Kia Soul EV Review 2023
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Kia Soul EV Review 2023

Introduction

Kia has already produced some tremendous all-electric cars.

The sporty EV6 compact crossover won European Car of the Year in 2022, while the small SUV, the Niro EV, is an excellent all-rounder too.

Add that to Kia maintaining its long-standing generous warranty offering on its electric range, and there are few reasons not to drive one.

The Soul is the next car to get the electrification treatment.

Now on to its third generation – and the second iteration of an electric version – the Soul has forged a reputation as a decent family car with a lot to offer.

Although the EV6 was built from the ground up as an electric car, the Soul, like the Niro, is a ‘conversion’ – a vehicle that once offered a combustion engine ditching the fossil fuels and going it alone with batteries.

And, if Kia’s track record so far is anything to go by, the latest Soul EV should be excellent, too.

Select's rating score* - 4.3 / 5

At A Glance

Describing the Kia Soul EV is problematic because it's hard not to make it sound bland, boring or even altogether off-putting.

So, there’s no easy way to say it: it’s got the profile of a van.

But, before you head elsewhere, hear us out and take a look at the pictures because somehow, Kia has made this ‘van’ look very attractive indeed.

The front end features thin headlights, joined by an even thinner light bar along its width.

With no main grille to accommodate, it’s simply a blank space (apart from the charging port, which is hidden away to one side), while the lower grille has a silver surround, which also accommodates the front number plate.


A fog light on either side adds an air of sportiness to it, while the only motor that we can think of that can compete for its rounded corners is the Range Rover Sport.

Side on, it’s hard to believe a van-shaped car could be interesting – but it is.

Some shapely, modest creases give it depth and character, with bulges for the wheel arches, tapering windows and a shaped rear, which sticks out more at the bottom than at the top.

The taillights are joined together by a black panel which runs across the middle of the boot, while the light bar extends upwards, all the way around the top of the rear window.

The combination of these features makes it look classy and athletic but also family-friendly and bursting with personality.


Key Features

The Soul EV is now available in two trims.

The Urban model offers 17-inch alloy wheels, an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a DAB radio, a seven-inch colour display cluster for the instruments, dual full-LED headlamps, cloth upholstery and an engine start/stop button with a smart entry system.

The Explore grade, on the other hand, offers a larger 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen which features SatNav, while also getting heated front seats and steering wheel and black leather upholstery, plus some SUV-style off-road cladding and roof rails.

Both grades also get different safety features, which we’ll come on to later.

And, whereas the Urban version only produces 136PS, the Explore model offers significantly more at 204PS.


Range & Batteries

As you’ve seen, the key features are pretty defining in terms of the car's purpose.

Unlike traditional trims, which add more features, the point of the new trim levels is to decide if you want an around-town runabout, or something better suited to rural driving and days out with the family.

As a result, it's no surprise that the Urban variant is intended for shorter journeys, so it only has a 39.2kWh battery, which is enough to propel it 171 miles on a full charge. Need to get the most out of every charge? Take a look at our guide to picking your ideal electric car charger.


By contrast, the Explore gets a much larger 64.8kWh battery which can manage an impressive 280 miles from a single charge. You can find out more about how that will translate to your life by checking out our guide on official v. real-world battery range.

Of course, these are laboratory figures, so, in reality, you should expect less than this.

The range depends on a bunch of factors, including the weather, road conditions, ambient temperature and, of course, your driving style.

Four driving modes – Normal, Eco, Eco+ and Sport – will influence the battery usage, too, depending on how much performance you want at any given time.


Performance & Drive

We are testing the Urban version, so we have to make do with less power. However, the Explore model offers 40% more grunt over and above what we're driving.

As a result, whereas the Explore can do 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds, the Urban model takes a full two seconds more.

Nevertheless, for a car aimed at those making short journeys, school runs, and shopping trips into town, a time just below ten seconds is still perfectly acceptable.

Both models have front-wheel drive, and the power delivery is pleasingly instantaneous, with a burst of torque getting you off the line.

If you're used to driving petrols and diesels, you'll likely think you've more than 136PS underneath the bonnet when you pull away.


We did find that flooring it can cause the front wheels to spin up, forcing the traction control to intervene. So, backing off on our enthusiasm with the accelerator pedal meant we only sometimes got the maximum performance out of it.

