Kia Soul EV

Kia might not be the first name most buyers think of when drawing up an EV shortlist, but, as Richard Gooding discovers, it deserves to be considered among the more obvious options 

More than a handful of models now offer emissions-free motoring in the UK, some more high-profile than others. Cars like the BMW i3 (GreenFleet, issue 71) and Volkswagen e-Golf (GreenFleet, issue 76) come from large manufacturers who would be expected to enter the EV arena, but not all electric cars originate from such conspicuous beginnings.

Enter the Kia Soul EV – a fully-fledged electric car from a company who would probably not be on most drivers’ minds if they were looking to choose a zero-emissions vehicle. Among the ubiquitous Leafs and mild-hybrid Priuses, the all-electric Soul looks distinctive and promises a class-leading range of 132 miles. As EV technology (and therefore the benefits it offers) marches on, we spent a week in one to see if the newest EV correlates to being one of the best.

More than a handful of models now offer emissions-free motoring in the UK, some more high-profile than others. Cars like the BMW i3 (GreenFleet, issue 71) and Volkswagen e-Golf (GreenFleet, issue 76) come from large manufacturers who would be expected to enter the EV arena, but not all electric cars originate from such conspicuous beginnings.

Enter the Kia Soul EV – a fully-fledged electric car from a company who would probably not be on most drivers’ minds if they were looking to choose a zero-emissions vehicle. Among the ubiquitous Leafs and mild-hybrid Priuses, the all-electric Soul looks distinctive and promises a class-leading range of 132 miles. As EV technology (and therefore the benefits it offers) marches on, we spent a week in one to see if the newest EV correlates to being one of the best.

81.4kw electric motor, 27kWh lithium-ion battery pack
The Soul is Korean company Kia’s small ’SUV’‑style car, and the all-electric version takes the spacious five-door hatchback as a starting point. Instead of a conventional engine, up front is an 81.4kW (equivalent to 109bhp) electric motor, with a 27kWh lithium‑ion polymer battery pack mounted under the seats. Located in a special casing to protect them from potential road damage, ease of maintenance has partly determined the batteries’ location.

They are the products of a Kia/SK innovation three-year development programme and Kia states that they have a greater energy density than those in any of the Soul EV’s competitors. The company also says that they benefit from a heating and cooling system which keeps them at the idea operating range, to extend the car’s range.

The range – traditionally the most talked about feature of an EV. Kia claims that the Soul EV is capable of travelling, and has been homologated for, 132 miles on a single charge. We spent seven days with the Soul EV during a spell of particularly hot and humid weather, but could only encourage the range indicator to display around 93 miles of distance.

However, in conjunction with neutral green car and environmentally‑motoring experts Next Green Car, an independent test showed that 125 miles can be driven emission-free in the Soul EV. The potential for a further nine was due to battery having 13 per cent of its charge left. Kia states that the test mirrored real-life conditions from inclement weather and cool temperatures, to heavy levels of traffic and tough gradients.  

Effective regenerative braking system
While we couldn’t match the results of Kia and Next Green Car’s test, we can confirm that the Soul EV is one of the longest-range EVs we’ve tested, due in part to its easy and effective regenerative braking system which captures the kinetic energy usually dissipated as heat. Two driving modes – ‘Drive’ and ‘Brake’ – allow for adjustment of the regenerative braking level which in turn varies the amount of energy charging the batteries.

We ran the car mostly in ‘Brake’ mode, which allows for more severe braking of the car itself and therefore greater energy reflowed back into the batteries. Unlike Volkswagen’s three-stage system, there is only one setting. It’s so effective, though, the question of if further levels were needed was never asked. By driving particularly with an EV mindset, we gained an average of around 9.4 miles of range per journey, 103.5 miles in total over our 355-mile test. 

To help maximise the range further, an ‘Eco’ mode pares back some functions and operates the car even more economically. Cleverly, a ‘Driver Only’ setting for the ventilation and air-conditioning system saves more energy, allowing air to be solely directed to the driver’s side of the car. That’s just one well-thought out touch. Others include a Virtual Engine Sound and a heat pump which recycles air that has already been heated or cooled within the cabin.

Part of the intelligent Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) system, it only draws enough fresh air into the interior to maintain the driver’s set temperature. Once again, it’s more energy-saving at work and while the climate and charging timing/set-time function is nothing new on electric vehicles, it’s another function which, potentially, allows for more range. Once that range has been depleted, though, there are myriad charging options.

A 10-13-hour charging cycle can be expected on a domestic 230V/10A electricity supply. That time is reduced to 4.5 hours with a 230V/6.6kW supply, while 50kW rapid chargers can boost the all-electric Kia back to 80 per cent in 33 minutes. Each new Soul EV is supplied with a wallbox. Charging sockets are located behind a flap at the front of the car where the grille usually sits on the conventionally-engined Soul. 

