KIA Soul All-Electric Vehicle (2015 Model Review)

Written By: Andrew H. 

Kia's Got a Soul for Sale - And It's Electric

                                                                    2015 KIA soul EV

Between October and December 2014, the national average cost of gasoline dropped for 89 consecutive days. It was the longest such slide in recorded history. In parts of the Midwest, gasoline costs less than $1.90 a gallon. No Christmas gift was ever more appreciated.

When a gallon of gasoline costs half as much as a good loaf of bread, people wonder, “Why buy an electric vehicle?” Drivers have short memories. In 1973, the Arab Oil Embargo castrated commuters across the United States. In 2011, gasoline prices blew past $4 per gallon. The late 2014 meteoric decrease in gasoline prices was due to a glut of global supply, brought on by hydraulic fracturing in America. OPEC kept its wells drilling, betting that prices would sink so low that the U.S. oil industry would soon drown in its own black toxin.

When gas prices are high, people buy electric vehicles (EVs) to cut bills. But when gas prices are low, people purchase EVs to escape the political labyrinth of oil dependency. No matter the price at the pump, gasoline can never be a sustainable solution. Eventually, either oil reserves or bank accounts will run dry. If that day comes soon, perhaps no vehicle will be better suited than the 2015 Kia Soul EV.

The history of electric vehicles is a history of the weird and wacky: the General Motors EV1, the Chevrolet Volt, the Tesla Roadster, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV – all vehicles with big headlines and small sales. The Kia Soul EV is fundamentally different, because the Soul was already a topnotch five-passenger compact hatchback. In 2014, Kia sold almost 140,000 Soul’s (pun not intended) in the United States. Kia’s ambitions for the EV edition are more modest: just 5,000 annual global sales.

Why the discrepancy? Both models boast bold two-tone color schemes, quirky interior styling and cavernous storage space. Both promise sex appeal. What makes the Soul EV special is its heart: a 27-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack that weighs slightly more than your neighbor's mom at 602 pounds. That battery, the Queen Ant of Double-A’s, powers an 81.4-kW AC motor. That motor generates a whopping 210 pound-feet of torque, which feeds the front wheels.

Many electric vehicles – think the Prius Plug-In – struggle to get to Wal-Mart before their batteries retire. In contrast, the Soul can drive for almost 100 miles. That’s more than the Nissan LEAF, BMW i3 or Ford Focus Electric. The EPA rates the Soul EV’s average driving range as 93 miles, sans hard weather or hard driving.

The car is charged via a port in the center of the front grille. It can be charged with standard 110, 240 or 480-volt current. Be warned: Without a dedicated 240-volt home charger, it can take more than 20 hours to fully recharge the Soul. Besides Tesla vehicles, the Soul EV is the only electric vehicle to come with a standard DC quick charging system. A compatible quick charger, found on public charging stations mostly on the West Coast, can add 60 miles of range when plugged in for 30 minutes.

Everyone appreciates 100 miles of gas-free motoring. But many Americans are averse to sacrificing their road rage, their red light races, their late-to-work speeding frenzies. Can the Kia Soul EV keep pace?

Too often, drivers equate the quality of their car with its horsepower and subwoofers. The Soul EV may only claims 109 horsepower and a top speed of 90 mph, but its light-footed performance belies the numbers. Tap the accelerator, and the Soul jumps ahead with ease, all 210 pound-feet of torque on tap. It offers a fundamentally different driving experience: single-pedal driving. Thanks to engine drag and regenerative braking, when the pilot eases off the throttle, the hatchback quickly slows to a stop. The brake pedal is a luxurious redundancy. It’s a hoot.

Now for the million-dollar question: What’s the fuel efficiency? 105 combined MPGe, as estimated by the EPA. Gadzooks.

But is 105 MPGe so surprising? Not from Kia. Following a recent $350 million payout in civil penalties in overestimated efficiency claims, Kia and its sister company Hyundai promised to amp up their dedication to “green” cars. By 2020, both automakers pledge to offer at least 22 fuel-efficient vehicles. The Kia Soul EV may well become the godfather of a long, gas-sipping lineage.

2015 KIA Soul EV


What Owners Like:

  • Standard rear-view camera: Saves the fender; saves the kids.

  • Celebrity endorsement: The limousine of choice for Pope Francis and hamsters.

  • Modern technology: Push-button start, the UVO infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, onboard navigation – what more is there?

  • Round-the-clock comfort: Who can complain about a heated steering wheel, automatic climate control, gobs of legroom and almost 50 cubic feet of storage space?

  • Luxurious options: The Kia Soul EV + trim offers ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, parking assist sensors, leather upholstery and front fog lamps.


What They Don’t:

  • Cost: The electric vehicle stickers at $33,700 before factoring in a $7,500 federal rebate.

  • Low-rolling resistance tires: Ruins red-light acceleration.

  • Range: Although best-in-class, the Soul EV’s 93-mile range still necessitate a gasoline rental for any cross-country trips.

  • The headliner: One reviewer called it “recycled cardboard.”

  • Availability: The hatchback is only currently offered in California. If sales trend upwards, Kia should expand the consumer base to Oregon, the East Coast, and, just maybe, to infinity and beyond.

 

Mouse trap not included!