It’s now been about a week since I had to return the Kia Soul EV test car that I ended up with for almost twice as long as originally planned. I really had a chance to experience life with one of the newest electric cars on the market, and while it couldn’t quite replace my gas-powered daily driver, going electric made the act of driving an all-around better experience.
There are three things about driving the Kia Soul EV that I found to be an all-around improvement on the driving experience as a whole:
- The silence
- The smoothness
- The regenerative braking
First off, the silence takes some getting used to, and despite my continued love for all things electric, the roar of a big-block V8 will always have an appeal to me. But looking at the bigger picture, most engines just don’t sound all that great. After driving the Soul EV and getting used to the whisper-quiet whine that accompanied even the hardest acceleration, I really didn’t miss the buzzy whoosh of my small-displacement turbo.
It’s something I never really noticed or minded much before, but once removed from the equation, it was a jarring experience to come back to. That’s also true for the seamlessly smooth acceleration of the Soul EV.
Offering 210 lb-ft of torque, one can easily chirp the wheels zipping around a corner, and 0 to 30 MPH acceleration feels brisk, even if it really isn’t. It takes a full 10 seconds to reach 60 MPH, which is on the cusp of “really slow”, but I never really found the Soul EV wanting for more power. It merged effortlessly onto the highway, and it had enough oomph to pass at 75 MPH. Life without gearshifts is easy to get used to, and even harder to come back to.
But what I find myself missing most of all in my day-to-day driving is the regenerative braking. The Kia Soul EV offered two modes of regen-braking, one with a light touch that hardly affects normal driving and a much more noticeable mode that can negate 90% of your braking needs if done right. It’s a strangely fun and addicting game to play by yourself, and as I said in my earlier assessments, I never felt like I was impeding anybody else’s progress; besides the badging and lack of engine noise, the Soul EV looks like any other Soul on the road (and they’re pretty popular around here). I really enjoyed Kia’s take on regen braking, and there were a few short jaunts where I returned home with the same estimated mileage as I left with, thanks to some well-placed hills and a light foot.
There were, however, some issues that left me wanting, most noticeably the estimated range never exceeded 78 miles. I let it go as low as 19 miles before plugging in, and I found myself generally getting about 10 to 15% more mileage in the city that the estimator told me, but I still never came close to the EPA-estimated 93 miles of driving range…at least according to the dash readout. The air conditioning system also costs between 4 and 5 miles of driving range, and while that never discouraged me from using it, that’s about 5% of one’s total driving range. Having coasted into gas stations running on fumes before, I know that those few miles can make all the difference.
Also, there’s still way too many buttons and distractions on board. More is less Kia! I don’t need 5 different buttons for tuning the radio. Seriously.
But all-in-all, my time with the Kia Soul EV has convinced me that my next car should definitely be electric. Until then, I’ll suffer through with my steadfast Chevy Sonic, wincing a little with every fill-up and missing the smooth, silent acceleration of my temporary EV. Sure, it’s no Tesla P85D, but it’s an electric car I could see myself living with quite easily and happily.