We have previously driven the all-new electric Kia Soul in Korea, but this is our first taste of the third-generation compact crossover in its European spec.
Since it was launched in 2009, the Soul has found more than 1.6 million customers, although the vast bulk of those are in the US, where the machine was designed and styled. It has never been taken to heart in quite the same way by Europeans, even if the previous electric version, which arrived in 2014, did reasonably well, outselling combustion-engined versions in the UK last year.
So while some markets, such as the US, will get petrol-powered versions of the new Soul, Kia will only offer it in Europe only in electric form, with the same powertrain as the hugely successful e-Niro and sister firm Hyundai’s Kona Electric.
Our tests of the e-Niro have shown the strength of that system, particularly its compelling – and game-changing – range of 282 miles on the WLTP test cycle. Despite it being smaller than the e-Niro, the Soul’s boxier design means its range is slightly reduced to 280 miles, but that’s a vast improvement on the original Soul EV's 132 miles and more than enough to make this a car that can be used in virtually any situation.
When it goes on sale in the UK at the end of the year, the new Soul will be offered in a single guise, featuring an 'SUV pack' that adds a few styling tweaks, including a skidplate and some 'rugged’ trim panels.
The question is whether a smidgen more space and a whole heap of extra practicality, thanks to a greatly improved drivetrain, will help the British public find a place in their hearts for a bit of Soul.
How does design define the Soul EV?
Kia describes the Soul’s look as 'iconic', which decidedly stretches the definition of an already much-misused word. Still, the new model undoubtedly has character and a certain charm, with the front end shaped by the narrow lights and trapezoidal grille. The rear now features an LED light strip that wraps almost all the way around the rear screen. It’s certainly distinctive, and a bold attempt to inject some design vibrancy, although this tester isn't entirely convinced by its effectiveness.
The Soul’s boxy shape is harder to mask from the side, where it’s also easy to spot the size increase over the old model. At 4195mm, it’s 55mm longer, with its 2600mm wheelbase 30mm larger. It’s also 1605mm high and 1800mm wide.