Chicago Auto Show: 2015 Kia Soul EV

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Kia-Soul-EV-front-300What is it?

The 2015 Kia Soul EV is an electrified version of the all-new 2014 Soul, arguably the nicest, best-equipped five-door hatchback this side of a Ford Focus. It promises all the usual statistics we’ve heard from new electric cars: silent, emissions-free driving for 80 to 100 miles, a five-hour charging time from dead to full on a 240-volt connection and ample torque due to the “instant-on” characteristics of electric motors.

Why should you care?

If you drive less than 80 miles a day – which is pretty much everyone in the U.S. – an electric car starts to make sense as a clean, cheap-to-run commuter. The Soul EV has an air-cooled lithium-ion polymer battery like the one used on the Optima Hybrid, only at 27 kWh, it’s much larger. There’s a CHAdeMo quick-charge port that promises an 80-percent charge in a half-hour. If you’re into organic bio-based plastic, the Soul EV has 10.9 pounds of it scattered throughout the interior along with an organic LED screen on the instrument panel that’s supposed to deliver better contrast than a regular LCD screen found on most new cars. Three colors are available with contrasting roof paint, as seen on the Mini Cooper and the new Fiat 500L. The rest of the car has a high-quality feel with ample room and more sound-deadening materials than the standard Soul.


What’s not to like?

Like similar electric cars that Fiat, Honda, Toyota and Chevrolet released last year, the Soul EV will only be sold in a few states in very few numbers. Acceleration is weak (Kia estimates 60 mph in under 12 seconds) and the battery performance in hot and cold weather will likely suffer dramatically. The Soul EV loses lots of precious cargo space and rear legroom due to the battery’s placement under the floor. With more public charging stations in parking garages, workplaces and other areas, driving an electric car is less worrisome than even a few years ago. But if you don’t have a dedicated charging station in your home or live close to one, the Soul EV is a dead deal.

When is it on sale?

Expect the Soul EV to come later this year, but only in California, Oregon, New Jersey, New York and Maryland. Kia may add more states later. Kia hasn’t announced a price, but given how several electric cars are now priced under $30,000 before any incentives, we’ve no doubt Kia will be aggressive even if it doesn’t make a cent on this car. The $7,500 federal tax credit and various state tax credits will make it more appealing.


Photos by Clifford Atiyeh/BestRide


Clifford Atiyeh

Clifford Atiyeh

Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own. Based in Connecticut, he writes for BestRide, Car and Driver, The Boston Globe and other publications.