With excellent all-round visibility from its elevated driving position, the Soul is packed with funky features to put the fun factor back into any journey. The latest third generation car is only available in EV guise but it has a range of 280 miles between charges.
The goodDistinctive design, packed with technology and a 280-mile range
The badPricey initial outlay even with Government grant
Kia Soul EV – first drive (2020)
KIA is already a key player in the EV market and now the Korean company’s commitment to a cleaner future is picking up pace with the launch of the latest Soul EV.
The car maker has offered a fully electric vehicle in its range since 2014 and has more recently introduced a number of 48v mild hybrids and plug-in hybrids to its line-up.
The original Soul EV was powered by traditional combustion engines, but the second-generation car was launched with an EV option. It was the company’s first ever fully electric car but had a limited range, although it was still advanced for its time. But now Kia is drawing on the success of the multi award-winning e-Niro to develop a new generation Soul EV that is brimming over with technology and now boasts a very impressive range.
There is just one trim level available called First Edition and the car costs £33,795 after the Government’s plug-in grant has been taken into consideration.
When it comes to design, it’s all new for the latest Soul EV which has a fresh and funky look with an emphasis on fun. Every single panel has been replaced, yet the car remains instantly recognisable by staying true to its upright and somewhat boxy urban crossover appearance.
But it does boast a slightly softer look designed to appeal to the masses with slim LED front lights, strake-style LED fog lights and the charging point that is neatly integrated behind a small panel at the front of the car.
The windows taper towards the rear of the vehicle with a fin-shaped rear pillar replacing the sharper angles on earlier models and the styling is completed with unique five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels. Customers can select from a number of two-tone colour combinations body colours that really help the Soul EV stand out in any crowd.
When you move inside the interior is quality through and through with lots of soft-touch surfaces, piano black trimmings and a high-tech layout that is inspired by music. It retains the signature tweeter speakers that bookend the dashboard and the cabin is finished in black leather upholstery.
There are exceptionally high levels of on-board technology at your disposal with creature comforts including a 10.25-inch floating infotainment touchscreen with sat nav and European mapping, a 10-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system, head-up display, heated seats, reversing camera with dynamic guideline, rear parking sensors and a wireless phone charger. The car also has full smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
There is also an UVO Connect system to update live data such as traffic reports, weather forecasts, parking options with pricing and availability, points of interest and, perhaps most importantly, details about charging facilities and availability.
The Soul EV is powered by the same technology as the recently-launched e-Niro which is a 64kWh battery and 201bhp (150kW) pure electric motor. It can be charged to 80 per cent in just 54 minutes using a 100kW charger or 75 minutes if plugged into a 50kW charge point.
But the big news is the real-world range on the latest car which is set at 280 miles between charges and this increases 402 miles in a city environment.
The Soul EV starts up with a little welcoming and somewhat twee jingle sound and when you’re ready, you simply turn the gear selector from N to D to pull away in complete silence. Despite the car’s funky squared-off looks it’s quite the powerhouse when it comes to performance and can sprint to 62mph from a standing start in a very spritely 7.9 seconds, maxing out at 104 mph.
The acceleration is instant and rapid as the car fizzes through the country lanes without a care in the world. The road holding is ultra grippy but tight bends need to be given a certain degree of respect to avoid any body sway. The steering is fairly light, but switching through the driving modes called Eco, Eco+, Normal and Sport certainly alters its mannerisms considerably.
On motorways or dual carriageways, you will hear a little wind and road surface noise due to the silent running and upright design of the car, but that’s where the superb Harmon Kardon audio system comes into play. After all, this is a model that has soul in its roots.
On rougher surfaces, the suspension system does a good job of smoothing out all but the most severe bumps and dips along the way and the all-round ride and handling impressed at all times.
To help increase the driving range, there are paddles just behind the steering wheel. These are for the regenerative braking with four settings that increase how much energy is captured during deceleration. You can actually drive for miles at a time without touching the brakes at all and by simply using the higher settings on the paddles to slow the vehicle down.
The high seating position results in excellent driver visibility and the car was deceptively agile in busy town centres where it weaved through the busy traffic with ease.
New Soul EV has also grown a little – it’s 80mm longer and the wheelbase has also increased by 30mm and that means more space for occupants and a boot capacity of 315 litres (up by 34 litres) – increasing to 1,339 litres with the rear seats folded down. That maximum storage limit is up by a whopping 448 litres.
Comfort levels within the car are high for all occupants and there is ample room for two adults to sit comfortably in the back of the vehicle – or three if they don’t mind rubbing shoulders. The upright design of the Soul EV means the head space is generous and legroom also impresses.
