What Car? says...
Think of 'soul' and the music of James Brown or Aretha Franklin probably springs to mind before the Kia Soul EV. However, this electric SUV deserves a bit of your attention too.
The reason it doesn't get more limelight is probably because Kia also sells the Kia Niro EV. That car is another fully electric SUV, yet has more conventional looks and can manage a few more miles on a charge. So, is there any reason you might consider the slightly oddball Soul EV, instead?
Well, unlike the Niro EV, which is available exclusively with a 64kWh battery for a 250+ mile range between charges, the Soul EV is also offered in cheaper 39kWh form. Of course, with a smaller battery it can't go as far between charges, but then it's thousands of pounds cheaper to buy and still (officially, at least) has a respectable range of 171 miles.
The 39kWh model is called the Urban and comes with a good amount of standard kit, although it misses out on any real luxuries. The 64kWh model is called the Explore and comes with loads of creature comforts (and a much higher price).
Of course, the Kia Soul EV doesn't just have to compete against other cars in Kia's line-up – it also faces the likes of the Hyundai Kona Electric, the MG ZS EV and the Smart #1. In this review, we'll tell you how the Soul EV compares with those rivals in the areas that matter, including performance, range, practicality and costs.
And remember: when you've decided which new car is right for you, make sure you pay a fair price for it by checking our New Car Buying pages.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The version of the Kia Soul EV that will suit you best depends on how far you need to travel between charges. The entry-level Urban comes with a 39.2kWh battery, giving it an official range of 171 miles (although 140 miles is more realistic, and that's assuming the weather is warm).
The Explore variant has a larger 64kWh battery and 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.
The Explore is also more powerful (201bhp vs 134bhp), and despite weighing more, it's much quicker, managing 0-60mph in around 6.5 seconds in our tests.
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.
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.
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. Only the top-spec Explore model (with the 64kWh battery) gets an electrically adjustable driver's seat. The cheaper Urban version also misses out on adjustable lumbar support.
Whichever Soul you choose, you'll find the dashboard 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.
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. A rear-view camera is standard with both trims and the top-spec Explore adds rear parking sensors.
When it comes to infotainment, opting for the entry-level Urban version gets you an 8.0in touchscreen, while the Explore model comes with a 10.25in one. The bigger screen gets newer software and is easier to use but misses out on the physical shortcut buttons you get with the smaller screen, which is a shame.
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 the Kia Niro EV and MG ZS EV but the difference is marginal. If three adults sit side by side, they’ll experience some shoulder chafing, 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 s0 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
The entry-level Kia Soul EV – called the Urban – is well priced, but not quite as cheap as the equivalent MG ZS EV. On the other hand, the pricier version, the Explore, looks fairly expensive compared to rival electric SUVs and encroaches into the territory of the larger Skoda Enyaq iV.
That said, the Explore has a bigger battery, a longer range and much more standard equipment. That includes 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.
The Urban is hardly lacking in kit, though. You get alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, power-folding door mirrors, automatic air-con and LED headlights.
Whichever version you go for, depreciation should be relatively slow. That helps make monthly PCP finance repayments more palatable, although (as always) it's important to get a quote because manufacturers regularly change APR rates and other incentives. You can check the latest prices on our New Car Deals pages.
What's the charging speed like? Well, the Urban’s 34kWh battery will take just over six hours to go from 0-100% if you plug into a 7kW home charger. The larger 64kWh battery in the Explore will take about nine and a half hours to go from empty to full.
The 39kWh is best avoided if you do a lot of long journeys, because it can only accept a maximum of 44kW of power from a public CCS charger. That makes you'll be waiting around 45 minutes for a 10-80% charge, which probably won't even get you another 100 miles.
You'll be waiting around the same time for a 10-80% top-up if you go for the 64kWh model, but remember it has a bigger battery so it will take on a lot more energy during that time.
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.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
Strengths Well equipped; Kia's excellent reliability record
Weaknesses Not that fast to charge up
We have no information to suggest Kia has any plans to phase out the Soul.
Euro NCAP hasn't published a safety report on the latest Soul EV, so we can't tell you how well it's likely to protect you and your family in a crash. There's nothing to suggest it's unsafe, though, and you get plenty of safety aids to keep you out of trouble.