The Kia Soul has always been a quirky, youthful compact SUV but sadly never a big seller in Ireland. In recent years it was dropped in Europe in favour of the Stonic. Now the third generation five-seater makes a welcome return to our consciousness but in electric form as the e-Soul – an EV we can get excited about.
Unlike its electric sibling the e-Niro that comes in a choice of mid or long range versions, the e-Soul comes in long range guise only in Ireland. The range from a full charge is quoted at a very healthy 452 kilometres (in warm weather).
This range means the car can work well in the real world. All that is needed to make it a viable family commuter is a home charge point – then the EV experience will be pretty much hassle free. The impressive electric range means a daily commute can be done with no need to worry about the public charging infrastructure that can at worst leave you stranded and at best is a time consuming inconvenience.
Outside the car looks as chunky and sturdy as we remember. The various colour combinations available add to the car’s vibrant attitude. While bi-colour paint options are available the more shy might like the single colour options. The e-Souls is hardly a shrinking violet and it announces its EV-ness with a closed off grille that features the charging port. The new car is a little bigger than the old Soul and has a longer wheelbase too.
Inside the cabin has a good layout that sadly in no way does reflects its premium price tag. A carry over I loved is the fun sound system that pulsates interior lights to the beat of whatever you’re listening too – you can of colours switch this off. There are hard surfaces everywhere and apart form the faux leather seats there are next to no soft touch materials – actually the top surfacing was soft in my test car – it just looked like cheap hard plastic. My test car had a head up display that was poorly positioned as it gave a readout projected half on the bonnet half on the road for my seat setting. My test car was white so this made the HUD’s position more noticable. Four adults fit reasonably well with seat belts for five. The boot is small but on the upside it does have a split level floor.
The driving position is good and fully adjustable. A large rotary dial near the stop start button lets you select drive, neutral or reverse. A park button is in the centre of the dial. An electronic park brake is featured with a handy auto hold function. Kia has nailed the EV driving interaction with three selectable driving modes: Eco, normal and sport and little paddles on the steering wheel allow varying degrees of electronic braking with an auto function that can anticipate the road and junctions and deliver predictive braking accordingly. Hold the left paddle and the car will come to a stop in normal conditions without needed to press the brake pedal. On the road the car is surprisingly noisy for an EV at higher speeds circa 100-120km/h. Road noise is noticeably intrusive. At lower town speeds the car is quite hushed inside.
Kia has a ‘VESS’ system that when activated via a button to the right of the driver will generate pleasant EV noises audible to those nearby of the car’s presence. My top spec K3 test car had an excellent sound system that made all this criticism less critical – although I did turn off the active lights (I must be getting old). Acceleration is impressive and in sport mode very entertaining. The nice thing with e-Soul is you can get any lingering need for speed satisfied well within the speed limits thanks to the pulling power and instant acceleration the electric motor delivers. My K3’s adaptive cruise control was easy to use and a good commuting companion.
Battery Electric Vehicles aka BEVs in Ireland presently get a €5,000 grant from the SEAI (gov) and a VRT rebate again from the government of €5,000 that gives a total subsidy of €10,000 on their purchase price. There is also a grant of €600 towards a domestic charge port. Including grants my fully loaded ‘K3’ grade test car (that has all the toys bar the kitchen sink!) weighs in at €37,995 (€35,995 K2 model). Similar to its sister car the Hyundai Kona EV the financial layout up front is huge compared to a petrol or diesel but the savings over a conventional car start straight away. Lower fueling, maintenance costs and annual motor tax are very enticing. In theory by 200,000 kilometres an EV has well paid for itself. Companies can rapidly write down the purchase costs of EVs and also employees can reduce their tax bill as EVs attract 0% BIK (benefit in kind tax) that is worth a few hundred quid a month back in the pocket.
Charging the Korean built e-Soul is easy with a CCS/Combo plug so you can fast charge effortlessly as well as using conventional slower public chargers too. During my test I deliberately avoided topping up my charge but popped it on a fast charge and home charge briefly to see its electrical draw.