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2015 Kia Soul EV REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/4/2017

Con: Only available in select markets; boxy shape causes excessive wind noise at highway speeds.

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Interior: The 2015 Kia Soul EV's cabin inherits the modern look and expressive styling details of its conventional sibling, with quality materials that add an unexpectedly premium character. There are also some EV-only flourishes, including glossy white trim around the shifter and a central control layout that evokes Apple's iconic designs. Additionally, the Soul EV gets a unique gauge cluster with a 3.5-inch information display, and the standard 8-inch touchscreen includes readouts for power flow, battery status and other expected metrics.

The Soul EV doesn't offer all of the regular Soul's extras, however, and that might disappoint some shoppers. If you want a panoramic sunroof, for example, or upgraded Infinity audio, you won't find it here; ditto the regular car's optional xenon headlights and 10-way power driver seat. Of course, these are all energy-intensive items that would likely compromise the EV's driving range, but still, it's less than ideal that Kia won't let you choose.

Because the Kia Soul was engineered from the get-go with electrification in mind, it doesn't suffer the usual losses in trunk space (as in the Focus EV and others). There are still 18.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, expanding to a handy 49.5 cubic feet with the 60/40-split rear seatbacks folded down (it expands to 61 cubes when you utilize the removable cargo floor and undertray). This is better than most, though the e-Golf is even roomier, checking in at 22.8 and 52.7 cubic feet, respectively. Since the Soul's battery is placed under the rear passenger area, leg- and headroom are reduced versus the regular model, but not to a degree that many passengers will notice.

Body: The 2015 Kia Soul EV is a four-door hatchback with electric power and seating for five. It's available in two trim levels: base and + (also known as Plus).

The base model's standard equipment includes a 120-volt charge cable, a DC fast-charge port, 16-inch alloy wheels with covers, automatic headlights, heated side mirrors, rear privacy glass, keyless ignition and entry, automatic climate control (with a "driver only" function to save energy), a height-adjustable driver seat, heated front seats, cloth upholstery, a heated tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an EV-specific gauge cluster with a multifunction display, and 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks. Technology features include a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, an 8-inch touchscreen interface with special EV functions, a navigation system, voice controls, smartphone app integration with remote vehicle access, and a six-speaker audio system with satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.

The Soul+ adds aero windshield wipers, foglights, front and rear parking sensors, power-folding mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, leatherette (premium vinyl) dashboard and console trim, heated rear seats, a luggage net, a cargo cover and a 12-volt power outlet.

A battery heating system is optional on both trim levels. Unlike the regular Soul, the EV does not offer any additional factory options or packages.

Driving: The 2015 Kia Soul EV is an easy car to drive in the cut-and-thrust of daily driving. As with all EVs, its maximum amount of 210 lb-ft of torque is available immediately. Conversely, the gas-powered Soul has 151 lb-ft at the most, and you need to rev the rather noisy engine up to unlock it. Moreover, the EV's transmission only has one speed, so you'll never have to wait for a downshift like in a conventional car. The regenerative braking system will take some getting used to for EV neophytes -- when you lift off the accelerator in Brake mode, it feels like you just pulled the ripcord on a parachute -- but it should become second nature with a little exposure and is a likable feature when stuck in traffic (you rarely have to press the brake pedal).

On the handling front, the Soul EV isn't what we'd call sporty, particularly with its standard low-rolling-resistance tires. It feels nimble enough, but competitors like the Ford Focus EV and Fiat 500e are sharper little urban runabouts. The adjustable-effort steering is also predictably short on feel even with the standard adjustable system that offers three different levels of effort. On the upside, the Soul EV's modest 16-inch tires have plenty of sidewall, improving ride quality and reducing road noise. Wind noise is still in abundance at highway speeds, however.

What’s New: The 2015 Kia Soul EV is an all-new model.

The front-wheel-drive 2015 Kia Soul EV is motivated by an 81 kW electric motor (109 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque). Energy comes from a 27 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. There are two basic drive modes, Drive and Brake, with the latter providing more aggressive regenerative braking when you lift off the accelerator, which maximizes range by converting the car's forward momentum into energy for the battery. A separate Eco mode further promotes energy conservation.

In Edmunds testing, a Soul EV accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.5 seconds, which is consistent with similarly priced all-electric competitors.

