Review: 2015 Kia Soul EV

May 28, 2015 03:00 PM EDT | Jeff Jablansky

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When Kia decided to launch its first electric-only vehicle for sale, the automaker chose a tried-and-true route: Replace the powertrain from an existing model in the lineup, and retrofit it with batteries, and the Soul EV was born.

We spent several days getting to know the Soul EV earlier this year, just as the price for a gallon of gas dipped to the sub-$2 mark.

What is it?

The Soul EV is Kia's first and only electric vehicle. Based on the existing Soul hatchback, it's the petrol-free alternative to the relatively efficient, quirky five-door. The EV battery pack does little to alter the versatility of the boxy Soul.

How does it drive?

Silently, smoothly, and quickly. If you're familiar with the way the gas-powered Soul drives—which is to say with sharp precision and a compliant ride—the biggest mental shift to make is that the Soul EV drives like an EV instead. Step on the accelerator, and torque instantly surges. The power is both giggle-inducing and controllable. Regenerative braking has a manageable amount of force, as does its steering. It's no Tesla Model S P85D, but few vehicles compare.

Range is estimated at 93 miles, although our cold-weather testing in mid-January may have affected our efficiency. Charging took place at the local parking lot, where we juiced up for free for several hours at a time.

What's it like inside?

Familiar and normal. Whereas the outside of the Soul EV is a visual overload for the senses, its interior is straightforward and deviates little from its gas-powered bretheren. 

What's its specialty?

Convincing the skeptics that an electric vehicle can be livable, parkable, and enjoyable.

Most innovative feature?

All Soul EVs are sold with a DC quick-charge port as standard equipment. Thus equipped, the Soul EV has the ability to obtain almost a complete charge from a fast-charger in under an hour. It's not an innovation in its own right, but many of the Soul EV's competitors charge extra for it.

How's the competition?

As it stands, the Soul EV faces competition chiefly from the Nissan Leaf, a purpose-built electric vehicle, and the Fiat 500e, also a retrofitted electric vehicle. The market for inexpensive and mid-priced electric is expected to heat up in the coming years, with the introduction of the Chevrolet Bolt and others.

Overall:

Instantly likeable with an electric personality.

Highs:

Quick off the line, interior won't frighten EV newbies, plenty of space.

Lows:

Funky color palette isn't for everyone, range is still under 100 miles, limited availability.

The ideal setup:

In Caribbean blue, like our tester, the Soul EV pops everywhere it goes. The Soul EV isn't for sale in every U.S. regional market, so check with your local dealer for availability.

By the numbers: 2015 Kia Soul EV

MSRP: $34,525 (includes $825 destination charge, before local rebates and incentives)

Power / drive wheels: 109-hp, 27-kWh lithium-ion battery pack / front-wheel drive

Transmission: Single-speed automatic transmission

EPA fuel economy (mpg equivalent): 120 city / 92 highway

In showrooms: Now, in some states

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