Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Review: 2015 Kia Soul EV +

Kia Soul EV+ lead image

By Mercedes Lilienthal

Every auto manufacturer strives to make an identity for itself, whether it is the off-road king, Jeep, or the finely-tuned sports car brand of Ferrari: manufacturers spend millions to ensure that when their name is said, a certain personality or set of characteristics is immediately thought of. What comes to mind when one mentions Kia? For me it's funky, fun, and fiercely competitive.

The Soul is at the top of Kia’s list for funky rides. Known for its boxy and fun fa├žade, the Soul has been a favorite for years. It has been a red-hot seller for the Korean auto company, and most Souls are actually sold here in the USA. Since its refresh in 2014, the Soul has become an iconic model for Kia. Everyone knows what it is, and the hamsters need not to be included. It’s so popular that Kia decided to use it as a platform for its first foray into the EV market. Will the Soul EV be the next big thing for Kia? Will the target audience love it just as much, if not more than its gasoline driven cousin? I think so. And early results in California (which had the first opportunity to get this all-electric wonder) show major promise as well.

Kia Soul EV Charger
This car has a lot to offer. Among the attributes I favor most are dual ports for vehicle plug-in capability, (the standard level 1 and 2 port as all EVs, plus the third DC fast-charge port for those times you are really on the go). The driving range is good at about 93 miles to a charge, with an EPA MPGe of 92 miles highway/120 miles city for a combined mileage rating of 105 MPGe. The front-wheel drive EV is powered by a 109-hp (81.4kW) electric motor which produces a generous 210 lb.-ft. of instant torque. And the stereo is, as always, a thumpin’ success too. Solid, sassy, and striking; let’s take a closer look from the outside in, and I’ll give you the nitty gritty along the way.

Our EV + test model was wrapped in a brilliant shade of blue—Caribbean Blue to be exact. Even during the stormiest of Portland winter rain days, this hue kept me smiling. Accented with an opaque white top, side mirrors, and 16” white and silver alloy wheels, Kia paid close attention not to depart too far from the 2014’s new body style, but to still make it different enough so people would take note. The exterior houses amenities such as heated power-folding side mirrors with turn indicators, front fog lights, and a front sliding charge port door with light. Regarding said port door, I had a love/hate relationship with it. Loved the light inside the port cabin: You can finally see while fumbling around with the charge cord! I wish all EVs would institute this. I hated the port door’s violent swing-open action when the lever was pulled to open it. It has an insanely quick sliding “up and open” that whips open. I feel that over time the door itself would shoot off to your neighbor’s yard or something. I worry a bit of longevity and sturdiness of this fly-away hinge design.

Kia Soul EV + with a Th!nk in Portland.
A Th!nk EV parked next to the 2015 Kia Soul EV + in Portland. I mean, where else would you see this?
This little rig seemed to be styled correctly in all angles. My husband, Andy, attended the 2014 Soul launch in Minnesota late in 2013, and he said this of the exterior (do I dare say great minds think alike?):

“I still think Kia has done a great job with the exterior. It’s refreshed enough to be updated, but not so much that it tampers with the overall look. It is still unmistakably a Soul. In particular, I really like the revised rear end, which looks fresh and modern without looking too over-styled. The front is new, too—actually the whole thing is new—but like I said, it’s still a Soul at every angle. Will it be dated looking in 10 years? Maybe. However, the shape will still be unmistakable.”

Kia Soul EV Dashboard

The EV +’s interior accoutrements are aplenty. Along with the many safety features (like gobs of air bags, and safety acronyms like ABS, BAS, ESC, VSM, and TPMS), the Soul has a luxury feel, great attention to detail, and thoughtfully executed cabin and dash design. I feel this is one of the vehicle’s high points. Kia has placed a huge focus on eco-friendly or better material selections and has even achieved the world automotive industry’s first Underwriters Laboratory (UL) environment validation for bio-based organic carbon content for 10% of its interior materials in this EV. Hats off to you Kia for thinking forward. The EV +’s gray leather and blue piped seats and heated steering wheel with blue stitching are eye-catching, in a good way. The center stack display is easy to read, use, and look at. THANK YOU for not the making this the fingerprint-hell, high-gloss piano black surface like most other all autos are. A beautiful white gusseting takes its place and frames the standard eight-inch capacitive-touch navigation screen. This material and color makes fingerprints a lot less noticeable and lightens up the entire area. A win for Kia, in my opinion. I do worry about staining and discoloration of such a light gray cabin color, however; particularly the seats and carpeted floors. You’ll need to stay on top of cleaning those areas, and by the way, no eating in the car.

