You may have watched or read rave reviews of the Kia Niro EV over the last three years, praising the South Korean automaker’s second global EV for its performance, practicality and driving dynamics. However, the Niro just doesn’t look that exciting and those who did buy one, most likely did so for practical reasons, not because it made them feel anything.
But there is a vehicle with the same underpinnings and a much more fun, playful character, the Soul EV, which Kia decided against selling it in the US at the last moment, concentrating on the much flashier (and more expensive) EV6. The manufacturer did initially intend on offering the electric Soul in the States, but it ended up only selling the ICE variant.
And after driving the Soul EV (known as the e-Soul in Europe where I tested it), after previously having driven both the Niro EV (e-Niro in Europe) and the EV6, I can certainly say it has its own thing going and it is a worthy vehicle. In fact, its more engaging driving dynamics and generally more playful character would make me overlook some of its practicality compromises and if I was in the market for an EV right now, the Soul EV would definitely make the shortlist.
The powertrain is the same we’ve sampled in the Niro EV, a single front-mounted electric motor that produces 201 horsepower and 291 pound-feet (395 Nm) of torque. Power is sent only to the front wheels, and the Soul EV sprints to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds; top speed is the same 103.7 mph (167 km/h).
Its impressive torque figure and relatively low weight (under 1.7 tons or 3,700 pounds) actually make it feel quicker than that, and the vehicle accelerates really cleanly until it stops at the limited top speed. It is at higher speeds that you start to notice a lot of wind noise around the greenhouse - at top speed you even have to raise your voice to talk to passengers in the car.
Drop the speed a bit, though, and the noise mostly goes away, leaving you to enjoy the excellent road manners, remarkably good handling and the aforementioned acceleration. The seats are also quite comfortable and the driver has a lot of adjustments to make - the steering wheel’s range of motion is remarkable, well above average, allowing you to get that perfect driving position.
In the rear, you will immediately notice that knee room is not the best - you really notice the smaller dimensions compared to the Niro when you sit in the back. As a six-footer, though, my knees didn’t brush up against the back of the front seat, and I appreciated the fact that you can still slide your feet under the front seat too. Two passengers my size could travel fairly comfortably in the back, even on longer journeys.
And speaking of longer journeys, the Soul EV actually delivers in this respect. While there is a base version with 136 horsepower and a 39.2 kWh battery pack, the one you really want is the more powerful variant with the bigger pack, like my tester. In Europe, it has a claimed WLTP range of 281.9 miles (452 km), and with a full charge in winter with temperatures just above freezing, it indicated up to 237 miles (382 km).
Kia and Hyundai vehicles are known to provide really accurate range estimations, so while I did not do a range test in this vehicle, I am confident I could have driven the vehicle until it said I could do no more miles - in the summer, it should be able to do 250 miles (over 400 km) with some careful, thoughtful eco driving.
When it comes to charging the Soul EV lags behind the best vehicles in its class, only being able to charge at a maximum 77 kW, enough to top up its battery from 10 to 80 percent in around 44 minutes. Its on-board 7.2 kWh charger can be upgraded to 10 kWh at extra cost, but my tester didn’t have it.
Gallery: Kia Soul EV (e-Soul) Review
Now in regard to the Soul EV not making it to the United States, in spite of the fact that it was initially scheduled to go on sale in the country, this is probably the result of multiple factors. The pandemic, chip shortage and other industry constraints of the last few years have certainly took their toll, although the biggest reason has to be the existence of the more advanced EV6, one of the greatest EVs on the market right now.
The Soul EV is not one of the greatest EVs you can buy right now, but it probably was almost three years ago when it debuted. And even though anybody who gets in to drive one loves it, the electric Soul didn’t turn out to be a sales success in Europe either, and this was another reason why it was not brought to the States.
Make sure to watch our detailed video review of the Euro-spec e-Soul in the video at the start of this article.