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Kia Soul EV Auto

Click to view picture gallery“You dont need to know what a
  27kWh lithium-ion polymer battery
  is (or even what it looks like) to
  enjoy the greenest of green
  emissions-free motoring. Just for
  the record, it
s what powers the
  Soul EV
s electric motor...”

THE CLEANEST MOTORING — OR AT LEAST as close as you can come unless you're riding in a rickshaw — is the USP of electric cars. In the Soul's case, at least 100 miles' worth. And those 100 zero-emissions miles are dependably achievable in real-life mixed driving conditions.

Electric cars are often seen as 'fine for townies' but during our week with the Soul we were out in the boondocks and had to rely on a bog-standard 13A 3-pin household socket for every recharge and were we bovvered? No!

Range anxiety for those whose essential daily driving distances and a lack of as many fast-charging points as there are currently petrol stations have tended to push even the most ardently 'green' drivers towards settling for a hybrid, many of which can only manage around thirty miles on pure electric power before falling back on the conventional petrol or diesel half of their hybrid power units.

“With its safe 100-mile
range (officially a max of
a class-leading 132)
the Soul EV is a breath of
fresh air and proves
that you can

even out of the cities
where EVs are in their

get by on battery
power alone...”
However, with its safe 100-mile range (officially a max of a class-leading 132) the Soul EV is a breath of fresh air and proves that you can, even out of the cities where EVs are in their element, get by on battery power alone.

Externally there's little to give away that this particular Soul is all-electric. The most obvious, even though it actually isn't that noticeable, is the blanked-off grille between the precision headlamp units.

Harder to spot are the super-low-rolling-resistance tyres (which reduce energy consumption by as much as ten per cent compared with regular low-rolling-resistance treads). Apart from that, and no rear tailpipes, the only other clue is the 'ECOelectric' badging; and that's pretty low-key.

Even when powered by a traditional diesel or petrol engine, the Soul is a charismatic beastie with an almost California Dreamin' flavour to its deep-bodied, square-shouldered lines and distinctive wheel arch flares. Attired in a coat of fabulous electric blue metallic paint that's topped off with a white roof and rolling on striking white alloy wheels, the EV is particularly dazzling and drew admiring looks wherever we went.

Swing open a front door and the Soul EV's interior will wow you as much as the eye-catching paint job does outside. Cabin ambiance is cool and serene the perfect take on brave new world personal transport. Despite the high-tech powering the car, the interfaces with the driver couldn't be easier to use if you've never used a smartphone before there's a learning curve; if you've never driven an all-electric car before you'll master the Soul EV literally seconds after pressing the 'keyless-go' Start button for the very first time.

Kia has sensibly stuck to the KISS principle and kept the instrumentation superbly straightforward. With crystal clear digital graphics, the main display is clarity itself: a specific EV information dial (including that all-important range display) sits on the left with a large MPH readout on the right with key trip and infotainment information shown between them. Absolutely everything the driver needs to know can be taken in with the quickest of glances.

Supplementing this is an equally clear central eight-inch infotainment touchscreen with SatNav, traffic messaging, reversing camera, and charging point locator at any moment in time you can find the nearest public charging points and with a finger-tap tell the SatNav to take you there.

The crystal clear
eight-inch infotainment
touchscreen provides
navigation, traffic
messaging, a reversing
camera, and a charging
point locator — at any
moment in time you can
find the nearest
public charging points
and with a finger-tap
tell the SatNav
to direct you there...”
Entertainment is catered for by a digital radio and Bluetooth with voice recognition and music streaming. Multifunction steering wheel-mounted controls that let your fingers 'do the biz' make it easy to keep your hands on the good-to-grip leather rim and your attention on the road.

The driving position is spot-on and both those sitting up front enjoy real comfort from the shapely two-tone grey Eco cloth-upholstered seats (with blue stitching) and with the bonnet visible from behind the wheel, placing the Soul in traffic (not to mention parking) is a breeze.

