The New Electric Car from KIA: Review of a 2015 Kia Soul EV Test Drive

, lead policy analyst, Clean Vehicles | June 23, 2015, 4:25 pm EDT
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If you’re looking for a new car, you’ve got to test drive an electric vehicle (EV). Just do it. Sure, you can read about how EVs provide instant torque, are cleaner and cheaper to drive than gas vehicles, and can fit the needs of 42 percent of American drivers, but the best way to understand the allure of an EV is to go drive one.

I recently took the 2015 Kia Soul EV home for lunch, and was amazed at how much I enjoyed driving on electricity. I’ve previously driven several EVs, but never alone, and never for an extended period of time. Having the Soul EV for a couple hours allowed me to better understand what, exactly, it would be like to own an EV – and I loved every minute of it.

Overall : 3.5 out of 4.0 Erlenmeyer flasks

Driving Experience

The Soul EV produces only 109 horsepower, but the electric motor’s ability to produce 210 lb-ft of torque makes this crossover SUV accelerate like a Mazda Miata (which, by the way, only produces 140 lb-ft of torque). Zooming past slower moving traffic (while staying well under the speed limit, of course), I kept waiting to hear and feel a transmission momentarily lurch me forward as it switched gears. But the Soul EV doesn’t have a traditional transmission, so pushing my foot on the accelerator created a steady swell of smooth power that seemed limitless. This is a shared feature among battery electric vehicles, but one that makes driving on electricity simply a better experience.

The 2015 Kia Soul EV. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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This post is part of a series of electric vehicle test drive reviews.

I drove in “B” mode, which engages the Soul’s maximum regenerative braking, helping charge the batteries and increase energy efficiency. This mode causes the Soul EV to slow down if the accelerator is not engaged, an effect so strong that I was able to brake for stop signs by gradually taking my foot off the accelerator – ignoring the brake pedal altogether. Though this “one-pedal driving” took some getting used to, on my trip back to the office I didn’t need to use the brake pedal once. Perfect for a lazy driver like me, who doesn’t want to expend any unnecessary foot energy.

Interior Thoughts

Driving the Soul EV was a blast, and I’m pleased to report that the Soul has equally impressive functionality. The 3 passenger rear seats fold down to provide 49.5 cubic feet of cargo space, and the cabin felt roomy, comfortable, and intuitive. I hit every button on the Soul EV’s center console and found navigating the menu options to be fairly easy. However, I am not a big fan of touch screens in vehicles, and this one seemed a little gimmicky with apps like Yelp or Pandora, and too much potential for distracted driving. Hence the 0.5 Erlenmeyer flask deduction.

Is the Soul EV right for me?

You can check out the full Soul EV specs here, and potential owners should recognize that the Soul’s 27 kWh battery pack will provide an estimated range of 93 miles. The Soul does a great job at reminding you how much juice is left with an easy-to-read display where you would expect to find the tachometer. The battery pack can be charged to 80 percent in around 30 minutes using a DC fast charger and Soul EV users can plug the vehicle into any regular 120v house outlet for overnight charging too. For more charging info, check out this table.

My UCS colleagues and I are bullish on EVs because of their potential to save drivers money on fuel and dramatically cut transportation-related emissions in the U.S. – especially when paired with renewable sources of clean energy like solar or wind power. But after driving several EVs, I am beginning to suspect that the main catalyst for the coming EV revolution will be the simple joy of driving on electricity.

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  • Ezzy

    Strange that in the US, you can’t choose what your source of electricity is. You have to contend with what’s available in the grid in that state?

  • Carlton

    Pricing?

    Also, in the interests of fair disclosure you should explain how major grant funding to UCS animates you and your coworkers to boost EVs, at least as much as your “bullish[ness] on EVs because of their potential to save drivers money on fuel
    and dramatically cut transportation-related emissions in the U.S.”

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  • canuckinaz

    @Josh Goldman

    It’s not exactly accurate to say that this vehicle (indeed, all EVs currently on the market) have “no transmission”. Unless the vehicle has in-wheel motors, there has to be a transmission to transfer the mechanical energy from the motor to the wheels. EVs tend to have single-speed transmissions, meaning that there is no gear reduction between the motor and wheels.

    • Joshua A. Goldman

      Fair enough! I’ll edit the post shortly. Thanks for pointing that out!

  • Richard Solomon

    Worth considering one of these!

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