Kia’s latest-generation Soul gets electrified for 2020, and in doing so the Korean automaker boots its funky urban cube right to the forefront of “affordable” fully-electric vehicles. We liked the previous-generation Kia Soul EV, which for 2018 sported a usable 182 km range – but that was then. Tested here is the top trim $51,595 2020 Soul EV Limited with a claimed range of 383 km along with 40 percent more torque and 85 percent more power.
This 2020 Soul EV looks way cooler than its predecessor, coming at us with sharper, more aggressive features. It sheds dorkiness for some slick style without screaming “EV!” like the old one, largely thanks to its traditional looking grille. Of course, the Soul EV maintains its quirky boxy character that has endeared buyers to this top-selling Kia since it came to market in 2008. Key differences between the electric and gas models are the EV’s painted front fascia, slim LED headlights, and aero-style wheels, which go up to 17-inches from last year’s 16-inchers. Futuristic vertical taillights adorn the C-pillars.
Whether you opt for this $51,595 Limited or the shorter-range (248 km) $42,595 Premium, standard safety kit includes six airbags, blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and assist, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise with stop-and-go, heated windshield, forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, driver attention warning and rear-view camera with “dynamic guidelines”. Another safety aspect baked into the Soul is its good all-around outward visibility.
For its modest footprint, the Soul EV is an eminently practical device. Upright dimensions translate to capacious interior with plenty of headroom and usable cargo space. This new model gets a wheelbase stretch that benefits rear legroom. Lift the big hatch and you are presented with a generous load space with an adjustable bi-level floor that goes from 530 to 663 litres. Flipping forward the 60/40-split rear seat expands cargo capacity to 1,735 litres.
User Friendliness: 9/10
Electric vehicles are, as a rule, about as user friendly as you can get. With the 2020 Kia Soul EV, a large rotary controller on the centre console is used for gear selection. There are four drive modes – Sport, Normal, Eco, and Eco+ – and the steering wheel paddles call up four levels of regenerative braking.
As with all Kia vehicles, this Soul EV is blessed with excellent ergonomics featuring clearly marked controls, real knobs and buttons, and a logical infotainment system.
Ingress and egress are a breeze thanks to the Soul’s upright architecture and large door openings.
With this top-spec Limited model, Kia is not asking for any concessions when it comes to standard features. Comfort niceties include leather, ambient lighting, sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and heated steering wheel. The dash, here trimmed in glossy piano black, features a generous 10.25-inch multimedia interface with navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio and Kia’s UVO Intelligence Telematics. The Limited also gets rain-sensing wipers, head-up display, and premium Harman Kardon audio.
Looking at feature count, technology, build quality and capability, this new cubist electric Kia is riding the crest of the EV value wave.
As noted earlier, the Limited is equipped to luxury car spec. I found the front leather driver’s seat to be comfortable and supportive, and the Soul’s ride quality shows a fine blend of compliance and body control.
Adding to the level of comfort here is the inherent quietness of electric vehicles and the effortless way they go about their business. A true low-stress environment. And if you measure comfort in range, the Soul EV Limited I drove in Victoria showed a range of 445 km when I picked it up. Yes, these were ideal conditions temperature-wise, but it does support early reports that Kia’s claimed 383 km is conservative.
No lack of giddyup here in the 2020 Kia Soul EV Limited. Its 356-volt permanent magnet AC synchronous motor sends a healthy 201 hp and 291 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels – the latter from zero rpm – so acceleration is instant and robust from just about any speed. Wanna chirp the tires? Even in normal mode the electronic stability control allows just enough wheelspin to dispel any “eco-weenie” accusations. Put the Soul in Sport mode and you’ll be blasting past slower traffic in wide-eyed silence.
Driving Feel: 8/10
I did mention the Soul EV was fast, right? No complaints with the steering feel or handling either. The little crossover’s low centre of gravity (thanks to the low-mounted battery pack) gives it a planted feel in the corners, although you’d hardly call this a canyon carver, as it will get tippy if you push it.
Normal mode is just fine for daily driving. Select Sport if you’re feeling racy, and Eco is best during periods of heavier, slow-moving traffic. It softens the accelerator’s response and limits the climate control to the driver only. Eco+ up the energy savings even more – the climate control is disabled, and regenerative braking is maximized.
With four levels of regenerative braking, the Soul EV will go from coasting on liftoff like an IC (internal combustion) vehicle to one-pedal driving, where the accelerator pedal works more like a volume control. Around town you rarely have to touch the brakes, similar to the Nissan Leaf’s e-Pedal.
Fuel Economy: 9/10
The 2020 Kia Soul EV is more efficient than the car it replaces, rated at 114 MPGe by the EPA versus 108 MPGe. Looking at Natural Resources Canada’s rating system, the Soul gets 1.9 Le/100 km city, 2.4 hwy and 2.1 combined. The Chevrolet Bolt is a bit better at 1.9 city, 2.2 city and 2.0 combined.
While the outgoing Soul EV used a 30-kWh air-cooled lithium-ion battery, this 2020 model runs with a 64-kWh liquid-cooled lithium-ion-polymer pack. It gets 100-kilowatt CCS DC fast-charging that is significantly faster than the Chevy Bolt’s 50-kW charging. Kia’s claims the battery will charge to 80 percent in just 54 minutes. Charging from 20 percent to 80 (because you’ll rarely be charging from zero battery) is about 45 minutes.
On Level 2, a 100-percent charge is pegged at about 9 hours and 35 minutes. If you’re stuck with only a 120-volt AC household, you’re looking at 63 hours to achieve a full charge.
We are still along way from a fully electric automotive future, but the Koreans are very serious about leading the way. One drive in the 2020 Kia Soul EV Limited makes for a mighty convincing argument. Funky charisma meets functionality, luxury, low running costs, anxiety-busting range, and a pleasant driving experience.
|Engine Displacement||150 kW|
|Engine Cylinders||356 V|
|Peak Horsepower||201 hp @ 3,800–8,000 rpm|
|Peak Torque||291 lb-ft @ 0–3,600 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||1.9/2.4/2.1 Le/100 km cty/hwy/cmb; 16.8/21.1/18.6 kWh/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||530 / 633 L, cargo floor up/down; 1,735 L rear seats down|
|Model Tested||2020 Kia Soul EV Limited|
|Price as Tested||$53,490|