Car review: Kia goes electric with the Soul EV

 
Andrew Brady
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The cute and nimble Kia Soul EV
The cute and nimble Soul EV is a confident entry into unknown territory for the South Korean carmaker.
Ferrari likes to limit the number of cars it makes to retain exclusivity and encourage strong resale values. In contrast, mainstream car brands want to sell as many vehicles as they physically can (it doesn’t matter if they’re worth tuppence a few years down the line).
That approach won’t work with electric cars, says Korean carmaker Kia. Sales are increasing (with 4,500 sold in the UK so far this year, double that of 2013), but it’s still a niche market in which one model, the Nissan LEAF, accounts for around 70 per cent of all UK purchases.
Kia plans to bring just 100 Soul EVs to the UK in its first year, sold from just 13 specialist dealers. Is this the company giving up before it’s even started? Or is it right to be cautious? That’s debatable, but one thing’s for sure, as I weave a Soul EV along London’s Victoria Embankment at an average speed of 5mph, the idea of going electric began to make sense.
Let’s deal with the obstacles first. A Kia Soul EV will cost you £24,995 – alarmingly close to an ultra-cool BMW i3, and inclusive of the £5,000 plug-in car government grant. However, in typical Kia fashion, you still get that impressive seven-year warranty.
Then there’s the range. You’ll be looking at around 132 miles per charge, depending on factors like the kind of driving you’re doing. Charging from your standard domestic socket will take around 10 to 13 hours, but this can be reduced to as little as half an hour (for 80 per cent charge) using public rapid chargers which are popping up around the city.
Kia’s done an excellent job of making the Soul EV look a little more special than its regular Soul crossover. The bright “Caribbean Blue” with white roof stands out, and there’s a more modest silver, too.


Inside the Kia Soul EV

It’s built on the same production line as the regular Soul, but features a front end devoid of radiator grille, unique rear light clusters and, obviously, no fuel filler cap. The battery pack’s hidden away under the floor, meaning you don’t lose out on space.
Driving through central London, where there’s no shortage of eye-catching cars and even quite a few electric vehicles, the Soul EV turned many heads. Those turned heads even resulted in the odd camera flash. It perhaps isn’t quite as eye-catching as a BMW i3, but at least it has exclusivity on its side.
I didn’t try the Soul EV on any particularly fast roads, but at low speeds its tweaked suspension soaks up bumps extremely well, and there weren’t any of the irritating whines occasionally associated with plug-in vehicles. In typical electric car fashion, the Soul EV is great fun to drive. Power is instant – press that accelerator and you’ll beat even the most determined cab driver from the lights. The steering is light, a tad springy, and doesn’t provide a great deal of feedback, but it makes the Soul EV easy to manoeuvre in city traffic.
Unfortunately, it’s a little cheap inside. Sure, it’s trying to be green, with splatterings of bio-degradable plastic, but the BMW i3 manages to pull it off without leaving you feeling short-changed.
Chances are, you’ve already made your mind up about whether you like electric cars. But if you’re the sort who likes something a little trendier than the LEAF, and for whatever reason doesn’t fancy the BMW i3, the Soul EV is an interesting way of travelling around London with minimal carbon footprint.
Andrew Brady works for motoringresearch.com.

THE FACTS: KIA SOUL EV

PRICE: £24,995
0-62MPH: 10.8 secs
TOP SPEED: 90mph
CO2 G/KM: 0g/km
RANGE: 132 miles

THE VERDICT:

DESIGN: Four Stars
PERFORMANCE: Three Stars
PRACTICALITY: Three Stars
VALUE FOR MONEY: Three Stars

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Nissan Leaf Tekna

NISSAN LEAF TEKNA

PRICE: £25,490
0-62MPH: 11.5secs
TOP SPEED: 87mph
CO2 G/KM: 0g/km
RANGE: 124mpg

THE VERDICT

DESIGN: Five Stars
PERFORMANCE: Four Stars
PRACTICALITY: Three Stars
VALUE FOR MONEY: Two Stars


Volkswagan E-Golf

VOLKSWAGAN E-GOLF

PRICE: £26,146
0-62MPH: 10.4 secs
TOP SPEED: 87mph
CO2 G/KM: 0g/km
RANGE: 118mpg

THE VERDICT

DESIGN: Four Stars
PERFORMANCE: Three Stars
PRACTICALITY: Four Stars
VALUE FOR MONEY: Four Stars


BMW i3

BMW i3

PRICE: £25,680
0-62MPH: 7.2 secs
TOP SPEED: 93mph
CO2 G/KM: 0g/km
RANGE: 100 mile

THE VERDICT

DESIGN: Five Stars
PERFORMANCE: Four Stars
PRACTICALITY: Three Stars
VALUE FOR MONEY: Three Stars

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