2015 Kia Soul EV + Verdict: The Sweet Spot

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Recently, I was driving the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell, an SUV you’d immediately recognize on the road by the words “Clean H2O Emissions” adhered to the side of its doors. As much as I enjoyed the new experience, I don’t miss traveling 15 miles to the nearest hydrogen fueling station. It has been a few months since we sent our (slightly) more modest-looking Kia Soul EV back to its hamster home, and commandeering the Tucson reminded me how much I missed the little box car that proved surprisingly capable as an everyday driver.

What will I miss? For one thing, I enjoyed the smooth drive afforded by its electric powertrain, which accelerates up to speed on the freeway reasonably quickly. We’ve noted that its electric architecture, which packages a flat battery beneath the floor, rides much more smoothly than the traditional gas-powered Soul. It’s also much quieter than the gas model; it generates only middling amounts of road and wind noise. Some of the EV’s biggest gems are inside the cabin: the responsive 8.0-inch touchscreen, user-friendly navigation system, and leather trimmed seats with ventilation up front and heating in front and back. I’ll especially miss the tech tidbits you can’t find on other cars, including a readout that displays how many kilowatts are currently being routed to the drivetrain, climate controls, and electronics systems and a button that directs the A/C only to the driver to conserve energy.

Interested in the non-EV Soul? We spent a year with a 164-hp 2014 Kia Soul; read the Verdict review right here.

2015-Kia-Soul-EV-plus-front-three-quarter-in-motion-07

2015-Kia-Soul-EV-plus-front-three-quarter-in-motion-07

Priced at $36,650, or potentially $26,650 for those able to take full advantage of tax credits, our Soul EV wasn’t cheap. So it’s important that the car doesn’t feel like an econobox. Throughout the year, I frequently wished the Soul EV had power seats, but other than that peccadillo, I didn’t want for more amenities.

Driving the Soul EV for a year uncovered an important finding. Many drivers, particularly those like me with a daily commute of around 55 miles, really can make it every day on electricity alone. A half-decade ago, we spent three months with a 2011 Nissan Leaf, rated at 73 miles per charge, and our staffers said they had to be more mindful of their charging frequency. An extra 20 miles seems to make the difference, and even those with long commutes said it’s easy to work with 93 miles of range. In fact, that EPA estimate may be quite conservative.

According to the data we gathered, our Soul EV’s projected total driving range, based on actual miles driven plus the onboard remaining range readout inside the car, averaged 104 miles, well above the EPA’s rating. The Soul EV’s range readout never dipped below 14 miles during our loan, and the farthest we went on a single charge was 96 miles. The average number of miles we traveled between full charges was much less: just 58.

2015-Kia-Soul-EV-plus-front-three-quarter-in-motion-17

2015-Kia-Soul-EV-plus-front-three-quarter-in-motion-17

Not only did our Soul EV exceed its range expectations, but it also proved surprisingly efficient in terms of miles traveled per kilowatt-hour. We averaged 3.79 miles/kW-hr over the course of the year, above the 3.13 miles/kW-hr rating estimated by the EPA. We were impressed once again by this 21 percent improvement over the EPA’s figure.

That’s not to say there weren’t drawbacks to the Soul EV. If I weren’t able to reliably charge at work, driving the Soul EV would have been a much greater challenge. As we’ve noted in past updates, Kia‘s UVO EV Services app was only of limited usefulness in helping you find a public charging station; it didn’t always accurately locate the charger in a big structure, nor did it always display current availability of the stations. Once you’ve found and plugged into the station, the app allowed you to check the status of charging and range of the vehicle, but it was slow to respond and couldn’t tell you if there’s a problem with charging. But I feel like I just painted too grim a picture; most of the time, the Soul EV’s standard DC fast charging really came in handy when we wanted to charge up in 30 minutes on the go.

At the end of 13 months, we racked up 10,099 miles on the odometer, not a terribly unreasonable number given the Soul EV is often a customer’s third or fourth car. Maintenance for the year cost $71.42 and consisted of an inspection, tire rotation, and cabin air filter change. The only other long-term EV we can directly compare it to is the Tesla Model S, which cost us $0 to maintain, although we had to plunk down $1,760 for new tires during the course of the year.

Our long-term 2014 Kia Soul, powered by gasoline, cost just $127.32 to maintain—impressive given that it had more than 23,000 miles on the odometer by the end of its stay. At a sticker price of $26,635, that model came in very close to the price of our long-term EV after tax credits. To compare the Soul EV with other subcompacts, our long-term Honda Fit cost $289.98 to maintain after three services, and our 2013 Kia Rio cost $215.55 after four service visits.

The Soul EV’s range may very well hit that sweet spot—that “just enough” mark—that has been eluding other electric vehicles for such a long time. But we likely won’t be proving that theorem again. Based on what we know about electric models coming to market over the next few years, any long-term EV we get in the future should achieve more than 100 miles.

More on the 2015 Kia Soul EV + here:

Our Car
SERVICE LIFE 13 mo / 10,099 mi
BASE PRICE $36,525
OPTIONS Carpeted floor mats ($125)
PRICE AS TESTED $36,650
AVG ECON/CO2 128 mpg-e / 0.17 lb/mi**
PROBLEM AREAS None
MAINTENANCE COST $71.42 (inspection, tire rotation, cabin air filter)
NORMAL-WEAR COST $0
3-YEAR RESIDUAL VALUE*** $12,828/$13,250/$15,400
RECALLS Steering gear assembly, accelerator pedal
**California average CO2 emitted to electricity ***ALG lease residual (at 36,000 miles)/IntelliChoice trade-in/retail (at 42,000 miles)
2015 Kia Soul Electric
POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS
DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT Front-motor, FWD
MOTOR TYPE AC synchronous, permanent magnet
BATTERY TYPE 27-kW-hr lithium-ion
POWER (SAE NET) 109 hp
TORQUE (SAE NET) 210 lb-ft
WEIGHT TO POWER 30.5 lb/hp
TRANSMISSION 1-speed automatic
AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIO 8.21:1/8.21:1
SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; torsion beam, coil springs
STEERING RATIO 15.7:1
TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK 2.9
BRAKES, F;R 11.8-in vented disc; 11.1-in disc, ABS
WHEELS 6.5 x 16-in, cast aluminum
TIRES 205/60R16 92H M+S Nexen N blue EV
DIMENSIONS
WHEELBASE 101.2 in
TRACK, F/R 62.0/62.4 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 163.0 x 70.9 x 63.0 in
TURNING CIRCLE 35.0 ft
CURB WEIGHT 3,328 lb
WEIGHT DIST., F/R 58/42%
SEATING CAPACITY 5
HEADROOM, F/R 39.6/39.5 in
LEGROOM, F/R 40.9/36.0 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/R 55.5/54.7 in
CARGO VOLUME BEH F/R 49.5/18.8 cu ft
TEST DATA
ACCELERATION TO MPH
0-30 2.9 sec
0-40 4.4
0-50 6.6
0-60 9.3
0-70 12.8
0-80 17.4
PASSING, 45-65 MPH 5.5
QUARTER MILE 17.1 sec @ 79.3 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 129 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.77 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.7 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)
CONSUMER INFO
STABILITY/TRACTION CONTROL Yes/yes
AIRBAGS Dual front, front side, f/r curtain
BASIC WARRANTY 5 yrs/60,000 miles
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY 10 yrs/100,000 miles
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE 5 yrs/60,000 miles
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON 120/92/105 mpg-e
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 28/37 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.36 lb/mi*
RECOMMENDED FUEL 220-volt electricity
*U.S. average CO2 emitted to electricity

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