Apart from the spaciousness, the ambiance is enhanced by the tasteful choice of trim materials, soft-touch facings, and the fine fit and finish. Overall it's smartly done and a fine place to be.

In addition to cabin kit already mentioned there's also heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, 2Zone climate control, keyless entry and locking, keyless engine Start-Stop button, large touchscreen infotainment system, solar glass for the windscreen and front windows with privacy glass on the rear windows and tailgate, reversing camera, auto-dimming rearview mirror, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control with speed limiter, electronic parking brake, powerfold heated door mirrors, front speaker mood lighting, etc.

Naturally there's also the plenty of safety kit with the expected stability control systems plus tyre pressure monitoring, a full set of six airbags, and Hill-start Assist.

Behind the driver it's equally inviting, with relaxing backrest angles and a full fist of headroom. Three adults can travel companionably side-by-side and a low centre tunnel means no clashing feet either. Bottle-holding door bins, usable outer armrests, stretchy net magazine pouches, privacy glass and great views out thanks to high-set seats all combine to make being a passenger in the back as pleasant as sitting alongside the driver.

Moving further back, beyond the 60:40-split backrests, there's a practical 281-litre boot accessed with ease through a wide, high-lifting tailgate; fold down the rear seatbacks and you can load 891 litres all decent figures for a versatile five-seater Crossover occupying just 4.1 metres of road space.

Beneath the lidded boot floor is a pair of large storage trays, one of which holds both charging leads. And if you need to load above the window-line the rigid but lightweight luggage cover-cum-rear parcel shelf is quickly removed.

Driving is
Forrest Gump-easy:
press the Start
button, flick the lever to
Drive and press the
s no noise, no
driveline shunt, nothing
at all apart from the
scenery flashing
past your window to
confirm to your senses
that you
re actually off
and running...”
Beneath the slim, clam-shell-style bonnet is where the 'magic' lives in the shape of an electric motor that drives the front wheels.

Fed by the very latest lithium-ion polymer batteries installed beneath the Soul's floor, it silently generates the equivalent of 109bhp along with a whopping 211lb ft of torque that's on tap from the instant you drive away. Like most owners, we didn't lift the bonnet for a look-see like a logic-defying illusion, you almost don't want to know how it's done…

Driving is Forrest Gump-easy: press the Start button positioned next to the selector, flick the lever to Drive and press the accelerator. There's no noise, no driveline shunt, nothing at all apart from the moving scenery flashing past your window to confirm to your senses that you're actually off and running.

Touch the brakes and you slow smoothly and reassuringly strongly. In fact, just lifting-off slows the Soul noticeably use the other drive mode (B for Brake) that provides more intense 'engine braking' and you'll slow even more powerfully when you lift off the accelerator while at the same time generating maximum brake energy recovery that boosts the range. Using 'B' doesn't, by the way, diminish the Soul's top speed or kickdown response.

There's also a switchable ECO mode that makes the juice last longer in either driving mode without spoiling the Soul's driveability.

On paper the Soul EV nips up to sixty miles-per-hour in 10.8 seconds on the road it feels decidedly faster but that's down to the stealthy soundlessness and the seamless instant hit of maximum torque that's the defining signature of its electric motor. And, of course, all without polluting the atmosphere with even the tiniest smudge of CO2.

For day-to-day driving the Soul EV's 'squeeze-and-spurt' acceleration is a hoot; something you enjoy every time you flex your right foot. Take it on a motorway and it will zip along at the legal limit, effortlessly keeping pace with the traffic flow.

What's refreshing (and extremely reassuring) is that the Soul's range meter is very George Washington: it cannot tell a lie if it says you've got a hundred miles range then you've got a hundred miles range; and it doesn't (unlike some hybrids) suddenly plunge thirty after you've barely travelled ten miles. What you see is what you get and most of the time travelling a mile will decrease the range display by a matching mile.

