7 years or 100,000 miles
Kia's entry-level electric vehicle is this smaller battery 39.2kWh version of the Soul EV. The driving range is just 171 miles, but if you can live with that, you might just like it.
If you're thinking of a compact Kia EV family hatch or crossover, then you're probably thinking of a Kia Niro. But the brand does sell another electric vehicle in this segment, the Soul EV. Until 2023, that model was only sold here with a 64kWh battery that carried a bit of an off-putting price tag, so it's been a rare sight on our roads. But Kia doesn't want the Soul EV to fade away into obscurity quite yet, so in early 2023 it introduced the more affordable entry-level 39.2kWh Soul EV Urban model we're looking at here. Almost halving the size of this car's drive battery is obviously only going to have a detrimental result in terms of range, but if you're city-based, that might not matter too much. And if so, here's a chance to buy into the boxier, more practical yet still slightly trendy Soul EV package at a more sensible price.
So, is a 171 mile range enough for you? That's quite a bit down of course on the 280 mile figure of the 64kWh Soul EV model. But if you can cope with the range limitation, you'll find the 'Urban' version noticeably more engaging than its bigger-battery stablemate to punt about, thanks to its 140kg weight saving. The claimed performance figures (62mph in 9.9s en route to 97mph) don't sound much, but in reality the Soul EV Urban feels a more eager thing than those stats would perhaps suggest. As with the 64kWh model, the suspension has been carefully worked on to try and deal with the effects of this car's rather prodigious 1,610kg kerb weight (though that's 147kgs less than the 64kWh model). Not enough to make this car feel anything like a satisfying steer through the bends though. The rather vague steering doesn't help here either. As with the Niro EV, the most impressive aspect of this Soul's powertrain lies with its adjustability. There are four different driving modes (ranging from Eco+ to Sport) and you get the ability to change the amount of regenerative charging the car develops under braking. This set-up can be controlled through steering column-mounted paddle shifters, and once you've adjusted to it, it's straightforward to use.
If you happened to like previous versions of the Soul, you'd probably recognise this third generation model, which adds a more modern feel with a front end shaped by narrow lights and a trapezoidal grille. The rear features an LED light strip that wraps almost all the way around the rear screen. It's intended to be distinctive and needs to be to mask the boxy shape. This MK3 model measures in at 4,195mm. It's also 1,605mm high and 1,800mm wide and has a 2,600mm wheelbase. That's not enough to enable this Kia to offer more luggage space than its EV cousin, the Kia Niro EV (315-litres as opposed to 495-litres), but the Soul has an airier cabin and its higher roofline makes the interior seem more spacious. There's also plenty of tech, with a 10.3-inch version of the brand's usual centre-dash touchscreen. There's no gearstick of course, this being an EV, just a circular drive controller - twist for 'R', 'N' or 'D' - press for 'Park'. The rear seat benefits from this MK3 model's 30mm increase in wheelbase length and the Soul's boxy dimensions, making the rear bench feel far more spacious than more conventionally styled comparable compact hatches with a similar roadway footprint. A little surprisingly given this car's squarical looks, boot capacity isn't as much as you'd get in this model's Kia Niro EV cousin (315-litres as opposed to 451-litres). But it's a very versatile space, with practicality aided by the provision of an adjustable-height cargo floor. Fold the 60:40-split rear bench and up to 1,339-litres of capacity can be freed up.
In 'Urban' form, the Soul EV costs just under £33,000, which means it'll save you over £6,000 on the other Soul EV variant, the bigger-battery, more plushly-equipped 64kWh 'Explore'-spec model. Or around £4,000 on a Niro EV. Either way, that's quite a saving, despite which the 'Urban' spec gives you a very decent kit rosta. That runs to 17-inch alloy wheels, dual full LED auto headlamps, power-folding mirrors, a Smart Entry System, a 3-mode Drive Mode Select driving mode set-up and Adaptive Smart Cruise Control. Inside, there's a 7.0-inch OLED colour driver instrument cluster, automatic air conditioning and a reversing camera, plus USB-A sockets in the front cabin, and two USB-C sockets in the rear. Safety kit includes Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with city, pedestrian, cyclist recognition and junction turning, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Follow Assist, High Beam Assist and Driver Attention Warning. All the usual passive safety features make the team sheet too of course. There's the usual suite of airbags (7), plus you get ISOFIX rear child seat fastenings and 'Active' front head restraints that prevent whiplash. As usual with a Kia, there's the brand's 'VSM' 'Vehicle Stability Management' system which ensures stability when braking and cornering by controlling the car's 'ESC' 'Electronic Stability Control' system if it detects a loss of traction. In addition, as usual with a family crossover of this kind, there's tyre pressure monitoring and 'Hill-start Assist Control' to stop the car rolling backwards as you pull away on inclines. As you'd also now expect in this segment, the ABS anti-lock brakes are aided in panic stops by a brake assist feature, plus an 'Emergency Stop Signal' that flashes the hazard lights to warn following motorists. And if you fit a tow bar, there's 'Trailer Stability Assist' to stop trailer snaking.
We've already mentioned the 39.2kWh 'Urban' variant's 171 mile range (compared to the 64kWh 'Explore' model's 280 mile figure). But the plus side of a smaller battery is faster charging times. It can take just 54 minutes to recharge the 39.2kWh battery pack from 0-80 per cent using an 80kW rapid charger, while a 7.2kW home charger will replenish the battery from 0-100 per cent in 6 hours and 10 minutes. For owners without a dedicated home charger, a domestic plug socket can recharge the Soul EV 'Urban' from 0-100 per cent in 18 hours. For reference, with the 64kWh model, it's possible replenish the lithium-ion cells with a charge of up to 80% in just an hour and a quarter, providing you've got access to a 50kW DC fast charger. If you haven't, then a 7.2kW home wallbox will re-charge a Soul EV 64kWh completely in 9 hours 35 minutes. If you're somewhere with only a normal 3-pin plug 220V AC power supply to connect into, it'll take a yawning 31 hours to top the 64kWh variant up completely. If you can find a fast-charging 100kW charging station, that bigger battery can reach 80% of charge in only 54 minutes. Obviously, in any Soul EV to get anywhere near these official quoted range figures, you'll need to be using the two most sensible of the provided driving modes - 'Eco' or, ideally, 'Eco+', both of which slightly restrict throttle travel and climate system performance, the latter, majorly so. You'll need to maximise brake regeneration using the steering wheel paddles. And you'll also want to keep an eye on the drive indicator to the left of the instrument binnacle screen, staying in the lower blue 'Charge' zone and out of the upper white 'Power' section. The central part of the instrument binnacle display offers a selectable 'Energy Flow' monitor and a 'Driving Style' read-out which rates your driving in % terms in 'economical', 'normal' and 'dynamic' categories.
When rating EVs these days, there's often an almost obsessional emphasis on battery driving range. Which in a world where few users cover more than 50 miles a day and most still have a second combustion-engined car as a back-up, might be somewhat misplaced. If that's your perspective and you're looking for a compact EV hatch with a bit of character at a sensible price, there's just a chance you might like a Soul EV in Urban form. Because you can't get the brand's more familiar alternative, the Niro EV, in smaller battery guise, this base Soul derivative is effectively the brand's entry-level EV. And offers a more practically shaped cabin then you'll get with most of its rivals. Plus the usual lengthy Kia warranty and reliability that you'll probably never have cause to question. The ideal urban cruiser then? Perhaps you might think so.