While the 2023 Kia Soul’s distinctive style is a standout, the fact there’s an all-electric model tends to slide by almost unnoticed. However, anyone looking for an affordable EV, the Limited has a great deal to offer. Yes, when compared with the new EV6, it’s a little yester-tech, but it still manages to get the job done effectively.
It starts with an expressive, upmarket cabin and the higher driving position so many favour. It also counts all the mod cons demanded. The leather-wrapped, power front buckets are comfortable and heated and cooled, the steering wheel is heated, and the instrumentation is clean and lays out how the electrics are working in an uncluttered fashion.
It also rates the driver through a readout that shows the percentage of the drive done economically, normally and when the right foot is being flexed too aggressively. During the test, it quickly became a challenge to keep the aggressive number under five per cent. To the right, the 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen supports all the desirable apps including Apple CarPlay, built-in navigation and a solid Harman Kardon sound system.
One of the Limited’s range-extending devices is the heat pump-based climate control system. Unlike a gas-powered ride, EVs don’t produce enough heat to keep the riders warm, so they need an auxiliary heater. While an ordinary electric (resistive) heater gets the job done, a heat pump is up to 300 per cent more efficient. Acording to Kia, the heat pump in the Soul-sized Niro Electric uses 1.75 kW compared with 5.5 kW for an electric heater. Yes, heat pump technology is more expensive, but slashing the amount of energy needed to warm the cabin is a worthy consideration, especially in Canada where winters tend to be long battery-sapping affairs.
The rear riders are not forgotten, as the outboard seats are heated, and there’s plenty of headroom and generous legroom, although middle seat is best left to the kids or for occasional use. The cargo space measures 663-litres with the seats up and 1,735L when folded flat. The squared-off design means the space is usable and practically the same as the gasoline-powered models.
On the safety front, the Soul EV gets the works including advanced forward collision avoidance with auto-braking, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, active lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and drowsy driver warning.
While the Soul EV Premium arrives with a small 39.2-kilowatt/hour battery, the Limited earns a larger, more realistic, 64 kW/h unit. In this case, it takes 64 minutes to recharge using a 50 kW DC fast charger and over nine hours using a Level 2 unit. Neither time is quick by current standards.
During the test the Limited’s bigger battery routinely showed a fully charged range of 415-kilometres, which eclipses the official 383 km number by a significant margin. The plus is the brain that calculates the driving range is smart enough the driver can rely on what it’s displaying. Some EVs tend to show a long range then suddenly drop off a cliff leaving the driver scrambling to find a charger.
In this case, one drive started with 415 km as the distance to empty. After a 233 km drive, there was still 178 km showing. Now that’s a good number given half the drive was on the highway where there’s little, if any, regen braking — EVs love the city and the constant regen possibilities.
The Limited’s battery powers a front-mounted electric motor that develops 201 horsepower and, more importantly, 291 pound-feet of torque anywhere between one and 3,600 rpm. What’s odd is the performance feel outstrips what the stopwatch says — the 7.9-second run to 100 km/h I recorded seemed a lot longer than the way it feels. The sense is the response is quick across the board, which makes it a fun drive that whizzes about town very nicely. Hard acceleration actually makes the front tires chirp!
The Soul EV’s issue is the regenerative braking strategy. There are four manual levels along with an Auto mode with the same four tiers. All are accessed through paddle shifters. The level of regen ranges from almost nothing to moderately aggressive.
But what’s missing is a true one-pedal drive. Even when set to the most aggressive Level 3 setting the instant the Soul EV hits 10 km/h the “braking” shuts off, which makes it feel like the Soul is actually speeding up. There is the option of pulling the Plus paddle, which does maintain the regen to a standstill, however, the need to use it for every stop in an urban environment is a right royal pain. Ideally, there should be a proper one-pedal drive that brings the EV to a graceful stop and engages the auto-hold feature to prevent a potential rollback. Allowing this mode to be stored as the driver’s preference would ice the cake!
As for the drive modes there are Eco, Normal and Sport modes. In somewhat of a shocker, Eco proved to be the best everyday mode. It maximizes out the driving range without feeling overly soft when the motor is asked to respond. Mind you, Normal does bring a sharper work ethic without totally killing the range potential. Sport is a hoot, however, when used to the max the range tends to drop quite quickly, so be warned. There is a fourth, ultra-conservative, Eco+ mode. It limits the climate control and caps the top speed. Think of it as the mode for those times when the battery is perilously low.
The Soul EV is balanced from a ride and handling perspective. The drive is compliant even when the road deteriorates yet it does not allow the body to roll too much when pushing on through a corner. Likewise, the steering is nicely weighted and delivers decent feel and feedback. What can’t be masked in the weight at play — at 1,754 kg, it is not a svelte or nimble proposition.
For many, the Kia Soul is a love it or hate it proposition. For those that get it, the distinctive style and practicality rate very highly. The EV Limited brings a comfortable cabin, an impressive array of technology and that tall seating position. If you decide to look into a Soul EV, it is worth upgrading from the base Premium ($43,484) to the $54,284 Limited model — the extra power (up 67 hp) and longer range (up 135 km) make it a real-world proposition. Heck, not having to recharge the Soul EV every night, as is the case with the smaller battery, is worth the premium alone!