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Kia Soul EV – long-term review
Hello to the Top Gear Garage Kia Soul EV
The Soul is an answer to some of the issues I found with the BMW i3s we ran recently in the Top Gear Garage. Not that there was much wrong with the BMW… it wasn’t it, it was me. I just could have done with a car that goes further, rides more pliantly, and has more room in the back and boot.
Well here we are. The Kia does those things, for the same price. There’s a lot to like.
The Soul offers you no opportunity to while away the hours on its configurator. There is one powertrain. One trim, still called ‘First Edition’ after a year on sale. One wheel type. And precisely no options. Given the size of the battery, it’s a bit of a bargain.
The only choice is among three paint schemes. My wife and daughter ruled out ambulance white, Top Gear’s art department ruled out photo-hostile black, so again I had no choice. Still, I like blue for a car colour.
Equipment is strong: leather, electric driver’s seat, good infotainment, HUD, comprehensive driver assist. It has an efficient cabin heating system, with a heat pump, and also a mode that warms only the driver, and heated seats and steering wheel so you need less warm air anyway.
But one omission I wasn’t expecting. Souls sold in the UK lack a battery heater to warm the battery before you unplug. This means they lose range from a cold start.
I found this out on the first morning I drove the Soul. It was 60 miles from an early morning start. Parked it four hours. Drove back. Weather throughout was quasi-freezing. That 120 miles used 55 per cent of the battery, projecting to a range of 219 miles. But experience tells me those cold starts cost it at about 10-15 miles each. I think my hopes of scoring 240-plus miles come spring are realistic.
On those damp slithery roads the Soul didn’t have the playful handling of the i3. And the Kia’s torquey front-drive nature brought a bit of wheel scrabble when accelerating on wet roads, though eco mode eases the issue via a softer throttle action. But the cornering is perfectly competent. And more to the point in a car like this, the Soul’s cushier suspension is a lot more relaxing, and it’s more stable on the motorway.
Kia bigs-up the location of the charge port, in the nose. That’s great if you can drive right up to the charger, but I mostly use lamp-post sockets, and if the socket is behind the car, the relatively short supplied lead doesn’t reach.
Also, why didn’t they use some of the empty underbonnet space for a cable-storage bin? Instead the dirty wet snake (oooh er missus) has to writhe around in the boot.