Engine356V AC Motor
Power201 HP / 295 LB-FT
TransmissionOne-Speed Fixed Ratio
0-60 Time7.2 Seconds
Curb WeightUp to 3,708 LBS
Cargo11.1 Cu. Ft.
Base Price$36,000 (est.)
The new 2020 Kia Soul EV scraps the previous 30-kWh battery for a new, more energy-dense 64-kWh unit, shared with the Hyundai Kona Electric. The battery pack feeds a motor that now makes 201 horsepower – also shared with the Kona Electric, and producing the same horsepower figure as the Soul Turbo. It spins out 291 pound-feet of torque, which is immediately available underfoot. That's enough to chirp the front tires, and it instantly squirts the Soul ahead in the urban cut-and-thrust. It's also plenty powerful enough for high-energy merging onto the freeway. Kia estimates a 0-to-60-mph time of 7.2 seconds.
The battery is replenished via standard Combined Charging System (CCS) DC fast charging capability, with the port now behind a flap in the front grille insert. The CCS can handle up to a 100-volt feed at a public charger – should you find one, it can top up the battery (from 20 to 80 percent) in as little as 42 minutes. With a more common 240-volt source, a depleted battery can be replenished in five to six hours – rather than 63 (!) plugging into a standard 120-volt outlet. Owners definitely will want to install a charger at home, and Kia has partnered with Amazon to sell three Kia-recommended 240-volt chargers: A 40-amp Bosch from $764, a 40-amp JuiceBox from $549, and a 32-amp ChargePoint at $699, although others brands and models can be used.
Buyers in northern climes will want to check out the Cold Weather Package, which supplements the standard heated seats with a heated steering wheel, upgrades the climate control to a more efficient heat pump, and also adds the capability to heat the battery (when the car is plugged in) for better range in cold conditions.
How energetically the car responds to a prod of the accelerator depends on which of the four drive modes you're in: Sport, Normal, Eco, or Eco+. Sport unsurprisingly was our favorite in a half-day drive in and around Seoul. Some drivers might find it too snappy, and of course it also drains electrons the fastest. In Normal mode the car is still spry, while in Eco and Eco+ one really needs to leg the go-pedal. Note that those two more abstemious settings also affect the climate control, switching it to a driver-only setting in Eco and shutting it off entirely in Eco+.
Out on the road the powertrain is drowned out by tire noise, although a spacey electronic whine can be heard at low speeds or more noticeably when outside the car. The degree of regenerative braking in response to lifting one's right foot can be adjusted via the shift paddles, which toggle through four levels. The highest of which still falls short of one-pedal driving. A continuous pull on the "minus" paddle, however, does bring the car to a stop. Unlike the standard Soul, in the EV a knob handles the shifting duties.
Outside of its electric powertrain, the Soul provides a lot to like. As it has been since the beginning, the Soul makes the most of its boxy shape. The 2020 version is 2.2 inches longer and sits astride a 1.2-inch longer wheelbase, but width and height are the same. Packaging is exceptional with a hugely roomy rear seat (ride-share drivers take note) along with a decent cargo hold. Outward visibility is great with plenty of glass area and narrow front pillars.
The funky style extends to the interior, which has unusually textured trim on the door panels and large gloss-black elements on the center dash and console. And that's not to mention multi-color interior lighting that, with the optional Sound Mood Lighting system, can pulse to the beat pumping out of the sound system for that rolling-nightclub vibe (a feature that dates back to the original Soul). All this serves to distract one from the fact that much of the interior is grained hard plastic, including the sides of the console against which the driver's right leg rests. Still, this is an agreeable environment, with easily-to-use switchgear and plenty of stowage. The standard 10.25-inch touchscreen can display up to three functions at a time, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. The instrument cluster is also a TFT screen, and a head-up display is available.
The Soul has always been more hipster than jock, and yet this well-tuned chassis doesn't embarrass itself when the road turns twisty – and was even kind of fun when we took a hot lap around Hyundai's handling track. The steering also is slightly quicker than before, although it's still fairly light and numb. The new Soul EV has upped its game by switching from a rear beam axle to a more sophisticated multi-link setup, a change exclusive to the EV and one that helps it capably absorbs bumps better than many small crossovers.
The Soul EV is also better equipped than most, with LED headlamps, 17-inch alloys, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, a driver attention monitor, and a commendably hi-res rear camera that also can show an overhead view. Blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and an audible rear parking aid are available. The uplevel Designer Collection model sports a two-tone paint treatment, gloss-black power folding mirrors, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, man-made premium upholstery, a Qi wireless phone charger, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
With this redesign, the Soul EV moves from offbeat oddity to a top choice among entry-level electrics. It's roomier and more polished than the Chevrolet Bolt and it beats the Nissan Leaf's range. Its biggest competitors are within the Hyundai-Kia family that share the same electric powertrain: the Niro EV (EPA rated at 239 miles) and the Hyundai Kona EV (the range champ at 259 miles). Within the Kia showroom, the choice will come down to whether one prefers the Niro's more traditional crossover shape and cargo area, or the Soul's more expressive styling inside and out, including seven two-tone colors. We're told the Soul EV also will be a grand or two less expensive, although official pricing for either model isn't yet out.
For those impatient to start driving green, the Soul EV won't arrive until summer or perhaps this fall, while the Niro EV should be in showrooms this spring. For either car, however, those showrooms are only the ones located in the 13 states that follow California emissions standards. When it finally arrives, we think green-car shoppers will find the newest version of the electric Soul to be one EV that's EZ to like.