Simple to drive
The Kia Soul EV is simple to drive. Press the ‘Power’ button to turn the car on, select a gear and you’re away. As with most EVs, a faint whine lets you know the car is on the move. Non-EV drivers should acclimatise easily. Performance is brisk from standstill, with 211b ft (280Nm) of torque available to 2,730rpm. Maximum speed is 90mph, while 0-60mph is reached in 10.8 seconds.

Refinement levels are impressive. Road noise from the 205/60R 16 ultra-low rolling resistance tyres has been kept to an absolute minimum and the car is so peaceful on the move, you arrive at your destination relaxed and calm. 

The driving position is one of the best we’ve encountered in any car, while the ‘Flex Steer’ power steering system has three modes: ‘Normal’, ‘Comfort’ and ‘Sport’. The interior has lots of gloss white detailing, while the leather on the door trims and instrument binnacle add a luxurious touch. Grey ‘Eco’ cloth with blue stitching contacts nicely with the two ‘Caribbean Blue’ or ‘Titanium Silver’ exterior colours.

Ahead of the driver, a 3.5-inch screen imparts driver energy efficiency information as well as energy flow, battery level, charging time and selected consumable settings. An eight-inch touchscreen system in the centre console controls all the media and navigation options and usefully shows more EV displays including drivable range maps, battery level, as well as charging point locations.

Two dials show speed as well as battery charge/power levels and it’s always a game trying to keep the bar indicators in the ‘Eco’ or ‘Charge’ sections. Kit highlights include iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, DAB radio, heated front seats and steering wheel, a reversing camera and parking sensor system, cruise control and speed limiter, privacy glass, LED daytime running lights, and automatic lighting controls. Although the all-electric Soul loses a little of the combustion‑engined car’s boot space due to the battery pack, practicality is still good. There are 281 litres of boot space when the rear seats are in place and 891 litres when folded.  

Individual design
Kia has priced the Soul EV at £24,995 once the £5,000 government Plug-in Car Grant has been taken into account. It’s a sizeable amount more when compared to cars like the Volkswagen  e-Up and Renault Zoe, but they are both smaller and less practical. The Volkswagen e-Golf is more comparable in size but costs more (plus an extra £830 for a heat pump), as does the BMW i3. Both also have a smaller range. The fact that Kia includes its standard 100,000-mile/7‑year warranty is a bold move, too. By choosing to market the  Soul EV as a one-level high‑specification model, Kia runs the risk of comparison with the more premium EV players. However, its individual design, ease of use and high level of build quality are all big selling points and mean it should be at the top of a potential EV buyer’s shopping list. It may not offer any huge leaps forward in technology, but it is a simple to use and very likeable electric car that deserves to succeed.

Further information
tinyurl.com/nru8wre

Making sense of the vast amount of data produced from telematics can often be daunting, resulting in opportunities being missed and actions not being taken. Our expert panelists share their advice on how to make sure valuable fleet information is not getting lost

Telematics generates vast amounts of data which needs to be digested and acted on if any benefits are to be realised. But how well are fleets using data? And do companies have a moral and legal obligation to act on reports of bad driving? We ask our telematics experts

Meet our new leasing experts, who in this first discussion, examine how new challenges such as Brexit, air quality and policy changes are affecting fleet managers

In the first of a new panel discussion, we ask our experts their views on how telematics have shaped and driven change within the fleet management profession, and why reluctance to use fleet technology still exists within some organisations

Can it pay to think differently about the way we travel? Our expert panelists examine how the new concept of ‘mobility’ is impacting the fleet sector

Following the launch of the Department of Transport’s consultation into making charge points more accessible, GreenFleet’s expert panelists give their views on the key factors that will shape the electric vehicle market’s development in the near future.

How can leasing and contract hire firms help with the wider role of fleet management? And what role does the industry play in driving down emissions? We ask our new expert panel for their views.

Our telematics expert panelists share their thoughts on how technology has helped drive down road emissions, how telematics grows the appeal of electric vehicles, and how autonomous vehicles could benefit fleets in the future.

GreenFleet taps into the minds of its expert panel to assess the place of electric vehicles in company car fleets and what the major barriers to adoption will be moving forward.

Technology is changing the way we travel. GreenFleet quizzes its telematics expert panel on how connectivity is facilitating new mobility trends, aiding fleet management, and reducing CO2 emissions.

The smallest modern Volvo and the company’s most successful model launch in the UK ever, the XC40 has a lot resting on its duo-tone shoulders, as Richard Gooding finds out

The Optima Sportswagon PHEV is Kia’s fourth alternatively-fuelled car in the UK and its second plug-in. Richard Gooding sees how it balances economy, value and practicality

Richard Gooding discovers that with the arrival of the eighth-generation Ford Fiesta comes a raft of driving technologies, as well as an improved interior and enhanced efficiency

At Isuzu, we focus on proper pick-ups which means we’re much better at meeting customers specific pick-up needs.

About GreenFleet

Media Information
Cookie Compliance
Terms and Conditions
Registration
Privacy

Members of the Professional Publishers Association

Our Affiliates