By Veeno Dewan
The Kia Soul EV (Electric Vehicle) is based on the Korean company’s highly successful Soul CUV five-door. The Soul is of course, the uber-stylish, cube shaped, four- door family hatchback that has done so well in the last few years. Now Kia has taken the Soul and reverse engineered it as the Korean company’s first all –electric vehicle to be sold in North America. Right off the bat, the Kia Soul EV boasts the best range of any electric vehicle in its class with a 160 kilometres driving range on a full charge. The normal, gas engined Kia Soul and the Soul EV dimensions are identical, except for the rear seat floor, which is about three inches higher in order to house the EV’s under-floor lithium ion battery pack. However, the EV’s rear cargo are is the same at 532 litres. Other differences are the front grille that on the EV is composed of a facia panel hiding the receptacles for the charging cable and the low resistance tires with their funky white rims The EV is available in tow trim lines and also comes in exclusive two-tone paint styles. Our tester, a combination of Pearl White body and Metallic Sky Blue top. Only a few exterior badges hint at the green credentials of this car.
The Kia electric drive, battery and charging system, (Remember no gas engine in this car!) uses a hefty 27 kWh Lithium-ion battery, and a 81.4 kW electric motor with a one-speed transaxle to produces 109 hp and a creditable 210 lb/ft of torque. Charging is via a supplied cable that plugs from a household power outlet into the EV’s front grille panel that houses two charging ports (120 and 240 volt). Full charge time according to Kia takes 4.5 hours when plugged into a 240-volt outlet, while Kia says a super-fast quick charging will be possible on the production model.
Interior wise, the Kia EV has a smart, neat cabin and a high level of quality than other electric cars I have tested. Light grey leather seats are both ventilated, and heated even the rear bench and steering wheel are heated. There are light blue accents on the seats, whilst the dash and upper center console have bright, easy to read gauges and a well-designed touch screen controls are easy to figure out and customize. However, the Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) technology displays are refreshingly simple showing essential information, including range, remaining charge level and other important information. There are such standard features as a rear-view camera, electric power steering, super low resistance 16-inch tires, an on-board charger, Eco and Regeneration drive modes, and dual-zone climate control. The heating and air-conditioning system that uses an optional heat pump to recovers heat uses it to warm the cabin, while a clever feature also allows deactivation of air vents to save energy. There are not many options on this well-equipped car, although the heat pump that reduces energy consumption is a hefty $3,000 extra in the luxury trim line. Both models come with rear-view camera, electric power steering, super low resistance 16-inch tires, on-board charger, Eco and Regeneration drive modes, and dual-zone climate control to reduce battery draw. The Kia is also green in its construction, with bio-based plastics using cellulose and sugar cane in the seats, headliner, door panels, roof pillars and carpeting. Interior space is good with plenty of head, hip and leg room in front seats and back row. Not much to complain about, the grey color interior scheme is a bit dull some people noted and the white wheel covers looked frumpy to some younger commentators, but that all I could get out of people!
On the road, the Kia is a revelation, with near silent operation, fast, smooth takeoff and a firm, sold feeling through steering wheel. Acceleration and coming up to speed with the single -speed transmission is eerily smooth. The low center of gravity with batteries under the car mean the Soul EV is stable, and handles tight and controlled on all surfaces. The Kia Soul EV has four driving modes: Drive is for normal driving while B improves the regenerative braking process. Meanwhile the Eco mode can also be engaged with Drive and B parameters for maximum efficiency. Stepping on the regenerative brakes can actually returns up to 12% of kinetic energy to the electric drive system, which is very impressive. Overall the Kia Soul EV equivalent gas economy wold be around 2.0/2.6/L/ per 100 km city/highway. Kia Soul EV buyers are eligible in some provinces for an $8500 rebate that offsets the $35,000 – $38,000 price for the EV. To sum up the Kia Soul is coming close to that magical tantalizing holy grail of motoring – a super green non fossil fuel burning family car with enough daily range to be practical. Smooth, impeccably mannered and a so nice to drive, the Kia Soul EV is highly recommended
2015 Kia Soul EV: Base priced from: $34,995 – $37,995 ($8,500 and $8,000 provincial rebates also available)
By Veeno Dewan