Kia Soul EV
We are very lucky you know.
I do not believe that there have ever been more stylistically quirky or odd-ball cars available on the mainstream market than we have right now.
I am referring to the likes of the Nissan Juke (frog), BMW’s i3 and i8 (a bubble and a fantasy-car), The Ariel Atom and KTM Crossbow (Meccano machines), Renault’s Twizy (an egg) and a whole fleet of other offerings that ten or twenty years ago would barely have made the concept stage.
The Kia Soul EV sits comfortably in this crowd – it does not scream “I’M ELECTRIC!” but it certainly proudly proclaims that it is different. After racking up 444 miles in 6 happy days I really enjoyed those differences.
Firstly the body shape; same as the fuel burners and designed to be rugged in appearance and practical in use. It is obviously not an aerodynamic package but this is a well proportioned city car and aero only really comes into effect above 60mph. What we have instead is a relatively high seating position for properly excellent all-round visibility, plenty of headroom in all five generous seats and a large useful bootspace.
On the inside things remain interesting. The upholstery is made from what they call eco-cloth – whatever that is – it is soft, hard wearing and very comfortable, they also contain bio-foam and bio-fabric, and this too, I am told, is a good thing. Whole-life Carbon measurements are an argument oft voiced by pro-fossil fuel folk and wherever possible Kia have tried to reduce the impact of building this car, including the interior. This is laudable but of more relevance to me is the fact that the driving seat in this car is simply the most comfortable of any car I have ever driven. Ever ever ever.
Day two with the Soul saw me drive from mid-Northants to Manchester – 166 miles – with a stop at Norton Canes services to top up myself and the car. At almost exactly four hours door to door this was pretty much the same as I would get on any other four wheels but with a lot less wriggling and discomfort than usual. The only drama for the drive was deciding which DAB station I wanted to listen to (DAB is standard in the Soul) and giggling at the SatNav display that insisted on showing me every petrol station along my route – why would I care about that?
Urban driving in an EV is always fun, when you pass a pedestrian and see their confused expression in your mirror it is ceaseless entertainment, but with the bright and bulbous Soul they watch you coming too and you get twice the laughs.
I could never park without someone having something to say about the car – usually positive – but the best one was watching the concierge at the Manchester hotel who spent a good ten minutes thinking about whether to swallow his pride and ask for help before deciding he could drive this weird beast. Upon his return however he had a full-on cheshire cat across his face and waxed lyrical about the easy driving quietness of the car; this from a man that spends all day driving high-end German and British luxury cars for a living.
The return journey the next day was slightly more dramatic however-
The Hotel did not (as yet) offer a charging point but with 46 miles range showing I was comfortable about making the motorway and topping up at Knutsford. A great plan except there was no charging station there, so I bravely press on to Sandbach and find nothing for me there either. By now my range indicator was in single figures and Keele was ten miles out. A check on the Sat Nav showed no options nearer so ready for a stranding I pressed on.
Things kept beeping, the car kept slowing and lights flashed all over the cabin (using my last few volts!) but eventually through the cold sweat I saw Keele services and their beautifully illuminated monoliths of power.
I plugged in and a few seconds later a Leaf driver parked up with the exact same story to tell me. We shared stories over a coffee (you don’t get that camaraderie at petrol stations) and trotted off back home, both with 80% charge, but the Kia offering 86 miles, the Leaf a mere 72.
I can’t blame the car for this, I had all the information I needed on board, and passed a couple of chargers as I left Manchester. It was mostly my fault although there are still some holes in the charging network that need plugging (wow, comedy gold). You can be sure however that these gaps will be far smaller over the next few years as electric cars now make up around 1% of new car sales and we have almost 50,000 EV’s on our roads.
Kia do have class leading range on the Soul – up to 132 miles – the best I saw was 106 miles with another 11 on offer when I plugged it in. It still won’t be enough to tempt resolute fuel burners to convert but it is a useful amount as long as you plan ahead and have a plan B too.
Kia produce 5000 of these cars annually and expect to sell a mere 100 per year in the UK. To me the Soul matches or beats the Leaf in every respect and costs pretty much the same, which just goes to show that there is much to be said about being first to market – the Leaf sells about 5000 a year at the moment, but the best selling EV is the highly accomplished Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV at over 11,000 sales for 2015.
Kia deserve more of the market for this car, they do well on range and have a hard-to-beat 7 year 100,000 mile warranty. Specification is very high and you won’t lose the car in a busy carpark, but beyond all this they have injected lovely little elements of fun into the mix from the slightly bonkers styling and paint to the mood-lighting trim around the door speakers – this car is simply a delight, but then aren’t the Koreans renowned for their sense of humour?
|Kia Soul EV||Data|
|Max Speed||90 mph|
words & pictures – Mark Wolens