On Tuesday, a fresh, bright-white 2015 Kia Soul EV was dropped off in my driveway, brought by custom flatbed from New York City to my humble abode in central Connecticut. Coated in a bright white paint but minus the conventional grille its gas-powered stablemate wears, my wife remarked how it looked like a guy in a surgical mask. Can’t say I disagree with her there.
If you’re a regular reader, you know that this is our second go-around with the Soul EV, after Chicago’s deep, deep winter meant Gas2 alum Jo Borras didn’t have much range or road to test it out on. With warmer weather and no snow to contend with, we’re hoping to give the Soul EV a fairer assessment this time around.
The Kia Soul EV boasts an official EPA rating of 93 miles per charge, more than any other BEV except the Toyota RAV4 EV and Tesla Model S. So you might imagine my surprise when the Soul EV proudly proclaimed that with a fully-charged battery, I had about 78 miles of range to play with.
Alrighty then. Since I don’t have a home charger, my only charging options are a 110-volt outlet through my kitchen window, or using the freshly-installed 240-volt chargers at the college down the street. But I’m only going to charge it when it needs it, and for my first outing to target a few minutes after the Soul EV’s arrival, the two-mile journey hardly warranted an overnight plug-in.
First impressions on the outside…eh. I like the Kia Soul, and putting the charging point where the grille should be isn’t a terrible idea. But in white…eh. It looks a lot softer than the bright yellow Kia Soul I test drove awhile back. I was hoping the blue one I see in all the promo pictures was going to show up, but all my guy friends have let me know that my sexuality is probably being questioned by those that see my driving it.
Cracks about my orientation aside, I’ve always considered interior attractiveness and quality more important than what the rest of the world has to look at, and I’m a big fan of the changes Kia made to the Soul EV. The leather seats remind me of Super Nintendo cartridges, and soft touch dash begs to be caressed. Instead of an ignition or start button, the push start system says “Power” instead, again taking me back to my days as a video game enthusiast.
Kia made great use of its UVO infotainment system in the Soul EV as well, with my wife quickly poking through all the information screens that take a lot of the anxiety out of range anxiety. The GPS system has been integrated to show just how far the battery can take you, an energy usage screen shows how many kW the motor, climate control, and other electric accessories are sucking up at any given time, and an easy-to-find screen not only shows the nearest charging station location, but even adds a little arrow to indicate exactly where it is.
First impressions…I’m feeling it, which I’d better be with a starting price of $33,700. Then I started counting buttons.
Kia has a button problem, and it really pushes my buttons. The steering-wheel alone has over a dozen different buttons, with dozens more spread out between the HVAC and infotainment system…and many of those buttons have buttons in the infotainment screens as well. Kia must have stock in some third-party button supplier, because it’s just gone button-crazy on the Soul EV...a problem I complained about in the conventional Kia Soul a year and a half ago.
Finally, after all that reading, you probably want to know how it drives, right? Well get this; as soon as I pulled out of my driveway and stepped on the gas, I chirped the tires. Instant torque baby! 0 to 30 whooshes by in confident silence, though the Soul EV runs out of steam shortly thereafter. I chriped the tires again pulling onto the main road, though I quickly figured out how to manage the 210 lb-ft of torque Kia gave me to test drive. That’s about 30% more torque than the torqueiest conventional Soul, it’s worth noting.
The regenerative braking works as-intended without encroaching too much on driving dynamics; for those wanting to eek out every extra mile of range they can, there’s the B driving mode, which ups the regenerative braking and limits power even more the the activeEco mode already does. It works great for city driving, but I haven’t gotten a chance to test it out on the highway yet.
I was considering driving it about 45 miles from my home down to Milford for a friend’s birthday party, but with the display telling me I only had 78 miles of total range, not even the normally-daring me was prepared to stretch my luck that far. So much for Zach’s argument that EVs have enough range for most drivers. Day 1 and I’m already leaning on a conventional car crutch. With no public transit options and the nearest charging station 5 miles from my final destination, there was no getting around taking my tried-but-true Chevy Sonic on the 90-mile round trip journey.
The next day was decidedly different though, as I had to run some errands in the neighboring town. In stop-and-go traffic where speeds rarely exceed 40 MPH, the Kia Soul EV absolutely shined. It gets up to cruising speed quick enough to exude confidence, but quietly enough so even a whispered conversation in the back seat could be heard. Between my trip to target and errands around town, most of which I did in regenerative B driving mode, I managed to cover about 14 miles of actual distance, while losing just 9 miles of estimated range (78 to 69).
That’s surprisingly good, and according to the battery pack, there still about 90% of the battery life left. But the next few days will prove more interesting, as my list of errands grows exponentially. No rest for the weary and all of that.
How far can I get before range anxiety sets in for real? I’ll have my next report on Monday, so stay tuned.