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Kia Soul EV first drive review: An electric tallboy done right.
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Kia Soul EV first drive review: An electric tallboy done right.

Sirish Chandran

Kia Soul EV first drive review: An electric tallboy done right.

With the entire buzz around electric cars and close on the heels of the Hyundai Kona EV and Jaguar I-Pace, Kia is planning to launch the Soul EV in India.

Electric cars are coming to India. Jaguar has confirmed the World Car of the Year, the I-Pace will be launched next year. Before that Hyundai will establish a first-mover advantage with the Kona EV. And Kia is planning on keeping step with its big brother, the Soul EV. A Soul EV was recently donated to the Andhra Pradesh government during the start of production at Kia’s green-field India factory at Anantapur. And if the government keeps pushing the EV agenda that could speed up Kia’s plans for the Soul EV.

Kia Soul EV is a tall boy, done right

I personally do not like tall boy cars. They look awkward, their proportions lead to dreadful dynamics and what really is the point of all that headroom? Have you ever seen anybody drive while standing up?

Except I find myself being quite smitten by the Kia Soul. If you had to do a tall boy you might as well make it funky; make it turn heads for reasons other than inducing a barf. The Soul does that. It looks like fun. The early Soul was quite divisive in its styling but this third generation car smooths off the edges; it is longer, wider, sleeker and the slim LED lights and wraparound rear taillamp look properly futuristic. Just as it should be for an electric car.

That’s always been my grouse with EVs, if you are going to drive the future of automotive propulsion the car should look like it has come from the future. The Soul EV ticks off that box. It also looks expensive with satin chrome detailing and big 17-inch wheels. And with government subsidies for EVs not linked to the length of the car or motor size, its 4195mm length isn’t going to create a hurdle on the pricing front. The big pricing headache will be the fact that, if it at all comes, it will be as a CBU import. And that will mean north of Rs 20 lakh.

“It looks like fun. The early Soul was quite divisive in its styling but this third generation car smooths off the edges; it is longer, wider, sleeker and the slim LED lights and wraparound rear taillamp look properly futuristic. Just as it should be for an electric car”

On the inside things are more conventional though there’s no skimping on tech. You get a 7-inch infotainment screen, wireless charging, head-up display, smartphone connectivity and a surprisingly good Harman Kardon system that pulses the mood lighting to the party beats you’re playing. ‘The emotional visualisation of sound’ as Kia calls it, and we will be seeing quite a lot of that in the days to come. In Korea where we drove it, the Soul also gets their local version of Google Maps that works much, much better with full-res street view and even pulsing the screen red to warn you of speed cameras. It even calculates and warns you if you’ve exceeded the average speed. And the Soul also gets Kia’s UVO app for climate control and charging time.

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No oily bits under the hood of Soul EV

Under the hood of the Soul EV we drove in Korea (there are also conventional IC engines) is a 64kWh battery that delivers a claimed real-world range of 450km. This is good enough for a city car. Our test route over a full day took in the traffic of Seoul, some lovely mountain roads, and a leisurely lunch, and we returned with more than a quarter of the juice left in the batteries. Range anxiety? With 450km of range, I don’t think that’s an issue anymore, and on a standard home charger, it takes 9 hours to get fully charged. Find a rapid charger, of which there are two in Delhi I am told, and you will get 80 percent of charge in 75 minutes. And the Soul EV’s socket, conveniently located on its nose, allows you to spec either AC or DC fast charging, in addition, the home charger.

“With 450km of range, I don’t think that’s an issue anymore, and on a standard home charger, it takes 9 hours to get fully charged. Find a rapid charger, of which there are two in Delhi I am told, and you will get 80 percent of charge in 75 minutes”

Driving the Soul EV

Converted into figures that we understand the batteries pump out 201bhp and 395Nm of torque and when you step on it you do get a surprisingly solid kick in your backside as it gets to 100kmph in 7.9 seconds. In fact the 0-60kmph acceleration is even quicker, way quicker than you’d expect of a tall boy, and you’d (very) easily keep ahead of all traffic in the city. It’s a very quick tool to zip around the city.

” The batteries pump out 201bhp and 395Nm of torque and when you step on it you do get a surprisingly solid kick in your backside as it gets to 100kmph in 7.9 seconds”

Now, why would an EV need paddles behind the steering wheel? I scratched my head for the first 100km before figuring out that tapping the paddles alters the extent of brake energy regeneration. Increase regen and you can do one-pedal driving on the Soul EV, the regen is so aggressive when you lift off the accelerator it decelerates quite strongly so unless you want to come to a complete stop you never need to touch the brake pedal. But if you find that irritating you can reduce or completely do away with regeneration by tapping the right paddle, but then don’t expect to go 450km on a full charge.

On the highway, it doesn’t feel very at home. Crosswinds knock it around, road and wind noise seep into the cabin and the steering is way too light adding to its total lack of feel. We belted it round some twists and the Nexen low-rolling-resistance tyres squealed like crazy, understeered enthusiastically and then in any case this steering doesn’t tell you anything of what’s happening at the tyres.

Electric cars also are rather one-dimensional and once you get used to the instantaneous response and terrific low-down acceleration its bag of tricks are over. It will neither thrill nor engage the driver on a long drive and you will never take an EV for a drive just because you want to go for a drive and blow away the cobwebs.

Will the Soul EV come to India?

With all the mania around electrics, it is not inconceivable that Kia will bring in a small number of these Soul EVs to establish its tech credentials in India. Big brother Hyundai is laying the ground work for the Kona EV launch in a few months and as a tool to establish Kia’s core selling proposition of cool funky design, the Soul EV is bang on the money. This is obviously and evidently a city car and on that front I find myself being totally smitten by it. It looks marvelously odd-ball, is fantastically nippy, there are no explosions going on under the bonnet to intrude on the lovely refinement, it is ridiculously easy to drive, and there is a tonne of room not just above your head but where you actually need it — ahead of your knees and beside your elbows. The Soul EV is a tall boy, done right.

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