There’s nothing like a deadline to focus the mind – and the 2035 target date for banning the sale of all petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles has done just that for the car industry.
After years of dragging its heels, suddenly every car maker is getting in on the act.
Credit where it’s due, because Kia was one of the first companies to go electric, launching an EV (electric vehicle) version of its quirky Soul in the UK in September 2014.
Back then, the Soul had a 27kWh battery pack, and though its range was quoted as 132 miles, in the real world it was closer to 100.
Fast forward to 2020 and the all-new Soul is electric-only (no petrol, diesel or hybrid variants) and powered by a 64kWh battery with a genuine 280-mile range.
Sharing an EV powertrain with the e-Niro crossover – its award-winning stablemate introduced in 2019 – the Soul EV is slightly cheaper, starting at £34,295 (including the £3,000 government Plug-In Car Grant).
For its third generation, the Soul’s divisive looks have been softened. In fact, I’d go as far to say that it’s now actually cool.
Frankly, it’s still hard to categorise its boxy design because it has elements of a hatchback and SUV. One thing’s for sure – there’s bags of head and legroom in the front and back. And while the boot isn’t the biggest (315 litres), with the rear seats flipped down the load space expands to 1,339 litres.
I’d be exaggerating if I said it was anything special behind the wheel. It’s the usual smooth, whisper-quiet EV experience, spiced up with instant torque and a 0-62mph time of 7.6secs (but feeling faster).
And to be fair, electric cars at this more affordable end of the market just can’t offer the kind of driving dynamics experienced in a Jaguar I-Pace or Porsche Taycan, for instance.
There are four driving modes – Eco, Eco+, Normal and Sport. The latter is fun, but it will sap your battery charge, while the Eco modes are heavy on regenerative braking, which recharges the battery by harvesting power otherwise wasted during deceleration.
Best to stick to the Normal setting which offers the smoothest driving experience. Once you get familiar with the car, you can use the paddles behind the steering wheel to adjust the level of regeneration and the braking effect to slow down instead of using the brake pedal.
For a relatively tall car, body roll is well controlled, partly down to batteries which are housed in the floor resulting in a low centre of gravity.
The ride is on the firm side, but perfectly acceptable, while the grip is good for a front-wheel drive car.
But the important thing about the Soul EV is that it’s easy to drive, comfortable, spacious, generously equipped and well built.
Inside, it has a fairly generic Kia “black plastic” look and feel, but the “Launch Edition” Soul EV comes with a big 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen (with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) as standard, along with leather upholstery, heated front seats and steering wheel, LED lights all-round, a head-up display, a reversing camera, wireless phone charging and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
So, what about the practicalities of running a Soul EV? Well, an 80% charge takes 54 minutes from a 100kw charger. However, most owners (lucky enough to have a 7.2kW home wallbox charger) will complete a full top-up overnight in nine hours and 35 minutes – or around £9 (depending on electricity supplier and tariff fluctuations).
This is cheap motoring. It’s also zero emissions and it will save you money on tax and maintenance because EVs have just three main components and far fewer moving parts than a combustion engine.
Add peace of mind, thanks to Kia’s excellent seven-year/100,000-mile warranty), plus a suite of safety and driver assistance aids including Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), lane keeping assist, blind spot detection with rear-cross traffic alert and driver attention warning, and it’s a tempting proposition.
Verdict: The new Kia Soul EV is all grown up and green. Its looks may still polarise opinion, but it’s now one of the most reasonably priced long-range electric vehicles on the market. Spacious, safe, well-equipped and practical, it’s also blessed with Kia’s generous seven-year warranty.