The car has not yet been tested for its new Euro NCAP rating, but Kia is confident it will be awarded the maximum five stars. Standard safety features on the Soul EV include lane keeping assist, forward collision warning with forward collision avoidance assist, blind spot detection with rear-cross traffic alert, high beam assist, driver attention warning, seven airbags and lots more besides.
All in all, the latest generation Soul EV is quite the all-round package. It offers funky good looks, a wealth of on-board technology and a driving range that will leave many rivals searching desperately for the nearest charging points.
Kia Soul EV
It’s been a long time coming but Kia’s first venture into the battery-electric vehicle on a global scale has certainly been worth the wait.
The Soul EV is the result of almost 30 years of research and development by Kia into electric powertrains, and it doesn’t disappoint in any aspect.
With its electric blue paintwork, the Soul EV resembles an elongated Tardis with its upright box-like design, a plethora of on-board technology and exceptionally spacious interior that is deceptively roomy for five adults.
It’s instantly apparent that Kia wanted its EV model to look as similar as possible to the orthodox Soul powered by more traditional means, but there are a few stand-out features of note. For example, there is no grille on the EV model – this is replaced by a sliding body-coloured plate that covers the charging points and also aids the car’s aerodynamics along the way. There are uniquely styled rear light clusters and, of course, there is no need for any filler cap either.
The cabin is more in line with traditional Kia Soul models with a smart gloss white finish to the gearstick surround and centre console. In addition digital dials replace the analogue versions used on other models and there are plenty of ‘electric’ data readouts including range and charge information.
The vehicle’s batteries are mounted beneath the car in a special protective casing which makes them easy to reach for any maintenance work. This ultra-tough casing also protects against any scratches or stone chip damage. The ducts to heat and cool the batteries are positioned beneath the rear passenger seats and the only impact this has is an 80mm reduction in rear seat legroom, but Kia has rather cleverly compensated by introducing new materials in the seat construction.
So like the rest of the Soul range, the EV model is a compact yet spacious five-seat crossover which offers all the versatility an active family could wish for. It features a 281-litre boot that is accessed through a wide-opening, high-lift tailgate and with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat this capacity can quickly and easily be increased to 891 litres.
The list of creature comforts supplied as standard also impresses with the likes of heated front seats, sat nav, DAB radio with MP3 compatibility, steering wheel-mounted controls, Bluetooth with voice recognition and music streaming, an eight-inch touchscreen, front speaker mood lights, a heated steering wheel and parking sensors all included in the £29,995 asking price (£24,995 with the Government’s £5k plug-in grant deducted).
The electric motor that drives the Soul EV develops 81.4 kilowatts which is the equivalent to 109bhp in a standard combustion-engine car. And whilst it may not sound that powerful, the car proved nice and lively with ample power on tap at all times as it whizzed through the busy city streets. Steep hill climbs posed no problem and there was plenty of zip out on the faster country lanes too.
The car can sprint from 0-62mph in 11.2 seconds and onto a top speed of 90mph. It has a very impressive 132-mile range and can be charged in one of two ways. Customers can use a standard domestic socket and this will take about 10 to 13 hours to fully charge. Alternatively, there is the option of a fast charger whereby the time can be reduced to less than five hours.
So onto performance and once again the Soul EV is a true asset to Kia’s impressive line-up. It’s totally silent start-up is a little eerie as too is the quiet nature of the car as you pull away. But once you get used to the noise-free cabin and crank up the volume on the stereo it’s fun, fun, fun all the way.
The acceleration is both smooth and brisk and the all-round handling cannot be faulted as the car moves along at quite a click. The driver benefits from excellent all-round visibility and all dials, controls and instrumentation readouts are perfectly positioned for ease of use.
The lack of any engine noise and the upright design of the car mean you will experience some wind sound when the Soul EV is driven at a pace, but that was my only slight gripe about an otherwise excellent vehicle.
Other features of note are the car’s Flex Steer system which allows the driver to adjust the degree of assistance according to need. For example, the Comfort setting can be used for parking and manoeuvring in narrow streets and then Sport mode is better for faster motorway driving. There is a Normal setting that fits neatly between the two.
In addition, the Soul EV has two different performance levels – Drive and Brake – which can be used to maximise the car’s range and regenerative capabilities when required.
All in all, the Kia Soul EV is a beautiful piece of kit. Admittedly, it’s not a ‘boy racer’ model, but it is a great family car which is big on style, comfort, practicality and economy, plus it ticks a number of ‘green’ boxes along the way.
Kia Soul Connect Plus 1.6 CRDi 12bhp 6-speed manual
Kia was credited with a design-led revolution when it launched the fresh, funky, economical and very practical Soul back in 2008.