While it feels pacey, it isn’t a rapid car, so those in a hurry might want to look at the Explore version or accept that the wallet will have to be opened quite a bit wider to lease an EV6.

That said, it’s hard to see why you’d need to worry about accelerating as hard as possible in the typically stop-start traffic of a town centre.

It is serenely quiet to drive, although, of course, this means that road noise through the tyres and the wind noise at higher speeds are more noticeable.

It is also quite enthusiastic, handling-wise, too, with a middle-of-the-road balance between ride comfort and agility.

As a result, the Soul EV takes corners well, limiting body lean in the bends when travelling at speed despite its seemingly top-heaviness due to its high rear end.


The steering is on the light side, so it doesn't provide much feedback, but it's okay.

The Soul EV’s dexterity does sacrifice some of the absorption, though, so lumps and bumps aren't as quickly smoothed out as in some rivals. And, when travelling along less than pristine road surfaces, it can take a while for the body to settle down.

Nevertheless, none of these is a deal-breaker and, besides which, if you’re opting for the Urban version over the Explore version, you’re rarely going to be testing it to its limits.

Even if you do, it’s by no means uncomfortable and now features a fully independent multi-link rear suspension, which improves the handling.

The result is the Soul EV is now more engaging to drive.

While it won't be challenging premium brands for their ability to go around corners, you can undoubtedly have a bit of fun in it.

The Urban model feels marginally more enthusiastic to drive, too, as it’s 140kg lighter than the Explore variant due to its smaller battery size.

The regenerative braking will help to put some charge back into the batteries under deceleration, and Kia has done an excellent job of making it feel predictable and consistent.

The amount of ‘regen’ braking can be adjusted by paddles behind the steering wheel, and, when set to maximum, one-pedal driving is possible by lifting off the accelerator, which will cause the Kia to come to a complete stop.


Charging

Charging the Urban version of the Soul EV takes around six hours to get from 10-100% using a 7.2kW home wall box. 

The same setup takes nine-and-a-quarter hours in the Explore version, however.

If you’re using a public DC charging point, both versions of the Soul EV are capable of a 10-80% top-up in just three-quarters-of-an-hour at its maximum 100kW fast charging speed.

Of course, you’ll need to make sure the charging point you’re using is capable of that pace. Find out how to make charging work best for you and take a look through our top tips for driving electric.


Running Costs & Emissions

The Soul is only available as an electric car nowadays, so that means zero emissions.

As a result, you don’t need to worry about miles-per-gallon figures.

You also don’t need to fret about road tax, either, as it’s free – although the Government’s generosity only lasts until 2025 when it'll start to charge for this.

Servicing costs for electric vehicles tend to be lower as there are fewer moving parts. But at present, insurance premiums are higher.

Kia has an enviable record for reliability and, as such, has been offering an industry-leading seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty on its cars for a considerable time now. Not that you’ll need it with a lease car – but we thought it was worth mentioning all the same!


Interior & Technology

The latest Soul EV’s interior is smart, functional, and well-designed.

We would like to have seen a bit more use of silver décor to brighten things up, but there are still some aluminium touches on the lower spoke of the steering wheel, the door handles, and numerous dials. There are lots of shiny, piano black surfaces, too.

In the middle of the dashboard is a rounded cut-out containing a couple of air vents and the infotainment screen, while the digital instrument cluster is well laid out and visible through the wheel.


Lamentably, though, the display isn’t customisable.

Kia’s infotainment system is excellent nowadays, and the screen is crispy clear and responsive. But we’d rather be using the larger 10.25-inch screen found in the Explore model.

It is disappointing that Kia uses a smaller screen in the Urban variant, which also misses out on the SatNav system found in the Explore version.

At least the car can report its charging progress via an app, so you don't need to keep checking on the vehicle itself if you're waiting for it to top up the batteries.


Practicality & Boot Space

There is plenty of room up front, so even taller drivers won't be struggling for space in the Soul EV.

Taller passengers will also benefit from the high roofline in the back, which maximises headroom. And the legroom is more than sufficient unless you’re exceptionally tall.

Three adults in the back are doable, although it's a squeeze.

It is easy to find a comfortable driving position, as there's plenty of travel in the seats, which are manually adjustable in the Urban version we’re driving. However, the Explore model gets an electronically adjustable driver's chair.