EPA efficiency estimates peg the Soul EV's range at a class-leading 93 miles. The agency also projects that the Soul EV will use 32 kWh of electricity per 100 miles driven, which is roughly average for the segment (remember here that the lower the number, the better). In Edmunds testing, the Soul traveled 121.5 miles on a charge, which is longer than all but the Toyota RAV4 and Tesla Model S. Its actual, observed energy usage of 24.9 kWh on our evaluation route is on par with most competitors.

All Soul EVs come with a 6.6 kW onboard charger and the aforementioned dual grille-mounted ports. On 240-volt AC power, a full charge from empty takes 5 hours, an hour longer than the Leaf -- though the Soul compensates with its superior driving range. The standard quick-charge DC port enables a charge from empty to 80 percent capacity in a claimed 33 minutes, which is comparable to other EVs with DC ports.

Safety: Standard safety equipment for the 2015 Kia Soul EV includes four-wheel antilock disc brakes, hill start assist, stability and traction control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and a rearview camera. The Soul EV also comes with a pedestrian warning system that emits a soft, artificial noise at 12 mph and under.

In Edmunds brake testing, the Soul EV came to a stop from 60 mph in 125 feet, which is average for the segment but 14 feet longer than a gasoline-powered Soul we tested.

Specific government crash tests of the EV weren't available as of this writing, but the regular Soul received a top five-star rating overall, with five stars for total frontal impact safety and five stars for total side-impact crash safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the gasoline-powered Soul its highest possible rating of "Good" in its small-overlap frontal-offset, moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. The Soul's seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.

Pro: More range and cargo capacity than most EVs; generously equipped; nicely trimmed cabin; ample interior space.

Edmunds Say: The new 2015 Kia Soul EV is a top-rated contender among reasonably priced electric vehicles, boasting strong EV credentials, distinctive styling and a roomy hatchback cargo area.

Introduction: The 2015 Kia Soul EV joins the growing flock of economy cars that have been converted into electric vehicles. As such conversions go, the Soul EV is off to a promising start. It helps that the Soul is a stylish, well-equipped and versatile four-door hatchback to begin with, so the Soul EV is blessed with strong fundamentals. But Kia has done an admirable job with the EV part, too, and the result is a fully competitive product with an EPA-estimated 93-mile driving range.

Indeed, in Edmunds testing, the Soul EV traveled further on a charge than all of its competitors managed. This impressive range is largely a function of its 27 kWh (kilowatt-hour) lithium-ion polymer battery, which gets its juice from one of two charging ports concealed behind a sliding panel in the grille. The AC port accepts either household-grade 120-volt current (requiring 24 hours for a full recharge) or 240-volt current (5 hours), while the special DC port's 480-volt current provides an 80 percent charge from empty in a claimed 33 minutes. Of course, 480-volt power sources don't exactly grow on trees, but Kia has equipped a number of its dealerships across California with DC charging stations, enabling Soul EV owners to (at least in theory) go on extended road trips with minimal downtime. The company has also partnered with PlugShare to aid in finding the nearest charger, as well as the Greenlots charging station network to facilitate additional long-distance travel.

But what about states other than California? That's the main issue with the Soul EV. Although Kia does plan to offer it in a few additional markets in 2015, it appears that the Golden State will be the focal point for the foreseeable future. Provided that you're eligible to procure a Soul EV, however, you'll find little else to quibble with. The only real compromise relative to the regular Soul is a modest loss of rear leg- and headroom, and even so, a couple of adults can still sit in back in reasonable comfort. Surprisingly, cargo space isn't affected by the battery under the floor, and the Soul EV actually feels livelier around town than its gas-powered counterpart due to the electric motor's instantly available 210 pound-feet of torque.

The other thing about the Soul EV is that it's arriving a bit late to this party, so there are already some appealing alternatives. The 2015 Nissan Leaf has an 84-mile range and a smaller interior, but as the segment's pioneer, it has years of experience and proven reliability under its belt. The 2015 Ford Focus Electric drops to 76 miles of range and has a tight backseat and trunk, but it offers more engaging handling and a high-quality cabin. The 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf is the premium model in this segment, featuring classy styling and an exquisitely trimmed interior along with 83 miles of range. Notably, all three are more widely available than the Kia as of this writing.

The 2015 Soul EV stacks up well, though, and there's really nothing missing from its resumé. We've given it a top Edmunds "A" rating, which is all the more impressive for Kia's first electric car.

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