My Kia Soul EV — One Month On

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I’ve had the Soul EV for approximately one month, driven it for 3,000 km (1,900 miles), and … have been lovin’ it!

Despite some minor annoyances and one scare (more on this later), we have already adopted it as part of our family, and right now it’s as if it had been with us for years.

On one of my early concerns, public charging, I haven’t had major issues, thanks to Electromaps. I am always updated about the state of chargers, and when arriving at the chargers, I’ve been fortunate to find mostly vacant plugs — the exception being in downtown Lisbon, where chargers are frequently not available, with regular plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) users charging or, in the case of fast chargers, being Uberized (real word) by the drivers of a certain company…

Due to the high occupation of downtown chargers, there was one time I wanted to charge there and I thought:

“Well, they have plenty of chargers in the Expo area. I will just go there and charge.”

Thing is … all the chargers were full — every one of the 10 charging stations there had two cars plugging in, and half of them were PHEVs.

F****** PHEVs. Screwing the charging scene.” — I mumbled, irritated.

“Well, at least they are using their plug-in hybrids the right way. They are maximizing electric range by charging.” — a soft spoken angelic voice whispered in my mind.

“Screw that! I want to charge!!!” — said, angrily, another voice inside my head.

Because the battery was getting low, I decided to charge at the local IKEA store, some 7 km away, instead of trying to find an available charger in the city.

Despite this scare, the Soul EV has been a great car to drive around. Although the car doesn’t like to be thrashed around like the Honda did, it still feels at home in urban traffic, doing the stop-and-go traffic with amazing ease. While its range left me cold on the highway (brick-like aerodynamics play a role here…), in dense traffic, it felt it could go on forever, surpassing my wildest expectations.

Regarding the drive itself, the Soul EV has two modes — “D” (this has a similar driving experience to a ICE car with auto box) and “B” (which has strong regenerative braking, allowing one-pedal driving most of the time). Guess which is used 90% of the time…

“B” and one-pedal driving not only make the driving more fun, but they also make it more efficient and save the brakes.

Also, because I am all for efficient driving, I keep the “Eco” mode on most of the time, the exception being high-speed driving.

Also, with the dashboard consumption graph, you end up learning to drive more efficiently, like anticipating slowdowns and lifting the accelerator gradually in order to charge the battery, instead of braking at the last second. Accelerating progressively to meet a certain speed also helps efficiency and makes the driving a more Zen-like experience.

These cares, added to the sparse use of A/C, compensated with the regular use of the heated seats and steering wheel, has allowed some 230 km (144 mile) range performances, better than the EPA result but still worse than NEDC (then again, I don’t have pink unicorns helping me).

Something that surprised me is the range/guess-o-meter being somewhat conservative. If it says 200 km of range, in truth, it can a bit more, like 210 or 220 km — which is always good news, especially if for some reason you must detour or search an alternative charger.

What about range anxiety? Never felt it, thanks to these three words: “Planning, planning, planning.”

For example, on the longest trip we have done, visiting the Schist Historic Villages, where we did some 400 km in one day, I made a Plan A (fast charging in Coimbra when arriving from Lisbon, then repeat the operation when returning home), then an alternative Plan B (fast charge in Pombal), and a Plan C (with regular charging), just in case all fast chargers were unavailable.

Plans B and C weren’t needed on the road trip, but nevertheless, it was comforting to know they existed, especially considering the unfriendly conditions (1,200m mountains and 0ºC temperatures) we found.

But the Soul EV is not perfect, after the excitement of the first days waned, we found some minor annoyances:

◊ The driver seat belt tends to be stuck.
◊ The rearview camera tends to get dirty in the rain.
◊ Radio selection is not as easy as in a BMW i3, which has dedicated buttons.
◊ No CD reader (well, I guess this is common in recent cars, but it’s still an annoyance).
◊ Because it uses CHAdeMO, which is the most popular fast-charging protocol in Portugal, the fast-charging cables tend to be more degraded than the CCS ones.
◊ While roomy inside, the trunk could be a bit larger. In daily life, it’s okay, but for larger stuff, it isn’t as big as we were used to in the previous Honda Jazz/Fit. (On the other hand, folding the rear seats, you have a cavernous, van-like space.)
◊ It could have better driving dynamics in spirited driving. (But then it wouldn’t be so comfortable in regular driving, would it?)
◊ Highway range — could be only 150 km (95 miles) if you really push it.

Despite these minor personality traits, there is plenty to like about the Kia Soul EV:

◊ Cabin space and nice, functional interior.
◊ Cables have a dedicated space, at the bottom of the trunk, while the charging port is on the front of the car.
◊ Great comfort, supple ride.
◊ Conservative guess-o-meter makes you feel safe regarding range.
◊ Great range in urban environment (over 230 km / 144 miles).
◊ Unusual shape and colors make it a cool-looking car, grabbing people’s attention … which can be a downside if you are a shy person. (Well, there’s always the e-Golf.)

Long story short, this is a surprisingly comfortable city car, with plenty of utility, for people who run around in urban areas and take the occasional long trip. For people who have these qualities high on their priorities list, I totally recommend it, as it is a great value-for-money proposition. It offers the right mix of range, utility, and user comfort.

On the other hand, if you do a lot of highway driving or expect your car to be a hot hatch, then I would advise you have a look elsewhere.

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José Pontes

Always interested in the auto industry, particularly in electric cars, Jose has been overviewed the sales evolution of plug-ins on the EV Sales blog, allowing him to gain an expert view on where EVs are right now and where they are headed in the future. The EV Sales blog has become a go-to source for people interested in electric car sales around the world. Extending that work and expertise, Jose is also market analyst on EV-Volumes and works with the European Alternative Fuels Observatory on EV sales matters.

José Pontes has 472 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes