Saturday Road Test – Kia Soul EV

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2015 Kia Soul EV

Juiced Hamsters!!

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD – Even at today’s prices, there is something cool about driving around town looking at gas stations, and knowing that you will never have to stop in one.

The car of the week is the all-electric Kia Soul that boasts a range of 93 miles max, something Kia claims is the most of any electric car, sans the Tesla. The Nissan Leaf totals out at 84 miles and the Focus Electric at 76 miles. Quick charging stations will be offered at Kia dealers as the car is offered at dealers outside of the introductory state of California.

Officially it is an all-electric “urban crossover vehicle” aimed at those living in big cities who do not take long driving trips.

There are two charging ports located behind a trap door in the grill. One is a fast charging port that can take as little as a half hour to bring the battery up to 80 percent power. Using a 240 volt outlet a full charge can be accomplished in less than five hours with 24 hours required to get a full charge using the standard 120 volt household current. I can verify that is an accurate claim.

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It is easy to see how things are percolating, charge wise, by the three flashing blue lights on top of the dash. They divide the charging process in thirds, and when all three are not blinking, you are set to rock.

There is also a long list of charging stations available on the center dash mounted screen. Get down to 25 percent juice left, and that familiar synthesized female voice tells you to head to the nearest charging station, and repeats it until you treat the Soul to some electricity. The charger and an extension cord fit nicely under the rear storage compartment floor.

Available only in front wheel drive, the Soul EV is powered by a 109 horsepower electric motor producing a generous 210 lb-ft of torque. Because it is a full electric that torque is available right from start up, and I was surprised how quickly it accelerated from 40 to 70 mph from interstate entrances. Kia puts the 0-60 run at less than 12 seconds with a top speed of about 90 mph, but running flat out will, of course, cut into your range.

Its maker claims 18 to 43 mph comes up in 3.9 seconds and 49 to 74 mph in 9.3 seconds.

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The battery’s location beneath the floor results in a lower center of gravity and only a minor reduction in storage space. Rear seat passengers lose 3.1 inches in leg room but two adults will fit in just fine. Total cargo carrying space comes to 49.5 cubic feet.

In the interest of pedestrian safety, the Soul sounds a series of beeps when in reverse. They sound identical to the ones used in very large dump trunks so those out for a stroll might be a bit surprised to find them coming from a little blue and white compact car.

To further attract the Greens, Kia made use of lots of Bio-based materials inside with plastics derived from cellulose and sugar cane on the door panels, headliner, roof pillars and carpeting. It is nice and bright inside as a result, and a solid argument against the all-black interior seen in too many cars.

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To save power, heat and A/C can directed only at the driver by pushing a button.  A/C is one of the largest energy drains in any electric vehicle but with a wind chill of zero as I write this, how big a deal is that?

There are two models offered – the base and the plus. Both share the same drivetrain including the one speed transmission, Lithium Ion Polymer battery, and other essentials.

The base model starts at $33,700 not including a federal tax rebate of $7,500 and whatever incentives are offered in the few states where the electric Soul is offered. The tested Plus begins at $35,700. Lease deals start at $240 a month.

Move up to the Plus and added to the equipment list are leather trimmed, heated and ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, projection style fog lamps and power folding outside mirrors. To calm your range jitters, the remaining battery miles are prominently displayed in the dash panel where the tach would be in a gas powered car. If you look at it only twice an hour, your range anxiety is under control!

With the abundant torque it is a hoot to drive around town, with excellent visibility, and perhaps due to the loveable hamsters, the ability to turn heads. The Caribbean blue/white top exterior made the car feel fresh and new.  On the highway, there is some road and wind noise, but nothing excessive.

It has a solid well-built feel about it and that low center of gravity made for some fun on back country roads, more so than one might expect in an EV. Overall, the Soul EV proved that an electric car doesn’t have to feel cheap, yet can still sell for well under what Elon Musk wants for his juiced up sedan.

But up jumped someone yelling, “Relevancy your honor” citing today’s under $2 a gallon gas prices.

Perhaps with that in mind, Kia has been deliberate in releasing the EV nationwide starting, of course, in California with expansion to Oregon, New York, New Jersey, (can’t see Chris Christie in one) and here in Maryland.

If you are attracted to the Soul EV do arrange for the quickest recharging system you can buy. Then, if you can live with the shorter range of the electric over the gas powered Soul, you will find a very delightful set of wheels that in many ways is environmentally correct.

I remain less than a fan of electrics, feeling that one gets a car for the ability to go where they want to go, when they want to go, for as long as it takes to get there with a minimum of interruption.

But having said that, this remains the best electric car I have driven by a wide margin.

P.S. How cool is the Soul? Pope Francis used one during a visit to South Korea last year.

2015 Soul EV

 

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