Tom Crosby: Electric-only KIA Soul happy on streets

Tom Crosby

Tom Crosby

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). Electric vehicles (20 plus are marketed today, many less expensive than the Kia Soul) help automotive manufacturers meet federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) 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 and 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. Riding on 16-inch wheels with low-resistance tires to increase mileage and with the lithium ion polymer batteries under the floorboards, keeping the bulk of the Soul’s weight close to the ground, it stays upright in curves for surprisingly good handling. Cathedral-like quiet until traveling less than 12 mph and then the Soul EV emits a beep to alert pedestrians and blind people of the nearby car.

Outside, the EV has a two-tone color scheme with a white roof and 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 — curved corners anywhere, soft-touch materials and shiny upscale plastic, ambient LED lighting, superb visibility and an 8-inch dashboard screen.

There are four drive mode combinations and “brake” setting slows the car automatically when your 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, such as choosing “driver only” vents.

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

Base price w/destination fee $36,500 ($36,625 as tested)
Vehicle curb weight 3,289 lbs
Wheelbase 101.2 inches
Length 163 inches
Width 70.9 inches
Engine specs AC synchronous permanent magnet
electric motor w/Lithium Ion Polymer battery
Horsepower 109 hp
Torque 210 ft.-lbs.
Transmission 1-speed gear reduction
EPA Rating 120 miles city and 92 miles highway
Range 93 miles with four-hour charge
Performance 0 to 60 in 11.3 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.

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