Over the last few months, the pace of new electric models and variants entering the market has been frenetic, and Kia’s been at the centre of the fray with its launch of two all-electric products. We’ve seen the Korean automaker introduce the Niro EV, and of course the new third generation of the Soul in its EV incarnation. Unsurprisingly, this new edition improves on its predecessor in every respect, and its styling has gotten even bolder than it already was.
Style and substance
The Kia Soul EV is what you show to demonstrate that a vehicle can be mindful of the environment while dressing itself up in style and with bold self-confidence. Now, its look isn’t for everyone, but it has the virtue of looking totally distinct from all the other little crossovers in our present vehicle fleet.
Esthetically the Soul is pretty immediately recognizable with its unique shape that some liken to a shoe box. For me, sometimes I see a toaster on wheels. Fact is, the 2020 Soul EV is like a mobile Rorschach test; people see different things when looking at it. No matter, it’s so particular in the marketplace that it’s almost become an iconic model for the Korean automaker. People said the Beetle was ugly…
The all-electric version differentiates itself from the gas-powered Soul by its distinct nose, front bumper and front grille.
Don’t look for the charging port on the flanks of the Soul EV – it’s behind a door on the front of the vehicle. This green little SUV from Kia is just as original-looking in back, as there are no exhaust tips to break up the lines of the chassis and the bar-shaped lights that ring the back window.
The standard wheels are 17-inch alloys, and you also get LED front lights, along with a choice of vibrant colours that help you make sure your already-distinct Soul is even more eye-catching. Whether that’s in a good or a bad way is for others to decide.
The seats are high-sitting as you would expect in an SUV. While the general appearance is bolder than previous, there is some hard plastic inside, but that’s hardly surprising in a model with a costly EV powertrain. For the model to be competitively priced, some concessions were in order. My tester was decked in an attention-grabbing green-yellow that made it very, very easy to spot from the other end of the Costco parking lot.
Plastic aside, the front seats and the steering wheel are heated as standard features. You can opt for ventilated front seats and heated back seats as well. Depending on the version chosen, you get cloth or leather seating.
If you want an interior bathed in light, by choosing the EV Limited trim you get a power sunroof, a wonderful touch for this electric SUV as it fits nicely with its dynamic vibe.
One of the odd little touches I got a kick out of is the reactive speakers, which blink to the beat of the music to make the environment of the Soul all that much funkier.
The 2020 Soul EV comes with a 7.0-inch onboard tablet-type screen, with an option to switch to a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen. Either way, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included standard. The data screen in front of the driver displays all the needed info, including to do with the battery charge and even previous trips taken. Overall I found the system easy to grasp and more responsive than the average.
We can all agree that a smartphone charging pad is useful, but placing it in on the far side of the gear lever is inviting frustration. This un-ergonomic set-up is annoying, but the upside is it’s an option so you can spare yourself the aggravation!
Just above sit two 12-volt inputs and two USB ports. The base audio system has eight speakers.
In terms of space, while the battery does hog a bit of space in back, the toaster shape of the vehicle means the interior is still plenty spacious. Rear-row passengers won’t feel confined, and there’s 530 litres of cargo space tucked in behind them. That’s not huge but it’s not bad, plus you can boost that a bit to 663 litres by lowering the floor of the trunk; and when you fold down the seats, you get 1,735 litres, making the boxy 2020 Soul EV a pretty practical stuff mover.
Like its gas-fed sibling, the EV version of the Soul comes with the needed/wanted basics like blind spot monitor. Tire pressure monitor, an ABS sytem and even a driver inattention alert system.
You also get active lane keep, which helps keep the Soul on the straight and narrow in its lane, including on curves. Although if you venture onto more winding roads or if the weather turns inclement, the system will ask you to take control again.
The Kia Soul EV is made from the same foundations as stablemate the Kia Niro EV, and their range is similar as well.
While the outgoing model made do with a 30 kWh battery, two versions of the 2020 edition are available in Canada: the EV Premium and the EV Limited, both of which get a 64 kWh battery. Total output available in the former variant is 134 hp, and in the latter it’s 201 hp. As for range, the first delivers 248 km, the second 383 km.
With a Level 2 charger, Kia says it takes 9 hr 35 min to fully charge the 64-kWh battery. It’s possible of course to use a rapid charging station; on a 50 kWh station you can get 80% charge in 75 minutes, while on a 100-kWh unit it will take 54 minutes.
On the road
I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by the on-road performance of the Soul EV. It feels quite responsive and handles nimbly even though it’s not a particularly light vehicle.
The steering could be a little firmer, but then it wouldn’t be realistic to expect sporty driving dynamics from this urban EV. That said, it is realistic to expect that Kia do a better job making the driver feel the road a little more intimately when at the wheel of the Soul EV.
The Soul EV features, like any self-respecting electric car, a regenerative braking system, with four modes to choose from that gradually increase the intensity of the braking from “zero” (so, none) to the top mode (so, jerking forward in your seat until you learn to modulate the accelerator pedal properly – it doesn’t take long). Get it down pat, and you can even drive with strictly one pedal instead of toggling between the accelerator and brake pedals. The more I use that system the more I like it…
Pricing for the EV Premium version starts at $44,505 and the damage climbs to $53,505 for the EV Limited. Which makes the Soul EV a touch less expensive than the Niro EV and its $46,905 starting price.
Thanks to its two engine options, particularly the second that considerably improves the performance of the model, the Soul EV is one of the most attractive choices in its particular EV segment – as long as you'Re not repelled by its outer shell. We’re far from the sportiness displayed by some of today’s small-to-medium SUVs, and the Soul offers comfort levels that won’t have you mistaking it for a luxury model, but it does the job of saving you at the pump, making you feel good about doing your part for the environment and getting you from A to B in a stylish, distinctive vehicle.
- The range (of the EV Limited)
- Funky, distinctive styling
- Generous interior space
- Decent cargo capacity
We like less
- Pricing is still harsh for the EV Limited, especially given the level of luxury it (doesn’t) offer
- And that version is precisely the one you need if you want to benefit from decent range
- Lack of raw power