And now the second generation Soul has arrived and it’s bigger, bolder and better than ever with improved driving dynamics along with more dramatic SUV crossover styling cues.
All new models are five doors and it is only available in front-wheel-drive.
There are three regular trim lines – Start, Connect and Connect Plus – along with a couple of rather extravagant models called Soul Mixx and Soul Maxx.
The test model was a 1.6-litre diesel in Connect Plus trim with 126bhp and a six-speed manual gearbox. It was priced at £17,500 plus £490 optional extras.
New Soul is instantly recognisable at a glance thanks to its upright stance, square shoulders and distinctive bumper flares, but the additional width and lowered height gives it a much more sporty and ready-for-action stance than the outgoing model.
And those extra millimetres result in additional passenger and luggage space.
The boot has a capacity of 354 litres with the rear seats upright which can be increased to 1,367 litres with those 60:40 split-folding seats in a flat position.
It’s a great looking car thanks to daytime running lights, front and rear fog lights, 17-inch alloys, a black high gloss and chrome radiator grille, body-coloured door handles, bumpers and mirrors and tinted window.
The interior is equally impressive with a stylish yet clutter-free layout – all controls and instrumentation dials are perfectly positioned for driver usability. And there are creature comforts galore at your disposal, such as an eight-speaker audio system which is compatible with most multi-media devices, reversing sensors, cruise control, an eight-inch colour touchscreen with sat nav, Bluetooth with voice recognition and music streaming plus much more.
One unusual yet effective design feature of note is the audio speakers. As well as the more traditionally-positioned speakers in the doors there are circular, upward-facing ones each side of the dashboard above the air vents and a large round speaker on top of the dashboard. They look very striking and the sound quality is excellent too.
Comfort levels for all occupants are high and there is ample leg, head and shoulder room for two adults to stretch out in the back.
So the new generation Soul looks the part and is feature-rich, but how does it handle? The answer is very well indeed.
For a car boasting combined fuel economy figures of 56.6mpg it is deceptively nippy with a 0-60mph sprint time of 10.8 seconds. The acceleration is smooth and responsive with a constant supply of power on tap when needed and the driver is treated to excellent all-round visibility.
The Soul cruises at ease through the six-speed manual transmission and the road-holding is also impressive. That said; I didn’t push it too hard into any very tight bends.
But in all honesty, this car is very comfortable dealing with the day-to-day rigours associated with congested city centre driving but can confidently hold its own alongside faster motorway traffic.
Kia has packed a comprehensive range of safety features into the car, including anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, electronic stability control, hill-start assist, numerous airbags and plenty more besides.
All in all, the latest generation Kia Soul has picked up on the accolades and success story of the outgoing model and improved every aspect from design to equipment levels, driving dynamics and economy.
Kia Soul Shaker 1.6 petrol
There are a host of things from the Kia brand that cannot fail to impress including great designs, outstanding value and a world-beating seven year warranty on all new cars, but for me it’s all in the name.
While other manufacturers toy with numbers and names that mix vowels and consonants in such a way they cannot possibly be pronounced, Kia comes up with titles like Rio and Sorento.
But the latest and most imaginative yet has to go to the Soul especially my test model – the Soul Shaker. And when you bear in mind there’s Tempest and Burner models too I think you get my drift.
Admittedly, when the Soul was delivered I rather hoped it would be flame red, but instead it was a deep cream colour that detracted a little from the massive build up, but that aside, it was crammed with quality features and had ample room inside for five adults and plenty of luggage too.
Comfort levels all round were very good and the high-seated driving position means the driver benefits from excellent all-round visibility, while passengers are treated to a very light and spacious cabin atmosphere.
For its very modest asking price of a little more than £13.5k, the Soul has been kitted out with some quality specifications that might cost hundreds and even thousands in “extras” with some manufacturers.
These features include privacy glass, heated door mirrors, an advanced reversing camera system whereby you see a perfect image of what’s behind you projected onto the rearview mirror, 18-inch alloys, an excellent audio system with iPod compatibility plus a whole lot more.
In and around town, the Soul was a delight to drive with deceptively agile handling. And you can really show off in front of your friends by parking in very tight spaces thanks to the reversing camera technology and generally great visibility.
Out on the open road, the 1.6-litre petrol driven engine could certainly hold its own although accelerating up a steep hill with a full car proved a little sluggish. The five-speed manual transmission was easy to operate and also very responsive.
Kia has fitted the Soul with a host of safety features including anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, electronic stability programme, numerous airbags, anti-whiplash active front headrests and plenty more.
And from January, 2010, all new models carry that unbeatable seven year warranty.
All in all, the Soul Shaker is the perfect vehicle for a family that loves the outdoor lifestyle but likes to keep a watchful eye on their finances too.