When you think of electronic vehicles (EVs), what image comes to mind?
If you’re like me, even though I write family car reviews and attend car shows each year, I still have this mental image of old school EVs with mediocre design and s-l-o-w, clunky drive ability. That may also be because I get stuck driving behind quite a bit of the old school EVs in my neighborhood every day. But, I digress…
Recently, I had the opportunity to have that perception tested thanks to an invitation to attend the KIA Seattle Soul EV Media Drive event. During the event, we met with and heard from some of KIA’s top VPs about how KIA is introducing its 100% all electric SOUL EV to the Pacific Northwest, and we also test drove the new Soul EV throughout Seattle and neighboring cities.
The KIA Soul EV
Here’s what today’s modern EV looks like. This is the 2015 KIA Soul EV (the 2016 is very similar).
Then it was time to get behind the wheel.
The KIA Soul EV is the company’s first ever all-electric, zero fuel emission car to be sold in the United States. It’s sleek, sporty, bold, and oh so very fun to just look at.
I loved driving the KIA Soul EV. It is so agile and handles the sharp curves and hills of Seattle beautifully. There’s no lag time in going from full brake to start, even when we were stopped on a steep downtown Seattle hill. This is, hands down, the most enjoyable drive of any EV I have ever had the pleasure of test driving. It handles city streets, freeways, and backroads with the grace and precision of a sports car.
Comfortable and Spacious
One surprising aspect of the KIA Soul EV is its spacious backseat and trunk space. The battery is underneath the vehicle, so it doesn’t take up any trunk space. While the back seat isn’t as roomy as an SUV it is definitely comfortable enough for a couple of adults to sit back there for a while, and can accommodate a couple of car seats with leg room for the kiddos. The front driver seat and passenger seat are very comfortable; when my test drive partner Libby was driving, I just sat back and relaxed in the cushy passenger seat.
If you’ve read my car reviews before, you know that mid-console design is super important to me, as a busy mom and business owner. I drive a lot. I’m in my car for more hours than I sleep sometimes, and this means that I need a car whose navigation, radio, temperature controls, bluetooth controls, etc, are all easy to find and in places that make sense.
The KIA Soul EV has a simple but well designed mid-console that has clear button signage and appropriate placement.
There’s also an easy-to-access USB charging spot right in the front console.
KIA also took great care in selecting the materials used in the Soul EV. It is the first vehicle in the world to earn UL environment validation for bio based organic carbon content. The KIA Soul EV is comprised of 53 pounds of eco-friendly materials, including corn and sugar based plastics and thermoplastic elastomer fabric.
Charge It Up
The KIA Soul EV is 100% electric: this is not a hybrid, so you never take it to a gas station.
It has an EPA estimated range rating of 93 miles when the battery is fully charged (92 highway/102 city). This makes the KIA Soul EV the best in its class. Soul EV owners can choose between four different regeneration modes: “Drive” or “Brake” modes in Eco-mode “Off,” and “Drive” or “Brake” modes in Eco-mode “On” (the “Brake” setting with Eco-mode “On” produces the most regeneration).
The Soul EV makes charging easy by plugging into any standard 120v outlet or a conventional 240v EV charger. Two charging ports are standard, including a SAE J1772 port for Level-1 and Level-2 AC charging, and a CHAdeMO 480v DC fast-charging port. Found behind a sliding door located in the grille, the dual ports offer flexibility and increase the Soul EV’s go-anywhere appeal, making it more convenient to charge inside the owner’s garage or when on the road.
One of the common misconceptions I hear regarding EVs is one that I thought to be true before as well, but is definitely no longer the case: the fear that you’ll run out of gas somewhere because there aren’t enough charging stations. KIA alone has 122 charging station partners throughout the Pacific Northwest and is adding more on a regular basis. Each KIA EV dealer in Washington and Oregon is outfitted with two Level 2 240V chargers, and there are at least 10 stations with fast chargers.
The KIA Soul EV starts at $33,950. The KIA Soul EV PLUS starts at $35,950. You can get a great deal on leasing right now: the Soul EV leases for $249/month and the EV Plus leases for about $279/month.
The difference between the EV and the EV Plus comes down to extras such as leather trim seats; 3 levels of heated and ventilated front seats versus just a straight heated seat system in the regular EV; parking assist with front and rear sensors; power folding outside mirrors; and projection fog lamps.
The KIA Soul EV is an excellent vehicle for anybody who wants a cool looking, efficient car that doesn’t drive like an old school EV (you know what I’m talking about, right?). I would absolutely LOVE to have a KIA Soul EV if we didn’t already have a commuter car. Would it work for long road trips with the whole family, like the one we recently took through Washington, Idaho, and Montana? Probably not. However, it is what I would consider an ideal every day car for anyone from singles, to young couples, to retirees; it would also be a great commuter second car for families like mine with elementary and middle school age kids.
The world of electric cars is moving fast: designers are continuing to work on aesthetics while engineers are continuing to work on building EVs that are more efficient than ever. How does wireless charging sound to you?