With 84 per cent more power and double the electric range of the Soul EV’s predecessor, it is fair to say this third generation Kia Soul EV is a vastly improved and hugely more tempting proposition for those looking to pull the plug on fossil fuels.
But with the Volkswagen ID 3, the recently released Mazda MX-30 and Kia’s very own e-Niro as key rivals, the third generation Soul EV has to work hard in order to stand out from an increasingly congested marketplace.
With that in mind, Kia’s designers have given the Soul EV’s exterior a thorough a makeover and, without compromising the Soul’s traditional boxy dimensions too much, there are now LED headlights, shaped so they look a little bit like an illuminated Storm Trooper at night, larger alloy wheels and a fresh selection of bi-tone paint colours.
In fact, every exterior panel on this new Soul EV is brand new but the curvaceous front end and slab-sided rear are instantly recognisable. In a world of overly complicated and pointlessly creased panels, it’s nice to see an SUV or crossover with more traditional “wheel in each corner” off-road styling and flowing surfaces. Although there were a few comments of “old person’s car” during my time with a white and red model. It definitely looks better in Neptune Blue or Quartz Black.
Thankfully, there were fewer scornful remarks about the interior, which now boasts a head-up display, 10.25-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system and, in sheer defiance of the “old man’s car” comments, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality. It also boasts a punchy 10-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system and wireless smartphone charging via a little tray in the centre console.
Kia has always been one for practical touches and the Soul EVs interior is packed with plentiful USB charging outlets, cubbyholes for drinks and snacks, comfortable seats, bountiful head and legroom for passengers and the ability to easily fold rear seats for additional space. A good thing considering the boot can only hold 315-litres of kit when those seats are intact.
Although it will never win any awards for handling of driving thrills, the Kia Soul EV feels pretty brisk off the line and when set in its punchiest Sports mode, it can managed the 0-60mph sprint in a very reasonable 7.6 seconds. Perhaps more importantly, the 0-30mph dash feels a lot quicker and it’s a superb little car for darting in and out of busy city traffic.
The official electric range is 280-miles, but I could never get the onboard read-out to even get close to this figure, even when fully charged. Instead, the on-board computer, which will have adjusted this range according to the way the car has been driven, revealed around 235-240 miles with fully brimmed 64kWh batteries.
Those figures are accurate though, allowing for one fairly sizeable 200+-mile round trip to be completed on a single charge and with very little range anxiety on the return leg. In fact, the Soul EV pulled up outside my house with around 40-miles still showing on the clock.
Should you plan a longer journey that requires charging on route, the batteries can be recharged to 80 per cent in just 54 minutes using a 100kW charger, and with a 50kW charger, the battery can be replenished to 80 per cent in 75 minutes. Kia provides the appropriate CSS cables in the boot, alongside a three-pin converter in case you can’t find an appropriate charger.
At £34,545 for the Soul EV ‘First Edition’, it’s priced keenly to rival the aforementioned VW ID 3 but comes in slightly more expensive than the current Nissan Leaf. It feels more characterful than the latter and looks great with its exterior refresh.
That said, Kia’s own e-Niro features much of the same tech, a near-identical electric range and a similar price, but its more typical crossover shape means it has a larger boot at 451-litres.
The interior of the Soul EV features a few neat touches that set it apart from many other current Kia products. According to its designers, the Soul has always taken inspiration from the world of music and as a result, adorns its front speakers with a neat design the bookends the sleek dashboard.
Seeing as there’s only one trim level to choose from (First Edition), all cars receive black leather upholstery and an entire suite of comfort features. Heated front seats, a heated steering wheels, a premium sound system, reversing camera and keyless entry are just a few, which feels generous considering the price tag.
The infotainment system is a doddle to use and consists of a large touchscreen with all menus laid out in a very familiar app format. DAB radio comes as standard, as well as the ability to easily tether a smartphone and access entertainment that way.
UVO CONNECT, the name Kia gives to its current generation telematics system, includes an eSIM chip, meaning it can retrieve and update live data during a drive, such as live traffic information, weather forecasts, points of interest, and details of potential on- and off-street parking – including price, location and parking availability.
Users can also download a smartphone app, which gives remote access to the Soul EV so owners can access data on battery status levels and seat heating or cooling schedules when the vehicle is plugged in.
Finally, and if that wasn’t enough tech, Kia throws in a small head-up display that sits just behind the steering wheel. This displays handy information on current speed and can be set to give turn-by-turn navigation instructions if using the built-in sat nav.
The Kia Soul EV offers plenty of room for a family of five, with four doors that open wide, making it easy to load in children and babies. Taller rear occupants are robbed slightly of legroom, but the tall roofline mean there’s plenty of head room on offer. However, a lack of sunroof does make it quite dark in the rear.
Unfortunately, boot space is an issue and the raised platform (thanks, batteries), as well as the large stowage area for charging cables, eats into practical room for stuff. It’s not large enough to fit a pram in there and anything over five large bags of shopping starts to feel tight.
Kia has attempted to remedy this with a neatly folding parcel shelf, meaning you can stack items in the boot with ease. The boot door is also easy to open and close and it offers protection on the rain thanks to being hinged at the top of the tailgate.
Fancy new lithium-ion polymer battery packs offer greater energy density than any of the Soul EV’s predecessors and owners now get a very useable range of 280-miles (according to official figures).
These batteries are paired with a 150kW (201bhp) electric motor that drives the front wheels and delivers a punchy 395Nm of torque for rapid acceleration. On top of this, Kia has tweaked its smart regenerative braking system so it now delivers more charge back to the batteries under braking.
This system can be adjusted via paddles mounted behind the steering wheel, making it easy to increase the regenerative braking force (great in stop/start traffic) or decrease it when cruising on the motorway, for example.
Despite plentiful power on tap, the Kia Soul EV can’t be considered an exciting or sporting drive in any way. The steering is far too vague for that and the suspension system is set-up for comfort, meaning the body rolls a great deal through corners.
A recent drive in the Mazda MX-30 revealed that small electric crossovers can also prove quite fun and the Japanese rival has definitely focussed more on driving thrills than any of the engineers at Kia. But does that really matter?
Not really, because the Soul EV is comfortable, both around town and on longer journeys, happily cruising at higher speeds without any complaint. It deals with potholes and rough roads well, while the boxy dimensions make it really easy and predictable to park.
Refinement is the only slight issue here and, thanks to the near-silent powertrain, road noise and wind roar is a lot more prevalent in the cabin, particularly at 70mph or above. This is easily drowned out by the fantastic speaker system, but more premium rivals, such as Polestar and Tesla, have predictably done a far better job at creating a more serene environment. But that’s the price you pay.