What's New for 2016
Introduced last year, the Kia Soul
receives just minor changes for 2016. There's a new trim level (EV-e) and a new option package for the Soul EV+ that includes a panoramic sunroof.
The Kia Soul EV joined the still-growing field of conventional economy cars converted to electric powertrains in 2015. As such conversions go, the Soul EV is off to a promising start, with a stylish exterior, a long list of standard equipment and hatchback versatility. In short, the 2016 Soul EV is blessed with strong fundamentals, but Kia
has done a credible job with the EV part, also. The result is a fully competitive product with an EPA-estimated 93-mile driving range.
This impressive range is largely a function of its 27 kWh (kilowatt-hour) lithium-ion polymer battery, which gets its juice from one of two charging ports concealed behind a sliding panel in the grille. The AC port accepts either household-grade 120-volt current (requiring 24 hours for a full recharge) or 240-volt current (5 hours), while the special DC port's 480-volt current provides an 80 percent charge from empty in a claimed 33 minutes. Of course, 480-volt power sources don't exactly grow on trees, but Kia has equipped a number of its EV dealerships in California with DC charging stations, enabling Soul EV owners to (at least in theory) to go on extended road trips with minimal downtime. The company has also partnered with PlugShare to aid in finding the nearest charger, as well as the Greenlots charging station network to facilitate additional long-distance travel.
The 2016 Soul EV's flush grille and special alloy wheels are the most obvious visual clues to the Electric's identity.
But what about states other than California? That's the significant issue with the Soul EV. Although Kia does plan to offer it in five additional states by the beginning of 2016, the Golden State will be the focal point for the immediate future. If able to buy or lease a Soul EV, however, you'll find little to argue with. The only functional compromise relative to the regular Soul is a modest loss of rear leg- and headroom; even so, a couple of adults can still sit in back in reasonable comfort. Surprisingly, cargo space isn't affected by the battery under the floor, and the Soul EV actually feels more responsive around town -- despite its additional heft -- than its gas-powered counterpart due to the electric motor's instantly available 210 pound-feet of torque.
The 2016 Soul EV compares favorably especially for those who enjoy the conventional Soul's unconventional vibe.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2015 Kia Soul EV
is a four-door hatchback with electric power and seating for five. For 2016, it's available in three trim levels: EV-e (CA only), EV (what used to be termed "base") and + (also known as plus).
The EV-e's standard equipment includes a 120-volt charge cable, a DC fast-charge port, a 6.6-kilowatt onboard charger, 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated side mirrors, rear privacy glass, keyless ignition and entry, automatic climate control (with a "driver only" function to save energy), a height-adjustable driver seat, cloth upholstery, a heated tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and a USB port.
's Soul EV is similar but has an 8-inch touchscreen with a rearview camera, a navigation system and Kia's Uvo infotainment system (with additional electric-vehicle-oriented features). The EV trim (and EV+) also come with a heat pump for the climate control system, helping to improve energy efficiency and maximize driving range.
The Soul EV+ adds aerodynamic windshield wipers, foglights, front and rear parking sensors, power-folding mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, leatherette (premium vinyl) dashboard and console trim, heated rear seats, a luggage net, a cargo cover and a 12-volt cargo area power outlet. New for 2016 is an optional Sun & Fun package, which provides a panoramic sunroof and LED interior lighting.
Among other similarly priced electric vehicles, the Kia Soul EV is one of the best suited for carrying luggage and cargo.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2016 Kia Soul EV is motivated by a 90-kW electric motor (109 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque). Energy comes from a 27-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. There are two basic drive modes, Drive and Brake; the latter provides more aggressive regenerative braking when lifting off the accelerator, maximizing range by converting the car's forward momentum into energy for the battery. A separate Eco mode further promotes energy conservation.
In Edmunds testing, a Soul EV accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.5 seconds, which is consistent with similarly priced all-electric competitors.
