A Look Back at the Excellent First Generation Kia Soul EV
Snapshot: The Kia Soul EV is a compact electric crossover that feels bigger on the inside. An upright, up-high seating position gives the driver excellent visibility while a smooth, near-silent drive takes the edge off of commuting.
Electric’s got Soul.
The gasoline-powered Soul has proven to be wildly popular car. Since its introduction in 2009, Kia has sold more than one million of them in the United States alone. Despite (or maybe because of) its funky styling, the car has become wildly popular.
The fact that the Soul sells like hotcakes is at least one of the reasons Kia chose to electrify it over the rest of its lineup. Building electric vehicles is both risky and costly, but both risk and cost can be reduced by building on a platform that’s already a proven success.
That said, the similarities between the gas Kia Soul and electric Kia Soul are mostly visual in nature. Under the hood, Kia swapped the obsolete internal combustion engine for all major EV components, including the onboard charger, battery management system, and the 109-horsepower electric motor. While you can pop the hood to gaze at all this stuff, the only work you’ll need to do under there is refill the windshield washer fluid.
Running all that equipment is a 27 kWh (2015-2017 model years) or 30 kWh (2017-2019 model years) Lithium-ion battery pack that will give drivers 93 and 111 miles of range respectively. This makes Kia Soul EV one of the longer-ranged “compliance” electrics available – beating out 2015-2016 Volkswagen e-Golfs, Chevy Spark EVs, and Fiat 500es.
DC Fast Charging thankfully comes standard in the form of a ChaDeMo port. It’s capable of charging the battery to 80% in about 30 minutes.
By the way, that battery is stuffed under the floor of the car. While it technically reduces rear seat legroom from 39.1 inches in the gas car to 36 inches in the EV, there’s still so much space in the cabin that it doesn’t really matter.
Interior comfort and quality is where the Kia Soul EV really shines. The Korean automaker touts the fact that much of the cabin’s interior is made of plant-based plastics. While you likely won’t notice that when you get inside the car, you will notice the high-quality seat materials, soft-touch dashboard, and pleasant white trim around the shifter and touchscreen that brightens up the interior.
It’s a well-equipped interior, too. An eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility sits front and center while the driver also gets an OLED instrument cluster that can display efficiency, energy flow, media information, and more along with basic information like speed and range.
The Soul EV also has a heat pump to increase efficiency of the climate control system, and all models have heated front seats. The EV Plus trim gets heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and even heated rear seats.
Comfort goes beyond nice amenities though – it feels baked into the entire driving experience.
Electric vehicles are always quieter than internal combustion cars on account of the whole not-being-powered-by-explosions thing, but Kia has doubled down on this aspect by installing additional sound-proofing materials. The Soul EV is quite literally whisper-quiet, even at highway speeds.
Your blissful peace and quiet won’t be disturbed by bumps in the road either, ride quality in the Soul EV is great. The tires and suspension absorb all but the harshest bumps in the road with ease, providing a smooth ride to match the character of the car’s electric motor.
Instead of the powerful launch most other electric vehicles offer, the Kia Soul EV accelerates in a more relaxed manner. It’s not as if the car feels slow – no, the 109 hp and 211 lb.-ft of torque on tap from the motor feels plenty powerful for overtaking traffic and merging on the highway – it’s just that the car accelerates in a smooth, steady, and confident manner. It doesn’t sprint, it strides.
The regenerative braking operates in much the same way. Even when you shift the car from “D” (light regenerative braking) to “B” (stronger regenerative braking), it’s never forceful or abrupt when it starts to slow you down.
If electric vehicles were dogs, the Kia Soul EV would be a laid-back Basset Hound while the Fiat 500e would be an excitable Chihuahua.
The Soul EV is always smooth, never jarring. Everything comes together to make something that’s so pleasant to drive that it dulls the stressful edge of commuting.
The prioritization of comfort does mean the Soul EV comes up a little short in spirited driving. While the low rolling resistance Nexen N Blue EV tires that were specially designed for the Soul EV do a great job of absorbing bumps in the road, they don’t provide a lot of grip through a corner. The car also has a fairly high center of gravity, so there’s not much here to inspire apex hunting.
That’s okay though! The Kia Soul EV excels as a commuter. It’s got plenty of power and its handling makes moving through traffic a breeze. It’s quiet, has great creature comforts, and rides super smooth over rough roads.
Specs and Trims over the years.
The Kia Soul EV has been available in three trims: EV-e, EV (base), and EV+. We’ll detail them here.
The Base and Plus trim levels changed very little for the run of the car and few options were offered. Cruise control and an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability were standard. The Base trim sports heated cloth seats, while the Plus trim is adorned in leather with heated and ventilated front seats.
In 2016, Kia slotted the more barebones EV-e trim underneath the suddenly-misnamed Base trim. While the EV-e still had heated seats, it lost the heat pump and Kia’s nice 8-inch touch screen.
Kia also introduced the cheery Sun and Fun Package in 2016. This optional package was available only for Plus models and featured a power panoramic sunroof and LED interior lighting.
In 2017, the EV-e trim was given a 5-inch touch screen and backup camera to comply with new federal safety regulations mandating said equipment.
The big news for the 2018 Kia Soul EV was a bigger battery pack. Kia inflated the Li-ion battery up to 30 kWh, increasing the Soul EV’s range to 111 miles.
They also quietly killed off the EV-e trim, leaving the Base and Plus trims unchanged for the last two model years of the first generation.
2021 and Beyond
America won’t get it until 2021, but the Kia Soul EV is joining the Nissan Leaf as one of the first EVs to get a proper second generation. The new car retains the Soul’s trademark boxy silhouette, but it’s been completely redesigned inside and out.
While full details are scarce, it looks like the car will be loaded with modern tech like a heads-up display (HUD), a customizable full-color digital gauge cluster, and four regenerative braking levels allowing for true one-pedal driving.
It’s also has promise to be a great long-range car. It’s set to come with a massive 64 kWh battery pack allowing for more than 240 miles of range. Combine that with a CCS fast charge port and the 2020 Soul EV ought to be a capable road-tripper.
Price isn’t yet released, but it will likely start in the mid $30,000s, as many comparable EVs such as the Chevy Bolt and Hyundai Kona Electric do.
If the new car retains the comfortable and practical properties of the first one while offering more range and tech, Kia’s got a winner on their hands.