Vijay Pattni12 November 2013

First drive: the electric Kia Soul

We test the prototype version of Kia’s electric mini-MPV in South Korea…

So what is it?

It's the Soul EV, which is, as your logic faculties may have deduced, an all-electric version of Kia's mini-MPV.

I'm literally frothing with excitement.

Thought you might be. This shall be Kia's first globally-sold, mass-produced electric motor, following the little Kia Ray (a Nissan Cube-like box-on-wheels) that's been quietly drumming up support for electric cars in South Korea for little over three years now.

It sits on the standard front-wheel-drive Soul platform - engineered so a battery pack could be installed with minimal intrusion into the cabin - itself the same platform as the new Cee'd. So a fair base to start from.

That battery is mounted in the floor of the Soul, to lower the centre of gravity. It offers 0-62mph time of under 12 seconds, a giddying top speed of 90mph, and a motor output of just under 110bhp and 201lb ft of torque.

And how quickly will it recharge?

Charge it using a 240V socket and you've got full power in five hours; switch to the 100kW fast charger and you're looking at 25 minutes.

This EV is, however, some 300kg heavier than the regular Soul. Kia is still trying to figure out the battery/motor technology, and hasn't yet decided on a supplier at the moment.

How far will it go?

Kia estimates a range of over 124 miles when it goes on sale next year. Which is good.

So what's it like to drive?

Quiet. The Soul feels composed, refined, and on our test route, seemed a soft, comforting way to stroll through the city. On dual carriageways we got an inkling of some body roll and a soft suspension setup; floor the throttle from zero and that instant torque rocked the Soul back on its springs and shocks.

But that torque. It's the best thing about electric motors. Lots of torque from thin air means decent 0-30mph pace, good overtaking ability and even a nice little ‘bullet-train' whine from the motor.

How far did you get?

On the first leg of our test drive, we covered just over 16 miles, with the range dropping from 103 to 78 miles. The second leg recorded a drop in range from 77 to 67 miles, though we covered 13 miles. All achieved with a combination of thoughtful start-stop driving and, ahem, a heavier right foot.

Should I buy one?

We'd wait and see. Final tech spec still needs to be confirmed, and on the strength of this first prototype test drive, the Soul EV isn't very involving. But it may all come down to money: if Kia can figure a way to offer a city EV for a price close to its petrol Soul, it could be onto a winner...

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