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2015 Kia Soul EV First Impressions

Electric gains a Soul By ,

Montreal, QC -- The electric vehicle trend is far more than a trend. It is, without a doubt, the future today.

The Soul EV is Kia’s spunky way to showcase its electric-knowhow in a package that is as original, and as fly as it is packed with technology and features. The Soul EV drives as most EVs do, but this vehicle’s design, both inside and out, make special.

What is a Kia Soul EV?
The Soul is Kia’s quirky alternative to the crossover-cum-family car. Its reason for being comes from its original shape and styling with a twist while maintaining practicality and utility.

So, it makes sense that Kia’s first EV is set on this platform. The combination of original design and new (for Kia) technology makes for a good showcase. The revised-for-2014 Soul has matured over the original car without losing its off-the-wall character.

2015 Kia Soul EV Price and Specs
Pricing for the 2015 Kia Soul EV is not yet set. Kia reps expect the information will be announced and made official later this summer, before it’s arrival in the fourth quarter of 2014. My guess is that the pre-incentive retail will hover in the $31,000 to $33,000 range or roughly $4,000 to $6,000 more than the top-trim SX Luxury.

Kia’s Soul EV houses a 360-volt 192-cell lithium-ion polymer battery that yields 27kWh and should be good for a range of approximately 160km. According to Kia reps and their press release, in internal testing, a range in excess of 200km was proven possible. Real world conditions are likely to negatively affect these projections, however, they are currently within the “norm.”

The liquid-cooled AC synchronous permanent magnet motor generates 81.4 kW or the equivalent of 109 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque. The FWD Soul EV will travel to 100km/h in 11.4 seconds, on its way to a limited top speed of 145km/h.

Driving the 2015 Kia Soul EV
Each and every time I get behind the wheel of an electric car, I find myself enthralled with the experience. Although I’ve driven and evaluated nearly a dozen different EVs over that last few years, the impressive efficacy of the electric drivetrain always surprises me.

The 2015 Kia Soul EV is no different. A simple tug on the shift-lever into “D” and no-compromise electric motoring is at hand.

As with all EVs, loads of torque are on tap from naught; a dab too much throttle will overwhelm the Nexen low-rolling resistance tires despite traction control. In town, the Soul’s power is more than sufficient for overtaking slower traffic. Steering effort is well judged and the braking system is one of the better ones I’ve had the pleasure of testing.

As you may or may not know, hybrids and EVs utilize regenerative braking to capture kinetic energy to help maximize efficiency and range. At no time was braking intrusive or unpleasant as it can be in other cars. In fact, I’ve become an avid user of regen braking, regularly utilizing “B” mode with the shifter to increase its effect.

Acceleration is sporting up to about 80km/h. Throttle response is fairly immediate but as speed increases, a rubbery effect develops in the pedal that does not encourage highway passing manoeuvres unless already carrying sufficient speed. The smart fortwo electric drive is much the same, as is the Nissan LEAF. The Tesla Model S is not…

Electric vehicles are quiet by definition. Kia’s desire to reinforce this is found in the fact that they’ve added special soundproofing materials to the vehicle. As well, additional cross bracing and the positioning of the batteries beneath the floor improve torsional rigidity and overall refinement. This also has an effect on handling which are equal parts comfortable and sporty, limited mostly by its tires’ ability to grip.

Inside and Out of the 2015 Kia Soul EV
If the Kia Soul’s exterior was a breath of fresh air (to some) pre-EV transformation, this version is borderline space-age-meets-Japanese-animation. Of the three colour combinations (Pearl White with metallic Sky Blue roof/mirrors, Electric Blue with Polar White roof/mirrors, and Sterling Silver with Polar White roof/mirrors), the one in the pictures is the most striking.

Other than the paint schemes, the Soul EV distinguishes itself by its unique white-faced 16” alloy wheels and covered front grille where the dual charging ports are hiding via a clever opening panel.

The Soul EV sacrifices little onboard in the conversion, which is remarkable given that this electric Kia was not designed specifically as an EV, unlike the Nissan LEAF. The only compromise made in the making of the Soul EV over the gas-powered version is in rear legroom that was cut by roughly 50mm -- and is barely noticeable. The trunk is unfazed.

The level of kit is more than complete in the 2015 Kia Soul EV, which explains in part what should be a hefty premium. Heated and vented front seats, a heated steering wheel, navigation, heated rear seats, and rearview camera are only some of the accessories included with this vehicle.

Day-to-day functionality is well sorted thanks to the Soul’s good ergonomics and user-friendly HMI. The touchscreen features a complete EV monitoring mode that is accessed simply by pressing the “EV” button.

Comparing the 2015 Kia Soul EV
When the 2015 Kia Soul EV arrives, it will face off with the Nissan LEAF, Ford Focus EV, smart fortwo electric drive, and Chevrolet Volt. As time moves forwards, new full-EV entries will arrive, likely the Volkswagen e-Golf to name only one.

As interesting as the Soul is, it doesn’t stand out as being the best of the best. More wheel time would help the selection process. As it stands, I remain a big fan of the LEAF.

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