The Kia Soul has been a popular choice for a wide array of buyers.
Whether or not the concept works for you or your family, it’s impossible to deny that the EV lifestyle and supporting community is an eccentric one. It starts with the false sense of perception that Tesla owners have over their vehicles, causing the brand to have developed a truly cult-like following, and goes on to far more reasonable owners across the automotive landscape. Kia and Hyundai are at the forefront of this movement in the mainstream market, with multiple offerings at varying price points to appeal to Canadians. This is the 2020 Kia Soul EV Limited, which strives to deliver versatility without losing the enthusiasm of the Soul nameplate.
Since the first generation model’s introduction for 2008, the Kia Soul has been a popular choice for a wide array of buyers, all of whom strongly favour the tall hatchback’s styling and practicality. The EV model has been offered since the second generation, and the latest (third-generation) example was fully redesigned for the 2020 model year. While the sprightly Space Green is the ‘encouraged’ launch colour, our tester was painted in Onyx, a metallic black that is much more conservative. Interestingly; the paint job on this tester was not up to par with expectations, with visible orange peel on multiple panels. The rim design on the 17-inch alloy wheels is a peculiar one, but unique to the EV model and aero-focused.
The Soul EV is available in two trim levels, starting with the Premium at $42,595. At this price point it offers the less-powerful motor with limited range, but still offers active safety features, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and the 10.25-inch touchscreen interface. The $51,595 Limited tested here adds a heads-up display, heated and cooled front seats with leather upholstery, mood lighting, and a Harman/Kardon sound system. It also adds the extra range that many EV drivers will really want.
Two electric motors are available on the Soul EV, with the Limited getting the more powerful 356-volt example over the Premium’s 327-volter. It gets 201 horsepower between 3,800 and 8,000RPM, and 291 lb-ft. of torque right off idle. There’s no denying it; the Soul EV is extremely quick at city speeds. It blasts off the line like it’s nobody’s business, particularly when the drive mode selector is set to “Sport”. Even when it’s left in “Eco”, the Soul has plenty of pep, and the instant torque is gratifying.
There’s something to be said about the calming nature of electric vehicles and how they behave. While I’m still an advocate for the internal combustion engine, I would be just fine with an EV for my daily commute. They coast along in silence, with instantaneous response when needed and more smoothness than you’d expect. They even corner well thanks to a low center of gravity and quick reflexes as a result. The Soul EV, like its gasoline sibling (reviewed here), is front-drive only. Those wanting all-wheel-drive in their electric Kia are out of luck, for now.
Charging infrastructure is still a challenge in many parts of Canada. While companies like ChargePoint are doing their part to maximize the radius of where these vehicles can go, the sheer quantity of these points in convenient locations still leaves a lot to be desired. Using a standard household outlet (Level 1) and the on-board 7.2kW charger, the Soul will take a grueling 59 hours to fully charge. Add a 240V (Level 2) charger at home, and this time comes down to just over nine hours. With a DC Fast Charge system, just one hour is needed to re-juice the car from a depleted battery.
What is impressive is a very generous range of 383km, which we were able to squeeze out without much effort at all. On an extended run, we actually traveled 406km on a charge, with an indicated 36 remaining. Of course, this takes into account taking advantage of all of the eco-friendly features of the vehicle, including “Eco+” which limits speed to 90km/h, and zero use of the climate control. The ventilated seats helped in this regard, and favourable weather meant it was easy to travel with the sunroof and windows open.
Inside the Soul EV, materials are impressive, though still built to the same price point as the regular gasoline model, at less than half of the EV Limited’s MSRP. Quality is still there, but there is no real premium feel, which is consistent for the compact electric vehicle segment. The seats are reasonably comfortable and the higher driving position evokes that of the Nissan Kicks (reviewed here), Hyundai Venue, and Toyota C-HR. Connectivity on board using the 10.25-inch touchscreen is easy, and with minimal fuss. The premium audio system on board our test vehicle sounds notably good, and the sound-sensitive ambient lighting in the cabin is a fun touch.
While its pricing is high when compared to internal combustion rivals, the 2020 Kia Soul EV Limited is about average against the likes of the Chevrolet Bolt EV (reviewed here), Nissan Leaf Plus and even Kia’s own Niro EV. If you’re not a fan of the Soul’s styling, the Niro EV is extremely similar and arguably more practical, and is also available as a plug-in hybrid or traditional hybrid. Those wanting the latest in electric technology with the funky design of the Soul can take comfort in knowing that they’ve made a commendable decision.