In addition, only the Explore edition comes with adjustable lumbar support.

Nevertheless, the seats are very comfy and offer ample support. Moreover, with the Urban version, which is largely designed for shorter journeys and around-town driving, you don't really need the additional lumbar support anyway.

Visibility is good out of the front, with the Soul's windscreen pillars kept as thin as possible.

Inevitably, the view could be better out of the rear, and, despite the EV’s shape causing the back pillars to be more vertical compared with the diagonal angles you'll find on most hatchbacks, they're much thicker than at the front. Hence, it still restricts your visibility considerably.

Nevertheless, it’s no worse than you’d find on most motors, and you get rear parking sensors and a reversing camera as standard on both Urban and Explore models.


The Soul EV’s van-like profile hints at practicality, and Kia doesn’t disappoint, offering loads of cubbies for storage, including a generously sized glove compartment.

You can fit a small drink bottle in the door bins, too.

Boot space is measured at 315 litres with the rear seats in place.

However, they can be folded down in a 60:40 split to increase the cargo capacity on offer to 1,339 litres.


Safety

The current Soul hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP. That said, an older version got a four-star rating. But this score has long since expired, as that was back in 2014. And both technology and the testing criteria have changed significantly since then, so it's not reflective of the Soul EV today.

However, you might be reassured to learn that six of the last eight Kias to be put through their paces have earned the maximum five stars, while the two that didn’t were both four stars.

Automatic emergency braking, adaptive smart cruise control, lane follow assist, and lane keep assist are included on both Urban and Explore models, along with driver attention warning, emergency stop signalling, high beam assist and hill-star assist.

You also get a tyre pressure monitoring system.

Additionally, the Explore model throws in rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, safety exit warning and highway driving assist.


Options

Options include the exterior body colour, which is ‘Mars orange’ by default.

The premium shades – fusion black, neptune blue, snow-white pearl, and inferno red – cost several hundred pounds extra.

If you opt for any of the premium hues on the Explore versions, they’ll all come with a black roof, window frames and mirrors, except for snow-white pearl and fusion black, which use red for the upper half of the car.


There are accessories, including protection foils for various parts of the car, roof boxes, choices of colours for the interior ambient lighting, carpets, keyrings and bicycle racks.

Door projectors, which shine a 'Soul' logo onto the kerbside, roadside safety kits and various decals for the car’s bodywork are also available.

You can also opt for various lengths of charging cables to keep your Kia Soul EV’s batteries topped up.


Rival Cars

Despite its van-like shape, the boot of the Kia Soul isn’t all that big.

If you need more space, the Kia Niro EV is likely a worthy alternative, although it’s quite a bit more expensive at entry-level compared with the Soul's Urban model.


The MG ZS has a bigger boot, too, while the Volkswagen ID.3 has a more refined ride.

The Hyundai Kona Electric, Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf are also worth considering.


Verdict & Next Steps

Overall, the Kia Soul EV is a very decent electric car.

Despite its van-like proportions, it's lovely and, with two versions on offer, it can meet the needs of those seeking a city car and those who want something more suited to longer-distance rural driving.

As for which one is better, it depends on your requirements, although the Explore version has more power, greater range, and more standard equipment.

Some challengers offer more comfort, whereas the Soul EV places itself between handling ability and suspension absorption. However, it's not uncomfortable, and it at least gives it some agility to make things a bit more fun.

Despite the large rear end, though, it could be more practical, offering only a small cargo bay.

Nevertheless, it’s a great little car with meagre running costs. And whether you're after something to pop to the shops or something capable of tackling twisty rural roads, the latest Soul EV has got you covered.

Where to next?

View our latest Kia Soul EV lease deals, from £392.98 per month**. 

Call us on 0118 3048 688 or hit the green 'Enquire' button for more details. 

Looking for a great leasing deal? Check out our incredible range of Special Offers

New hatchback? Read our latest Car Reviews and find the right model for you

Want to know more about leasing? Take a look at our comprehensive Leasing Guides

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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Kia Soul EV.

**Prices include VAT. Credit is Subject to Status, Ts and Cs and Arrangement Fees apply. Excess mileage may apply. Stock levels and prices correct as of 02/05/23.

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