You may have heard the term “Range Anxiety” when it comes to Electric Vehicles. (EV to you and me). It describes the nervousness you have over not having enough range to get where you’re going. With a gas car, it’s a stop at the local sip ‘n go. But with an EV, if you can find a place to plug in, it’s still between 45 minutes to a couple hours to get a meaningful charge. But now we have a new term.
This is different. For many of us enthusiasts, we look at the EV as the death knell of the gas-powered machines we love. Fully autonomous, electric vehicles – even without a steering wheel – look to be our ultimate future. And while that may be decades away, that can be enough to make many of us give the stink-eye to any EV that glides by us.
For that reason, while we’ve tested hybrids and even plug-in hybrids, we were hesitant to drive full-on EV’s. That, and the lack of free charge stations nearby. But now, after spending a week driving the Soul EV, we can report that it’s very cool, and surprisingly fun to drive.
The Soul’s looks have always put a smile on our face. Slightly boxy – once all the rage, now more of a traditional look – friendly proportions, it still feels young and hip, without being a caricature of trying too hard to be…well, young and hip.
The EV has a few cues to make it stand out from its Soul brethren, including blue-accented projector beam headlamps and LED rear combination lamps. The biggest clue is the grille-free front end, where the charging ports take up the unused space. On the side are unique 16-inch alloys wrapped in Super Low Rolling Resistant tires, and a couple of tasteful ECO-ELECTRIC badges. Our tester looked especially futuristic, decked out in Clear White. Cool.
Inside, the car-of-the-future vibe is even more evident. Much of the plastic trim goes to a “Look I’m at the Apple Store” white, including the info-tainment/climate control center stack, shift gate and door trim. Combined with a soft gray, including leather seats with eco-blue piping and stitching and satin chrome trim, it feels upscale and expensive.
The seats themselves are very comfortable – the Soul has always had good packaging, and the boxy dimensions mean adults in back ride in comfort as well. Another big plus, even though it’s carrying a big battery pack, there’s no loss in cargo volume – with the rear seats down, you still get an impressive 49.5 cubic feet of cargo space.
Our tester being the upscale EV+ was loaded with goodies, from a Supervision Meter Cluster w/ 3.5” OLED color display, to pushbutton start, auto climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, to heated rear seats and soft touch trim.
We also enjoyed the optional Sun ‘n Fun package, which includes a massive panorama sunroof, LED overhead lights, and speaker surround lights that can be set to change colors with your music. Fun indeed!
The Info-tainment builds on Kia’s excellent UVO system, with a grouping of features aimed at the EV driver. You get navigation that figures in your range, constantly monitors the nearest charging stations, as well as keeping you up to date on your range and usage. Being new to EV driving we found all this stuff fascinating, and it also alleviates any range fear. Everything is friendly and fun.
The most pleasant surprise is the Soul EV’s drive. It’s fun. The electric motor at 109 hp doesn’t sound like it could pull paint off a fence, but 100% instant torque (210 lb. ft.!) gives a big push off the line, and the powertrain is smoooooooth. You just glide easy and effortlessly around town. It doesn’t goad you like the Soul!’s turbo motor and direct-sequential gearbox that had us grinning like idiots, but that’s not the EV’s mission in life.
It’s more an ambassador of the EV lifestyle. Along with feeling smug about not polluting, you adopt a more relaxed, calm attitude. The quiet little Soul zips along, and surrounded with all the goodies mentioned above and the cool white trim, you feel like you’re driving the car of the future. And it’s a bright and sunny one, at that.
With the battery pack low in the chassis, the handling is good, too. The steering is smooth and light, and the ride is excellent. Around town, it’s a happy little camper.
Where the EV is challenged is at freeway speeds – no problem getting there, but once you’re above 65 or so, you notice you’re sucking down juice at a much higher rate – aerodynamics and weight take their toll on any vehicle, and an EV is no exception. So, then you play the game of how far am I going, and how much juice much I save?
You can save some by putting the shift lever into B, and you get heavy regenerative braking throwing charge back into the battery pack. You can pretty much drive like BMW and Nissan’s one-pedal system – ease off the gas (uhhhh accelerator?) and you slow down in a hurry. You only need to hit the brakes when coming to a stop. Kinda fun.
Speaking of range, for 2018, the EV got a significant bump from 91 miles to 115. Of course, how you drive and where you drive will affect range. Still for most folks, most of the time, it’s plenty of go to get you where you’re going. EV charging is simple, and with many places offering free EV charging, the savings on gas could be significant. Plus, in states like Cali, you get those Car Pool lane stickers, so you can zip by others stuck in traffic.
Cheap, Cheap, Cheap
Surprised? Let us explain. You can get into a Soul EV for $33,950, while our decked-out, EV + starts at $35,950. Add in the Sun & Fun Package, ($1,100), Cargo Tray ($80), and cushy carpeted Floor mats ($135), plus Destination ($895), and the total is $38,160. Note – the most basic Soul gas model starts at $16,490.
While all this technology doesn’t come cheap, there are some huge incentives. To meet with pollution requirements, manufacturers have to move the metal, and government is pitching in to help.
There’s a Federal rebate of up to $7,500 on EVs, and states kick in too. Here in California there’s an additional $2,500 that gets sent directly to you. Applies to purchase or lease. We have a friend leasing an EV now, and with the rebates he’s paying what you’d expect to pay for a nicely-equipped but much less expensive compact. Very cool.
And we’d strongly recommend leasing – all battery packs in EV’s lose range after a while, plus the technology is constantly improving. Like your smartphone, after a couple years, you’ll probably want the latest tech.
We came away so impressed with the Soul EV. It’s cool-looking, extremely well-equipped, fun-to-drive, and has a unique vibe that brings a smile to your face. And for the die-hard enthusiasts like us – we could easily drive a Soul EV daily, and then enjoy a big-engine muscle car on the weekends, and find a nice balance between social and slightly anti-social behavior.
Plug us in! The Soul EV is showing us a bright, fun, future.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.