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2016 Kia Soul EV: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader November 2015

As electric cars become more and more the norm, customers are warming to the idea of electrics as urban-commuter cars. Among the more attractive offerings is the 2016 Kia Soul EV, an electric version of the cute and clever Soul compact 5-door. The Soul EV offers all the style and features that make the gasoline-powered Soul such a great buy, minus the harmful emissions. With a range of 93 miles, the Soul EV isn't quite ready to replace its combustion-engine twin, but for around-town driving and daily commutes, the Soul EV makes a lot of sense. 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 5 hours when using a 240-volt outlet. An 80 percent charge can be reached in as little as 33 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 $30,000. The FIAT 500e and Volkswagen e-Golf are closer to the Soul EV in price, but like the Focus, they can't match the Soul EV's range. 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 2016?

2016 sees a new, lower-priced Soul EV-e trim added. Also new is the Sun & Fun package that adds a panoramic sunroof, LED interior lighting and pulsating speaker lights. The Sun & Fun package is offered only on the EV Plus trim.

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

How Much?

$32,775-$37,500

Fuel Economy

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.

Standard Features & Options

The Kia Soul EV is offered in three trims: EV-e, EV and Plus.

The Soul EV-e ($32,775) includes DC Fast Charging port, 6.6-kw on-board charger, 16-inch 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 six speakers and an iPod/USB port.

The Soul EV base ($34,775) adds a heat pump HVAC system, outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, a rear backup camera, AM/FM/CD/satellite radio with six speakers, navigation and UVO voice-activated infotainment.

The Soul EV Plus ($36,775) 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).

Safety

The 2016 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 Safety Pick rating from IIHS.

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

2016 Nissan LEAF -- The LEAF costs less and has a more eccentric design than the Soul EV, but it also has less standard content and the base model can't go as far on a charge. With the optional battery upgrade, however, the leaf can go 107 miles on a single charge.

2016 Ford Focus Electric -- Like the LEAF, the Focus costs less than the Soul EV but also can't travel as far. The Focus has pretty mainstream styling, which is a bonus for those who like its European-inspired design.

2016 Volkswagen e-Golf -- Except for the luxury Tesla Model S, Volkswagen's e-Golf is the most sophisticated, comfortable and quiet electric car on the market. Although it's not as hip as the Kia, the Volkswagen still demonstrates a clean, youthful look.

Used Chevrolet Volt -- The 2011-2014 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.

Autotrader's Advice

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.

Find a Kia Soul EV for sale

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Kia Soul EV: New Car Review - Autotrader