Kia Soul EV driving

Driving the 2015 Kia Soul EV + is comfortable and fun. You sit high up and straight in your seat. The ride was comfortable. It is not a driver’s car, so to speak, but it does get up and zip around town quite well. I love the instantaneous torque of an all-electric powertrain. The power is there right when you want it. The cabin is quite large and airy, but is pretty noisy at highway speeds thanks to both wind and road noise. The seats are a bit flat for me but are comfortable. One thing to note, however, when initially starting the Soul EV, depressing the push button start half the way puts it into accessory mode only. Pushing the button fully turns the vehicle on completely. What if you are not sure you have it on? Just make sure you have the green car and arrows icon lit on your dash and you are ready to go.

Soul owners can choose from four different regeneration modes to help maximize driving range and efficiency. The regenerative braking system works wonderfully and can slow down the EV so much so, that you barely have to depress the brake pedal. Just let off the “gas” or “go” pedal, and the Soul automatically slows as it regenerates power. You can shrug off Midas for several years as you won’t need to replace brakes any time soon. And while you are coasting or braking and in regen mode, this system can capture up to 12% of the car’s kinetic energy, which is fed back into the battery. Pretty nifty technology, I must say.

Koa Soul interior door panel
A few items that didn’t float my boat were the rear wiper and the interior door handles. Tiny things, I know. It rained a ton the week I drove this tester, and while it handled wonderfully in Portland’s waterlogged city streets (which is most important), the rear window wiper was the loudest and slowest wiper I have ever come across. An annoyance, yes, but turn the music up and tune the wiper out, and there is no issue. Interior door handle you ask? They work fine but they are so grossly oversized in my opinion, that someone with a club for a hand or giant hamster appendage could easily use it to find their way out. Maybe that was intentionally designed that way? Sorry, a little bad hamster humor for you …

So what does this fully loaded Kia Soul EV+ set you back? Including destination MSRP is $36,625. The Soul is currently offered in California and Oregon, with future roll-outs planned in a few East Coast states. Federal tax rebate incentives of up to $7,500 may be in effect. So, if you live on the West Coast you may be able to score this sweet EV ride for under 30 grand. Is this Kia worth your dough? You bet your little hamster pellets it is.

THE BASICS: 2015 Kia Soul EV +
MSRP As Tested: $36,625
Motor: AC synchronous permanent magnet
Transmission: Single speed
Horsepower: 109
Torque: 210 lbs/ft
Curb Weight: 3,298 lbs.
Wheelbase: 101.2"
Overall Length: 163"
Suspension: F: MacPherson strut w/stabilizer bar
R: Torsion beam
Brakes: F: Disc w/ABS and regen
R: Disc w/ABS and regen
Wheels: 16" alloy
Tires: 205/60R16, low rolling resistance
Range & MPG: 92 highway, 105 city, 105 MPGe
Battery Type: Lithium ion polymer, 75 Ah,  27 kWH, 90 kW

Kia Soul EV rear 3/4

Blue seat piping

Kia Soul EV steering wheel stitching

Kia Soul EV gauges

Kia Soul EV charge port

Kia Soul Eco Electric

Kia Soul EV Wheel


Ducati Scotty said...

It looks nice, just a few aesthetic accents to let you know it's the E model. The white roof looks a bit like they're trying to copy a Mini paint motif. Still, it looks good.

Barry Traylor said...

The problem I have with electric cars comes down to range. One would need two cars. One for around town and a second one for trips (which I for one take quite often).