Kia's first stab at an electric vehicle won't win beauty contests but it does have the best all-electric range in its class and bags of room inside.
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Electric vehicles are on the rise, with sales nearly doubling this year. They're cheap to run, you get government aid to buy them and they're thoroughly virtuous to boot. If you're into tech, well, they're something you should be thinking about. Are they sexy? Sometimes. But not always.
So it's no surprise that affordable Korean marque Kia has decided to get in on the act. And the electrified remix of its Soul SUV is a mild revelation, especially considering the majority of its key rivals favour tiny city cars over the raised ride heights and chunky body addenda of a crossover. As noted, the results aren't visually stunning, but the increased roominess of the Soul EV and its impressive range might just be enough to sway buyers.
Renault Soul EV: Features
From the outside, the Kia Soul EV is barely distinguishable from its oil-slurping siblings, bar a lack of radiator grille, fresh rear light clusters and futuristic alloy rims that house ultra-low resistance tyres. Inside, the Soul EV receives a spanking new 8-inch infotainment system, a 3.5-inch OLED instrument cluster and a suite of bespoke software that allows the driver to access a whole host of driving data and EV information on the move.
Renault Soul EV: Tech
The biggest talking point is the new battery packs that are housed underneath the SUV's floor. Developed with Korean firm SK Innovation, these lithium-ion polymer packs boast a greater energy density - 200 Watt-hours per kilogram of weight - than any competitor. Coupled with an intelligent cooling and heating system to keep the packs at optimum running temperature, the batteries offer a theoretical range of 132 miles.
Special nickel-rich materials used in the cathodes, regenerative engine braking and a unique air conditioning system that can heat and cool only one side of the car when the driver is flying solo all help to increase the Soul EV's range.
Kia Soul EV: Performance
Although the Kia Soul EV is perfectly smooth and agreeable to drive, it definitely isn't the most exciting electric vehicle currently on offer. Herein the problem lies, because Volkswagen and BMW both have genuinely thrilling products in the i3 and e-Golf that cost very little more than Kia's all-electric SUV. Inside, the Kia feels a little bit bland and no way near as special as the aforementioned i3, while the drive isn't quite as engaging as the electric Golf's. It's difficult to fault Kia's offering, as it does all the things any good modern car should do. But so does a Nissan Leaf and that's quite a bit cheaper.
Kia Soul EV: Interior
The Soul EV will only be offered in one specification level and that just happens to be the most lavish. This means customers are treated to plenty of niceties, such as a leather steering wheel, stylish fabrics fashioned from recycled materials and the new 3.5-inch OLED digital instrument cluster. Graphically, the new infotainment system is a giant leap forward compared to previous generations and it offers a whole host of handy electric vehicle applications. The remaining range radius can be viewed on a map, local charging points can be flagged up and smartphones can easily be tethered to make calls or play music through the sound system.
There is also plenty of room inside, with enough seats and space to easily accommodate five adults and a boot large enough to stow luggage. It's certainly more practical than some of its smaller city car rivals.
Kia Soul EV: Verdict
Kia has fairly reserved sales targets in the UK - hoping to shift around 100-200 models per year - and that's probably a sensible approach as it allows the marque to introduce alternative powertrains to its customers without blowing vast sums of money. But although Soul EV customers won't be disappointed with their purchase - especially given the seven-year/100,000 mile warranty that comes as standard - they might be left longing for the exclusivity and excitement offered by certain German rivals.
Kia Soul EV: Specs at a glance
Class-leading battery range of up to 132 miles
New OLED digital instrument cluster
Improved infotainment system
Bespoke electric vehicle software
Rapid charge tops batteries up to 80 per cent in just 33 minutes
Revised interior fashioned from environmentally friendly materials
The Kia Soul EV is available to order now
Kia Soul EV price: £29,995 or £24,995 with the government's EV grant. For more info head HERE.