Credit where it’s due. Kia was one of the first companies to go electric, launching an EV (electric vehicle) version of its quirky Soul family car in the UK way back in 2014.
Back then, it had a modest 27kWh battery pack, and though its range was quoted as 132 miles, in the real world it was closer to 100.
Fast forward to 2023 and the third-generation Soul (originally launched in 2020) is electric-only (there are no petrol, diesel or hybrid variants) and it’s powered by a choice of 39.2kWh or 64kWh battery packs with claimed 171 or 280-mile ranges.
Currently the cheapest EV in the Kia range (it slots in below the impressive new Niro), the 39.2kWh ‘Urban’ costs £32,845, while the 64kWh ‘Explore’ long range will set you back £39,045.
For its latest iteration, the Soul’s divisive looks have been softened. Some say it actually looks cool now.
However, it remains difficult to categorise its boxy design because it has elements of a hatchback and crossover.
There’s no argument about one thing, and that’s the bags of head and legroom in the front and back. And while the boot isn’t the biggest (315 litres), with the rear seats flipped down the load space expands to 1,339 litres.
The cabin has a fairly generic Kia ‘black plastic’ look and feel, and sadly the dashboard and infotainment system now looks a little dated because it does not benefit from the wow factor of the dual, panoramic curved displays found in its newer stablemates, the Sportage, Niro and EV6.
Instead, the entry-level Urban gets a small 8.0-inch touchscreen and a 7.0-inch driver’s digital cluster, while the Explore is a least treated to a 10.25-inch screen.
So, the dashboard is a little disappointing, but both cars are generously equipped. The Urban gets autonomous emergency braking (AEB), a reversing camera, LED headlights, a smart entry system and adaptive cruise control. Explore adds goodies including black leather upholstery, heated front seats and heated steering wheel.
Under the bonnet the 39.2kWh battery pack is paired with a 134bhp electric motor, while the 64kWh version gets a 201bhp motor. Drive is through the front wheels on both models.
We tested the more powerful of the two cars which can accelerate from 0-60mph in 7.9 seconds and has a top speed of 104mph. This compared to 9.6 sec/97mph for the 39.2kWh/134bhp starter Soul.
It would be an exaggeration to say the Kia Soul EV is anything special behind the wheel. Yes, it’s the smooth, whisper-quiet EV experience you’d expect, spiced up with instant torque.
There are four driving modes – Eco, Eco+, Normal and Sport. The latter is more fun, but it will sap your battery charge, while the Eco modes are heavy on regenerative braking, which recharges the battery by harvesting power otherwise wasted during deceleration, but further dulls the driving experience.
Best to stick to the Normal setting which offers the smoothest, most relaxing drive. In fact, once you get familiar with the car, you can use the paddles behind the steering wheel to adjust the level of regeneration and the braking effect to slow down instead of using the brake pedal.
For a relatively tall car, body roll is well controlled. And though the ride is on the firm side, it’s perfectly acceptable, while grip is good for a front-wheel drive car.
Ultimately, it’s worth remembering that the Soul EV is not marketed as a performance car – it’s more about being easy to drive, comfortable, practical and generously equipped. Judged on that basis, it ticks all the right boxes.
Finally, what about the practicalities of running a Soul EV? Well, a 0-80% charge takes 54 minutes from an 80kW charger, while owners with a 7.2kW home wallbox can complete a full charge overnight.