, Korea. A visit to Korea reveals just how much natural beauty that country has.
The mountains look like Malibu, the beaches have the drama and serenity of the Oregon coast and the large cities rival Manhattan in flashing lights per square inch and restaurants per square mile.
It's only fitting that a Korean automaker such as Kia would want to preserve and protect its irreplaceable natural resources and way of life. A low-emission/low-consumption car is one way it's protecting its home.
Many Good EVs
In fact, the Soul EV isn't Kia's first electrified car. They have the Optima Hybrid as well as the Ray EV, a cool little subcompact wagon not sold in the U.S.
But even if Kia has its heart in the right place, that doesn't mean an all-electric Soul will be a hit in the U.S.
The EV landscape is growing in volume and brand variety. The Nissan Leaf is the most popular EV, but it's not dramatically different from the Ford Focus Electric, Chevy Spark EV or Honda Fit EV. The Tesla Model S adds a luxury and performance quality to EVs.
The Kia Soul EV's closest competitor is probably the Toyota RAV4 EV. However, the RAV4 EV is based on the previous version of the RAV4 and costs roughly $50,000.
The Soul EV can't cost $50,000, and Kia knows it. A home run would be a price in the mid-to-high $20,000 range. When faced with the reality of what's currently available, most EV shoppers would probably pay into the low $30,000 range for a car that's as practical, attractive and fresh-looking as the Soul EV. At this point, we don't know how much the Soul EV will cost.
How Does it Drive?
On the road, the Soul offers no surprises. It's quiet and quick like most electric cars. The weight of the batteries gives the Soul a more substantial feel compared to the gasoline-powered Soul. The Soul EV even has decent handling.
You can feel the weight during hard cornering, but it's within what most people would consider normal.
In fairness, we drove development vehicles that were still wearing their camouflage, so many attributes will likely change. One thing that can be improved is the steering feel. We're sure this is something Kia will tweak many times before the car goes on sale sometime in 2014. We're thinking late fall of 2014.
The 81.4-kW electric motor produces 210 lb-ft of torque. Torque is the twisting force exerted on an object -- the higher the number, the more you will feel that pressed-back-in-your-seat feeling as you leave a stop light. Also, the 81.4-kW electric motor is equal to about 109 horsepower.
Kia says the Soul EV will get from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 11.5 seconds. According to the website Top Speed, a 2.0-liter gasoline-powered Soul does it in 9.9 seconds and has a maximum speed of 124 mph. The Soul EV's top speed is about 90 mph.
How Long to Charge?
Of course, the big question is, how far will the Soul EV go on one charge. Kia says about 120 miles. This all depends on how and where you drive, but a range above 100 miles means Kia did some homework. It knows one of the main things keeping Americans out of EVs is the driving range.
Kia also gets it right when it comes to quick charging. A 240-volt charger will fill the battery in five hours, starting from zero charge. A fast charger can restore the battery to 80 percent full in 25 minutes. A 120-volt household-style outlet will take the battery from 0 to full in 24 hours.
Clearly, Kia spent money getting the quicker charge options just right, assuming most folks will not opt for the slower charge option.
The Soul EV is based on the updated 2014 Kia Soul, so it benefits from a longer wheelbase, stiffer body and better overall ride and handling.
Looks a Little Different
There's a lot we don't know about the Kia Soul EV. We're not even sure it will be a 2014 model, it might be more appropriate to call it the 2015 Kia Soul EV. Either way, Kia's not saying.
And we can only show you pictures of the disguised Soul EV. The production version of the car will be shown in 2014 at a major U.S. auto show and Kia doesn't want any photos leaked ahead of time. Although we couldn't photograph the completed car, we did see the completed Soul EV and it's clear they made it look a little different than the gas-powered Kia Soul.
For example, the EV version will have two-tone paint. Similar to cars like the MINI Cooper, the Soul EV has a white roof. The version we saw was a sky-blue color with a contrasting white roof. More choices will likely be added as Kia has not chosen the final colors. The contrasting color is also featured in the small side accent vent, but we're not sure that will make it to the production version of the Soul EV.
There are also unique wheels that are more flush with each tire to reduce drag. The grille is covered with a very Apple-like glossy white insert. Part of that insert is a small door that opens up to allow access to the charging port.
It seemed like the interior was a lot nicer than a typical Kia Soul. However, the gasoline powered 2014 Soul gets some serious upgrades and is already a cut or two above other small SUVs so it's hard to say for sure.
One thing we do know is that the Soul EV doesn't lose cargo capacity versus the nonelectric Soul. With 61.3 cu ft, the Soul's cargo space is less than that of the RAV4 EV but more than double the total capacity of the Nissan Leaf.
So the 2014 Kia Soul EV has a lot going for it. It's good-looking (in a quirky way), fun to drive and useful, and it delivers on the expected attributes of a purely electric car.
The inspiration for the Soul EV may have been stunning Korean coastlines and sparkling cities, but Americans are the ones who will reap the rewards of this all-electric car. It's too soon to tell if the Soul EV is a must-have, but we already know it's good.
The Nissan Leaf has done well thanks to two things. First, the Leaf was basically the first post-modern all-electric car that was widely available. Second, the price is right. Kia can't be first, but they can price the Soul EV right. An attractive lease could easily turn the Soul EV into the next must-have in alt-fuel cars.