Kia Soul Electric Vehicle
Even without the prospect of the Bolt, though, the Soul EV is an irrelevant electric-car option for most Americans. That’s because Kia limits sales of the model to just 10 U.S. states: California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. Odd as this may seem, such a sales strategy is nothing new in the world of electric vehicles, and a number of manufacturers take a similar approach. This is usually done to comply with individual state standards regarding the distribution of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs).
Unlike some of those other so-called “compliance cars, ” the Kia Soul EV doesn’t feel as if it has been converted to run on electricity merely for the sake of leaping through a regulatory hoop. Where some competitors, such as the Ford Focus Electric, sport giant space-eating humps in the cargo bay to accommodate a battery pack, the Soul EV’s cargo area loses no utility compared with its gasoline-powered counterpart. As such, the Soul EV can happily swallow as much as 50 cubic feet of cargo with its 60/40-split rear bench folded down and 19 cubic feet with all seats in place. Like all Souls, the Soul EV also has storage space below its cargo floor.
Outside, there are few differences between the EV and the standard Soul. Keen eyes will notice distinct headlights and taillights, a different set of 16-inch wheels, and an available two-tone exterior paint scheme. A revised front end incorporates a larger “tiger nose” grille that folds out of the way to expose two charge ports—one for AC charging, the other for DC fast charging. The former port can fully charge a Soul EV in less than five hours on a 240-volt circuit but could take as long as 24 hours on a 120-volt outlet. Meanwhile, a 50-kW DC connection can charge a Soul EV’s depleted battery to 80 percent in less than 35 minutes.
Those added pounds don’t help straight-line acceleration, either. With a modest 109 horsepower on tap, the front-motor, front-wheel-drive Soul EV sauntered from zero to 60 mph in 9.7 seconds, crossing the quarter-mile in 17.4 seconds at 79 mph. Quick, the Soul EV is not. Still, it fares better than some electrics: A Nissan Leaf we recently tested required 10.4 seconds to hit 60 mph and took 17.9 seconds to go through the quarter-mile at 77 mph.
In spite of the Soul EV’s relaxed acceleration, the electric hatchback proved to be a fine companion on city streets. The electric motor’s generous 210 lb-ft of torque made it easy to snake through traffic and pull away from stops. Further adding to the Soul EV’s low-speed likability is the car’s surprisingly tossable nature and composed ride quality. It packs that added battery weight low and toward the rear, offsetting the effects of the high roof and the nose-heavy bias found in the standard model. Seriously, we could wish all Souls handled this well.
For 2016, Kia introduced the new, low-cost, California-only Soul EV-e. This model forgoes features such as a navigation system and a rearview camera to bring the Soul EV’s cost of entry down to $32, 800—$2000 below that of the EV trim that serves as the entry-level model in the other nine states. On the other end of the spectrum, the top-of-the-line Soul EV+ adds a new Sun & Fun package to its options list. As found on our test car, the $1100 package includes LED interior lights, a massive panoramic sunroof, and lights around the audio system’s speakers. Floor mats added another $125 to our example’s bottom line, bringing its as-tested price to $38, 025, or $530 more than a base Chevrolet Bolt.
Sure, a loaded Kia Soul EV+ includes luxuries that the base Chevrolet Bolt simply won’t offer, and, as mentioned, both vehicles are eligible for federal and state tax credits that can bring the actual cost of entry down significantly. Nevertheless, opting for the feature-laden Soul EV+ over the similarly priced Bolt and its 145 miles of additional driving range is like choosing to go with a flip phone simply because it comes preloaded with the game “Snake.”