EPA efficiency estimates peg the Soul EV's range at 93 miles, which is quite good for the class. The agency also projects that the Soul EV will use 32 kWh of electricity per 100 miles driven, which is roughly average for the segment (remember here that the lower the number of kilowatt-hours used, the better). Its actual, observed energy usage of 24.9 kWh on our evaluation route is on par with most competitors.
All Soul EVs come with a 6.6-kW onboard charger and the aforementioned dual grille-mounted ports. On 240-volt AC power, a full charge from empty takes between four and five hours; at five hours this is an hour longer than the Leaf, though the Soul compensates with its superior driving range. The standard quick-charge DC port enables a charge from empty to 80 percent capacity in a claimed 33 minutes, which is comparable to other EVs with DC ports.
Standard safety equipment for the 2016 Kia Soul EV
includes four-wheel antilock disc brakes, a brake assist system, hill-start assist, stability and traction control, front seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. The Soul EV also comes with a pedestrian warning system that emits a soft, artificial noise at 12 mph and under.
In Edmunds brake testing the Soul EV came to a stop from 60 mph in 125 feet. This is average for the segment, but 14 feet longer than a gasoline-powered Soul we tested. Like most cars equipped with electric powertrains, braking is a byproduct of tires with a lower rolling resistance and an EV's higher curb weight.
Specific government crash tests of the EV remain unavailable as of this writing, but the regular Soul received a top five-star rating overall, with five stars for total frontal impact safety and five stars for total side-impact crash safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the gasoline-powered Soul its highest possible rating of "Good" in its small-overlap frontal-offset, moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. The Soul's seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2016 Kia Soul EV's cabin inherits the modern look and expressive styling of its conventional counterpart, with quality materials that add an unexpectedly premium character. There are also some EV-only flourishes, including a central control layout that evokes Apple's iconic designs. Additionally, the Soul EV gets a unique gauge cluster with an information display, and the 8-inch touchscreen (on EV and EV+) includes readouts for power flow, battery status and other expected metrics.
Kia equips the Soul EV with an impressive amount of equipment, though there are a few things missing from the regular Soul's options list.
The Soul EV doesn't offer all of the regular Soul's extras, however, and that might disappoint some shoppers. If you want an upgraded Infinity audio system, you won't find it here; neither are there optional xenon headlights or the 10-way power driver seat. Of course, these are energy-intensive -- either by electrical draw or additional weight -- that would compromise the EV's driving range.
Because the Kia Soul was engineered from inception with electrification in mind, it doesn't suffer the usual losses in trunk space (as in the Focus EV and others). There remains 18.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, expanding to a handy 49.5 cubic feet with the 60/40-split rear seatbacks folded down (61 cubic feet when you remove the cargo floor and undertray). This is better than most, though the e-Golf is even roomier, offering 22.8 and 52.7 cubic feet, respectively. Since the Soul's battery is placed under the rear passenger area, leg- and headroom are reduced versus the regular model, but not to a degree that many passengers will notice.
The 2016 Kia Soul EV is a remarkably easy car to drive in the cut-and-thrust of the daily commute, and fully relaxed at highway speeds, with the exception of some wind noise. As with all EVs, its maximum torque output is available immediately. Moreover, the EV's transmission has but one speed, so you never wait for a downshift as in a conventional car. The regenerative braking system may take some adjustment for those new to an EV; when you lift off the accelerator in Brake mode it feels as if you just pulled the cord on a parachute, but the sensation become second nature with a little time behind the wheel, and is a likable feature when you're stuck in traffic (you rarely have to press the brake pedal).
In its handling the Soul EV
isn't what we'd term sporty; lateral grip is compromised by its low-rolling-resistance tires. Behind the wheel it feels nimble, but competitors like the Ford Focus EV and Fiat 500e are sharper and more precise. The adjustable-effort steering is also predictably short on feel, even with a standard adjustable system offering three different levels of effort. On the upside, the Soul EV's modest 16-inch tires have plenty of sidewall, improving ride quality and reducing road noise.