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All-electric Kia Soul is happy on urban streets.

Kia introduced its all-electric version of the popular gasoline-powered Kia Soul small station wagon last year and it remains unchanged for 2015. It’s great for short drives around town but anxiety builds on Interstate trips as range varies depending on outside temperature and speed. Getting recharged takes five to 24 hours using normal electrical outlets (80 percent charge in 33 minutes from a super charger station, and Soul’s dashboard screen displays the nearest one).

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Kia’s Soul EV offers a comfortable, decent ride but it comes at a substantial price. The car will go 93 miles on a four-hour battery charge. Kia Motors America photo

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Electric vehicles (more than 20 are marketed today, many less expensive than the Kia Soul) help automotive manufacturers meet federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards and reduce carbon consumption, but they still struggle in sales volume.

The Kia Soul EV, our all-electric test-drive, costs at least $15,000 more than its gasoline twin but gets a maximum $7,500 federal government tax credit. Kia has won awards for using bio-organic contents to build the car. It may be the “greenest” electric car. Around town, the funky looking Soul EV shows its chops. Acceleration is silky smooth, no coughs or engine hiccups.

There are four drive mode combinations, and “brake” setting slows the car automatically when the foot leaves the gas pedal and helps battery regeneration. Kia engineers manipulated the HVAC–a strong battery drain in electric cars–to minimize the power need.

The car rides on 16-inch wheels with low-resistance tires to increase mileage. This and the lithium ion polymer batteries under the floorboards keep the bulk of the Soul’s weight close to the ground. It stays upright in curves for surprisingly good handling.

Drivers and passengers experience cathedral-like quiet until traveling less than 12 mph when the Soul EV emits a beep to alert pedestrians of the nearby car.

Outside, the Soul EV has a two-tone color scheme with a white roof. The profile looks like a toaster with a snout. Rear brake lights are vertical and large–a nice safety feature.

Drivers will enjoy Soul’s interior design that features curved corners, soft-touch materials, shiny upscale plastic, ambient LED lighting, superb visibility, and an eight-inch dashboard screen.

All occupants have ample seating room, and fold down rear seats expand cargo space nicely. There is a storage tray under the rear floorboard for the charger and cord. Tire sealant helps preserve space for the battery pack. UVO EV, Kia’s upgraded “infotainment” system, includes navigation, rear camera, cruise control, battery power, app access, and free satellite radio for five years.

Likes: Handling, ride, looks, green, interior space
Dislikes: Price, charge time
Bottom Line: Competition is stiff in compact “all-green” vehicle market

Tom Crosby is a contributor from Charlotte, N.C.

May/June 2015 Issue


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