What Car? says...
Think of "soul" and music probably springs to mind before the Kia Soul EV. However, this electric SUV deserves a bit of your attention too.
The reason the Soul doesn't get more limelight is probably because Kia also sells the Kia Niro EV – another fully electric SUV but with more conventional looks and the ability to travel a few extra miles on a charge.
Until recently, the Soul's main selling point was that – unlike the Niro EV – you could have it with a choice of two different battery sizes. That's no longer the case though, because the smaller and cheaper 39kWh version has been discontinued, so what does the model have in its arsenal now?
Well, every Kia Soul EV comes with a 64kWh battery and a 250+ mile range between charges, loads of standard equipment and lots of interior space.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Since Kia discontinued the 39.2kWh Soul Urban, every Soul EV comes with the same 64kWh battery, giving you an official range of 280 miles.
When we ran a Soul EV Explore as a long-term test car it easily coped with a 235-mile commute, and it should be good for around 250 miles on a full charge in the real world.
Every Soul EV has a 201bhp electric motor powering its front wheels, and that gives it more than enough performance for everyday driving. In fact, in our tests it managed 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds, beating the Niro EV on the same day (7.2 seconds).
You have to be careful how you deploy the power, mind, with the Soul easily spinning its front wheels off the line if you put your foot down too keenly.
The steering is quicker than you might expect, although you soon get used to it, and placing the nose in bends is easy. It's not much fun on a winding country road, but then neither are the main electric SUV rivals.
The ride is a bit more pliant than in the Hyundai Kona Electric but the Soul is firmer than the Niro EV. That firmness helps it control body movements on undulating B-roads, but means the ride is a bit choppy at all speeds. It's far from terrible, though.
With no petrol or diesel engine chugging away under the bonnet, the Soul EV makes fairly quiet progress, and the motor emits nothing more than a faint murmur when pushed. It's quieter than the Kia Niro EV but there's still some suspension thump at low speeds and wind flutter at 70mph.
The brakes are almost as progressive as those of any regular petrol or diesel car. That's not something you can say of all electric cars.
Not that you'll necessarily need to use the brake pedal very often, because if you ramp up the regenerative braking level (by using the paddles behind the steering wheel), the Soul will slow itself surprisingly quickly as soon as you lift off the accelerator pedal. It has a similar effect to the engine braking you experience in a petrol car in a low gear.
Strengths Decent electric range; brakes more progressive than other electric models
Weaknesses Slightly choppy ride
The interior layout, fit and finish
The Kia Soul EV's interior is fairly smart, with more soft-touch materials than you'll find in the Kia Niro EV. It's hardly luxurious, though, and doesn't look or feel as upmarket inside as the Smart #1. The colour scheme is pretty sombre, with lots of dark grey or black.
The driver's seat isn’t heavily bolstered, but there’s enough support to hold you in place around corners. You get plenty of adjustment as standard, with every Soul EV getting electrically adjustable front seats with adjustable lumbar support.
Visibility is excellent out of the front, thanks to the relatively upright driving position and narrow front pillars. The rear screen is a bit shallow, but it’s the heavily angled rear windows and wide rear pillars that do the most to restrict your over-the-shoulder view. To negate the issue, a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors come as standard.
The Soul EV’s dashboard is logically laid out, and many of the controls – including physical dials and buttons for the air-conditioning – are chunky enough to find with only a fleeting glance. We much prefer it to the Smart #1’s controls, which are all within the infotainment touchscreen, making them more distracting to use on the move.
Speaking of infotainment, the Soul EV comes with a 10.25in touchscreen that gets built-in sat-nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring as standard. It’s an easy system to use, with easy to navigate menus and a quick response when you prod the screen.
You can download a Kia app to your smartphone so you can check the car's battery charge status and location, as well as prime the interior temperature and set the sat-nav.
Strengths Sensible dashboard lay-out; great visibility
Weaknesses Sombre colour scheme; quality isn't the best
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
There's loads of leg and head room in the front of the Kia Soul EV, so even if you're well over six feet tall you'll fit just fine.
There's lots of space for storage too, including a large tray for your phone in the centre console, a couple of cupholders and a decent-sized glovebox. The door bins aren’t huge, but will each hold a 500ml bottle of water, along with some other odds and ends.
Two six-footers can sit happily in the back seats behind two equally tall adults without struggling for space. There’s less leg and head room than in a Kia Niro EV or MG ZS EV but the difference is marginal. If three adults sit side by side, they’ll experience some shoulder rubbing, but with only a low central floor hump to get in the way, every passenger will enjoy plenty of foot space.
So, how big is the Soul's boot? Well, it has an official capacity of 315 litres, which doesn't sound like much at all. However, while the load bay is short, it is quite tall so we managed to fit six carry-on suitcases below the load cover. That's only one fewer than in the similarly priced Niro EV. If a big boot is really important to you, take a look at the ZS EV.
You get a height-adjustable boot floor as standard. This can be used to create a separate storage area beneath the main boot compartment and, in its highest setting, also reduces the load lip, which is otherwise quite big.
If you need more storage space, you can always fold down the rear seatback in a 60/40 split – we managed to carry items up to six feet long. However, the Soul doesn’t offer sliding or reclining rear seats like more expensive electric SUVs do (including the Hyundai Ioniq 5).
Strengths Plenty of driver and passenger space; practical boot
Weaknesses Rear seats don't slide or recline
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
As a cash purchase, the Kia Soul EV looks a tad expensive compared to rival electric SUVs and encroaches into the territory of the larger Skoda Enyaq. It’s also predicted to depreciate quicker than its rivals, including the Hyundai Kona Electric and the Enyaq. As such, make sure you check for the best price on our new Kia deals page.
Luckily, to make up for the price, the Soul EV’s single trim – Explore – comes with loads of standard equipment, including heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, leather seats, keyless entry and start, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, privacy glass and rain-sensing windscreen wipers.
When it comes to charging, the Soul EV’s maximum charging rate of 77kW means that it’ll go from 10-80% charge in 44 minutes on a CCS fast charger. Meanwhile, plug into a 7kW home wallbox and it’ll take nine and a half hours to go from empty to 100%.
The latest Soul hasn’t been appraised for safety by Euro NCAP but it comes with plenty of safety features, including automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist recognition, lane-keeping assist and a system that monitors the driver’s attention. Upgrading to Explore adds blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
In terms of reliability, Kia came an impressive eighth out of 32 car makers featured in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey. Plus, every Kia comes with a seven-year/100,000-mile warranty.
Strengths Well equipped; Kia's excellent reliability record
Weaknesses Expensive next to rivals
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No. The smaller battery Soul EV Urban is only available from existing stock, but you can still buy the Kia Soul EV Explore. Check the latest prices on our New Car Deals pages.
With a 64kWh battery, the Soul EV gives you an official range of up to 280 miles. In the real world, we’d expect that to be more like 250 miles.
Yes – in fact the electric Soul EV is now the only version available.