Kia Soul EV Review 2023 | Top Gear
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Saturday 9th December
Good news: the Soul EV is like a Niro EV, only a bit more interesting

Good stuff

Long range, comfortable, interesting looks

Bad stuff

Boot isn’t big enough, interesting looks


What is it?

This is the third generation of Kia Soul EV, the quirky middle child of the Korean carmaker’s range. In Europe the Soul is only available with an electric powertrain, but in the rest of the world you get a nice selection of petrol engines to go with the car.

We’ve not been shortchanged, though, it’s the same powertrain from the previous versions of the Niro EV and Hyundai Kona Electric (both have been updated since the Soul EV was launched in 2020). It goes up against the likes of the MG4 and ZS EV, or perhaps the Mazda CX-30.

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OK, but what actually is it?

That’s a very good question, and we’re not sure that anyone would be able to give us an answer. It’s got SUV vibes, but it definitely isn’t one of those. It has a hatchback, but it isn’t really one of those either. Maybe it’s a bit like an old school MPV, but it doesn’t have the practicality of one of those.

No one at Kia would thank us for drawing the link, but it does also have an air of the early 2000s Chrysler PT Cruiser about it, but much better looking. It’s distinctive, though, which is definitely the point. And we think that this third version of the car is the best looking one yet, much less like a hearse than the previous two.

Hmm. What’s the range like on the Soul EV?

Now we’re talking. The electric Soul comes with two flavours of battery – a 39kWh car costing just under £32k and a 64kWh car costing £39k, with official ranges of 171 miles and 280 miles. We’ve driven both, and Kia’s got a good track record of building economical electric powertrains – both of those figures are easily achievable with mild temperatures and sensible driving.

The 64kWh car’s figure is especially impressive: it all but does away with range anxiety when you can manage 280 miles between plugging in, and one of the cheapest ways to get that distance from a charge.

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The one thing that lets the car down is that it will only charge at a peak of 77kW, which means it’ll get from 10–80 per cent in around 45 minuntes on a 100kW charger; note the MG4 costs £29k for the long range SE version which charges faster and has an official range of 281 miles...

The bigger batteried car gets a slightly more powerful 201bhp motor for a 0–62mph run in 7.9 seconds, while the entry model makes do with 134bhp and 9.9s. You don’t notice the difference too much on the move, ultimate range aside. 

It looks quite big, doesn’t it?

This is the other issue with the Soul EV – it looks big, and feels big on the road (it’s very wide when you’re driving it), but definitely doesn’t feel like anything has been made of that extra size. It doesn’t feel especially roomy inside, there’s nothing particularly clever about the interior, even if it looks stylish enough, and it’ll only carry five people. If you want a clever, versatile MPV/SUV/crossover/whatever, this isn’t it.

Does it drive well? 

The Soul drives surprisingly well: it has a sharp turn-in, typically perky EV acceleration (the Sport mode is basically unusable, unless you’re deliberately trying to upset your passengers) and it rides smoothly. There is a touch of lean, though, which makes keen driving less fun – this is mostly a zip around town sort of car, but it does sit well on the motorway at the same time.

What's the verdict?

The Soul EV doesn't bring any new tricks to the table... but it’s an alternative to the SUV crowd that looks pretty sharp

The Soul EV is a very good car, which is chiefly down to its impressively efficient drivetrain. Go for the larger battery and the 280 miles of range will mean that you won’t miss the petrol engine options offered in other parts of the world.

When we criticise lots of new cars for being a bit samey and dull, we have to celebrate the ones that come along with a bit of personality and offer something different. The Soul EV doesn't bring any new tricks to the table and isn't particularly innovative, but it’s an alternative to the SUV crowd that looks pretty sharp.

That said, Kia’s latest version of the Niro EV also looks pretty sharp, has an equally impressive powertrain and is a more practical day to day proposition. But it does cost slightly more. Whether you go for the Soul EV ultimately comes down to how much you do or don’t want to be seen in an SUV.

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