What is it?
The bold, funky looks of the second-generation Kia Soul don’t stray too far from its predecessor, and this electric version shares the new-for-2014 car’s basic dimensions.
Kia's new Soul is Kia’s first global electric vehicle, following the Ray EV, which has been silently cruising around Korea for three years.
This latest Soul has adopted the same platform as the Kia Cee’d. It is wider and longer than the first-gen Soul, with a 20mm longer wheelbase at 2570mm, as well as a 29 per cent stiffer body shell and revised suspension geometry.
The platform was designed to accept battery packs under the rear seats, which means that little of the second-generation Soul’s 354-litre boot space has been sacrificed for the EV technology. It does, however, bring a weight penalty in the region of 200kg.
What's it like?
The key visual differences between the standard Soul and its electric sibling include: subtle aerodynamic tweaks, different lights, a revised bonnet and grille and low-rolling-resistance 16in tyres.
In the grille are two charging points, one each for standard and rapid charging. From a standard household electricity supply, Kia estimates a full charge will take about five hours; a rapid charge can replenish a depleted battery to 80 per cent capacity in 25 minutes.
The Soul EV prototype we drove was heavily disguised, but offered some hints as to the design and ambience of the new car. It has sharper, cleaner exterior styling than its predecessor and a more upmarket interior, albeit one that is more akin to the standard Soul than the futuristic Renault Zoe or Nissan Leaf.
It has bespoke dials and gauges, and there are some neat energy-saving touches, such as the option to turn off the climate control to empty passenger seats to conserve power. Forward visibility is mildly improved thanks to slimmer A-pillars.
The technical specification of the definitive production Kia Soul EV is still being thrashed out. Kia chiefs say they are assessing three battery providers, although regardless of which one is selected, the manufacturer is aiming for a range of 124 miles on a full charge in optimum conditions: similar to Nissan’s claim for the Leaf and more than the Ford Focus EV.
Also up for discussion is whether the batteries will be offered through a leasing scheme, similar to Renault and Nissan, or sold with the vehicles outright. This will have a bearing on the final price that the Soul EV can be sold at.
The Soul EV moves quickly away from a standstill, and the smooth, linear power delivery and very light steering make it an effective tool for driving in built-up areas.
Kia estimates that the Soul EV will cover 0-62mph in less than 12 seconds and go on to a top speed of 90mph. It feels less at home on faster roads, where a lack of positive steering feel is evident and there’s surprisingly aggressive deceleration upon throttle lift off.
Although the regenerative system charges the battery, it means the Soul EV doesn’t cruise under its own momentum particularly effectively.
Like many EVs, the Soul emits a sound to warn pedestrians. Akin to the chime of a distant ice cream van, it is emitted at speeds below 12mph and when the Soul EV is reversing.
On the strength of this prototype drive, the Soul EV rides comfortably, absorbing road imperfections well, but feels a touch ponderous during faster cornering.
Should I buy one?
You’ll have to wait for a year, with this electric Soul destined to follow about six months after the conventionally powered versions.
The Kia Soul EV will come to Britain in very small numbers at a price in the region of £25,000 before any government grant is applied.
Even if the Soul EV won’t be a huge seller here, it is a positive shop window for Kia's broadening ambitions.
Kia Soul EV
Price £25,000 (est); Top speed 90mph (est); 0-62mph 12sec (est); Range 124 miles (est); Weight 1550kg (est); CO2 0g/km (tailpipe); Motor 81.4kW electric motor, 27 kWh lithium-ion battery pack; Power 109bhp; Torque 210 lb ft; Gearbox single-speed