Korean manufacturer's first mass-market electric vehicle is revealed; due to arrive in the UK at the end of this year
Matt Burt
6 February 2014

The Kia Soul EV, the Korean manufacturer’s first mass-market electric vehicle, has been unveiled at the Chicago motor show.

The Soul EV is scheduled to go on sale in the third quarter of the year in the US, with Europe and the UK following after that.

Pricing will be confirmed later in the year, but it is expected to be around £25,000 in the UK (which will then be eligible for a government plug-in car grant of £5000).

The Soul EV uses a 27kWh lithium-ion polymer battery with an energy density of 200 watt-hours per kilogramme. It is expected to yield a range of approximately 80 to 100 miles of ‘real world’ driving on a full charge.

Earlier estimates had suggested a range of 120 miles could be possible from the Soul EV. Kia says that distances exceeding 100 miles have been achieved during testing.

The Soul EV uses a third-generation of Kia’s regenerative braking system to capture up to 12 per cent of the car’s kinetic energy, which is fed back into the battery while the Soul EV is coasting and braking.

The Soul EV offers two regeneration modes – Drive or Brake – and an Eco-mode that can be switched on or off, meaning there are four different settings in total. Switching to ‘Brake’ with the Eco-mode deployed produces the most regeneration.

The Soul EV can plug into 120-volt or 240-volt charging points. Two charging ports are found behind a sliding door located in the front grille.

Recharging times vary from 24 hours for a fully depleted battery using a standard 120-volt outlet and under five hours when plugged into a 240-volt outlet. An 80 per cent charge can be achieved in as little as 33 minutes with a 50 kW-output charger.

The front-wheel-drive Soul EV is powered by an 81.4kW, 108bhp electric motor, producing 210lb ft of torque. The liquid-cooled AC synchronous permanent magnet motor delivers its power to the front wheels through a single-speed constant-ratio gear reduction unit.

Acceleration from 0-60mph is expected to take fewer than 12 seconds with the Soul EV’s top speed electronically limited to approximately 90mph.

The Soul EV is equipped with a Virtual Engine Sound System (VESS) that emits an audible alert at speeds below 12mph and whenever the car is in reverse.

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 over the standard cars.

The battery’s location beneath the floor enhances the car’s low centre of gravity. Additional cross bracing beneath the low-mounted battery contributes to a 5.9 per cent improvement in torsional rigidity over the petrol-powered Soul.

The positioning of the battery underneath the floor means there is a 78mm reduction to rear seat legroom, from 993mm to 915mm, compared to the non-EV Soul. Rear shoulder and hip room are unchanged.

Rear boot space is reduced slightly because the space under the floor is utilised for the battery cooling fan and storage of the standard 120v portable charger.

The second-generation Soul hasn’t strayed too far from its predecessor in terms of exterior looks, retaining the square-shouldered broad stance of the original car.

The vehicle has adopted the same platform as the Kia Cee’d. It is wider and longer than the first-generation variant, with a 20mm longer wheelbase at 2570mm, as well as a 29 per cent stiffer body shell and revised suspension geometry.

Initially, the Soul EV will be offered in three two-tone colour choices: blue on white, white on blue or white on silver. The signature two-tone paint theme is exclusive to the Soul EV.

The electric version has some subtle differences to the petrol variants, including different lights and a revised bonnet and grille.

The Soul EV also gets its own design of 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped with super-low rolling resistance tyres that offer 10 per cent less resistance than standard low rolling resistance tyres.

The 'Eco Electric' badges on the flanks of the Soul EV form part of Kia's revised branding for its eco-friendly vehicles. The cars are grouped under the 'Eco Dynamics' banner, then broken down into four categories, with 'Eco Hybrid', 'Eco Plugin' and 'Eco Fuel Cell' joining the electric vehicles.

The Kia Soul EV features a cabin that’s rich in environmentally friendly materials. Bio-based plastics derived from cellulose and sugar cane are found in many places in the cabin, including the door panels, headliner, seat trim, roof pillars and carpeting.

Also, the use of antibacterial materials also help to keep the cabin clean and are found on the gear selector, audio and HVAC controls, instrument panel switchgear and the floor-mounted centre console.

In the USA, the Soul EV will initially be sold in California and Oregon in the west and several eastern states including New York, New Jersey and Maryland, the regions with the largest EV markets and infrastructure.

Kia’s US division will look to offer the vehicle in other markets in the near future as infrastructure and demand grow. 

A revised version of the Kia Optima Hybrid was also shown off at the Chicago motor show. It features front and rear fascia updates designed to increase aerodynamic efficiency, new wheel designs, and unique grille and lighting elements. There are no plans to bring the Optima Hybrid to the UK.

Our Verdict

Kia Soul 2009-2014

The Kia Soul is dull to drive, but it's an appealing, quirky product allthesame

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6 February 2014
When is Kia bringing a hybrid to the European market?

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