The Soul EV
feels surprisingly well
‘planted’, noticeably so
on country twisties,
holding its line tidily as it
sweeps through the
bends. And in spite of
wearing ultra-low-rolling-
resistance tyres it feels
taut, nimble and
definitely fun to drive...”
So much for using the battery pack's charge; putting it back is so simple an eight-year-old could do it flip open the blank panel in the front grille and you'll find two charging ports.

Option one is to connect up using the supplied (and usefully long) lead to a standard domestic-supply three-pin socket. Do so and it will take 10-13 hours to fully recharge to 100%. As soon as you plug in the dash display indicates when charging will be finished; most times we found that even from a pretty low remaining charge when starting it took no more that seven hours to get back to a 100-mile range.

Option two, using a wallbox charger (also supplied with the Soul EV, as too is the heavier-duty lead) or a public fast-charge point, brings this down considerably; to five hours. Option three is to use a public rapid charger that tops the batteries up to 80% capacity (equating to around an 80-mile range) from empty in just 33 minutes.

Which is where the charging point locator integrated in the infotainment system comes in handy. All of which means that long trips are definitely on the menu. And as we've confirmed, living in the sticks is no barrier to running an all-electric Soul.

While out and about the Soul EV's range is constantly being topped up automatically by the regenerative braking every time you coast or brake. Which is why EVs are so well suited to urban stop-go traffic. There's also a unique climate control system that can be set to cool or heat only one side of the car for when you're driving alone.

Another thoughtful touch: the climate control can be programmed to pre-heat or pre-cool the cabin thirty minutes before the driver needs to set off while the car is still plugged into a charger so that the drain on the battery during the journey is minimised. All clever stuff.

Best of all, the Soul EV rides extremely well, with a nicely-judged fluency that goes hand-in-hand with its laid-back nature. Comfort-oriented tyre sidewalls (205/60) also benefit ride quality but not at the expense of grip corners don't daunt it either because the 275kg under-floor battery pack and the reduced weight in the engine bay have together lowered its centre of gravity and shifted the weight bias rearwards.

The benefits in handling are tangible: the car feels surprisingly well 'planted', noticeably so on country twisties, holding its line tidily as it sweeps through the bends. And in spite of wearing ultra-low-rolling-resistance tyres it feels taut, nimble and definitely fun to drive.

Given that the Soul EV
is only Kia’s
first electric car,
the future looks bright;
so bright you’re going
 to need sunglasses!”
The Soul's Flex Steer system allows the driver to choose between three degrees of power assistance: Comfort, Normal, and Sport. Left in Sport the Soul steers nicely with the best feedback although some drivers might prefer to press the button on the steering wheel to select Comfort for tight, low-speed manoeuvring and parking.

All-in-all this Soul EV is a soothing, satisfying and satisfyingly easy car to drive whether you're negotiating the cut-and-thrust of commuter traffic or cruising down the motorway. A major delight is that maximum torque is on tap at any speed, be it the moment you pull away or whether you're shadowing the legal limit.

Another likeable driving characteristic is that Brake mode delivers such good engine braking when you lift off that, particularly in heavy traffic, you rarely need to use the main brake pedal.

Good to know, too, that the cost of electricity to fully recharge the battery pack is considerably less than a gallon of unleaded or diesel. You're also exempt from other conventional running costs such as road tax, company car tax, and the London Congestion Charge. Most importantly, the Soul EV also qualifies for the Government's £5,000 Plug-in Car Grant. Finally, in common with all Kias, the Soul EV (and its batteries) is covered by Kia's seven-year/100,000-mile warranty.

We were hooked on the Soul EV within minutes of getting behind the wheel of this beautifully-executed, über-smooth-driving, electric-powered five-seater crossover. Given that the Soul EV is only Kia's first electric car, the future looks bright; so bright you're going to need sunglasses! ~ MotorBar

Kia Soul EV Auto | £29,999
Maximum speed: 90mph | 0-60mph: 10.8 seconds | Test Average: 100 miles per charge
Power: 109bhp | Torque: 211lb ft | CO2: 0g/km