It’s official – in the words of ’60s R ‘n’ B duo Sam and Dave, I’m a Soul man.
A Kia Soul man, that is, after driving the decidedly impressive new electric version of the funk-laden four-door which became available to buy….. just as we were told not to make any journey not regarded as ‘essential’.
But now that we’re allowed to roam free by car in search of places in which to ‘exercise’, perhaps its time to take a closer look at the oddball, ‘sub-compact’ Soul crossover that first arrived in petrol and diesel-powered form back in 2009, immediately dividing opinion because of its boxy looks penned by Mike Torpey of Kia’s California design studio – who is said to have been inspired ‘by the strong and purposeful appearance of a wild boar’.
An electric Soul based on the second generation model was unveiled in 2014 but, like most EVs of the era, it could only be driven for around 130 miles before needing a re-charge – a distance that made it an impractical proposition for those considering it as an only car.
But ‘range anxiety’ should now be allayed with the launch of the all-new electric Soul that offers a class-leading reach of 280 miles of mixed driving and more than 400 miles when used at slower speeds in town.
For many, that extra stamina could be just the game-changer that will convince them to convert from ICE-power (that’s ‘internal combustion engine’) to eco-friendly electric motoring.
And, as well as being able to go further for longer, the new Soul EV is also an impressive 84 per cent more powerful than the old one, thanks to a 64 kWh battery pack that drives a 150kw electric motor to produce the equivalent of a sports car-like 201 brake horsepower – as much, for example, as a classic Porsche 911.
This third generation Soul doesn’t seem quite so radical in appearance as the original, but it remains an undeniably quirky-looking vehicle, especially when finished in some of the brighter, two-tone paint jobs available as standard.
I have always liked the design, both for its unusual style and the load-lugging practicality of the high roof, hatchback format – something that is enhanced on the new EV by dint of the fact that it has been designed as an electric car from the ground up.
That means the lithium-ion battery pack – which is made-up of hundreds of individual cells – is arranged as a floor-level platform beneath the seats and between the axles in order to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible, while the electric motor sits up front and drives the front wheels.
And its in the driving department where the Soul really scores. Forget any thoughts of smaller electric cars lacking performance – this thing is a complete hoot, especially when ‘Sport’ is selected from the four available modes (the others being normal, eco and eco +) and is capable of shaming many a petrol-engined sportster from a standing start.
Despite looking somewhat like a delivery vehicle, the Soul EV can scorch from a standstill to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds and carry on to 104 mph. It also features variable regenerative braking which is controlled by a pair of steering wheel mounted paddles and enables the driver to increase or decrease the level of resistance provided by the electric motor when decelerating – a feature that, after a certain amount of learning, becomes second nature to use and can often completely eliminate the need for conventional foot pedal braking.
Using the system returns a small amount of charge to the battery, the state of which can be constantly monitored using the ‘Smart Eco Pedal Guide’ display found on the digital dashboard, while a 10.25-inch colour touchscreen combines the usual sat nav, radio and phone systems with Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto compatibility.
The electric Soul will be the only version of the car available in Europe, and those delivered to the UK will all feature the same, high-end trim level that includes everything from LED lights to leather upholstery, adaptive cruise control, reversing camera, wireless phone charging and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
Of more interest to most would-be converts to electric motoring, however, is how long the car takes to re-charge and what arrangements are required to be able to do it.
The answer is that it will take a lengthy 31 hours to fully replenish the batteries from a conventional, three-pin socket – but a mere nine hours and 35 minutes using a £300, Kia-supplied 7.2 kw wallbox home charger.
Using a 100kw DC charger of the type typically available in streets and at service stations, the batteries will be restored to 80 per cent capacity in 54 minutes, or one hour and 15 minutes if using a 50 kw charger.
Charging the car overnight with a home wallbox will cost around £9 on a standard electricity tariff – or, for those smart enough to be generating their own electricity through solar panels, precisely nothing.
Add to that no congestion charge, no road tax, minimal maintenance (there’s far less to wear-out in an electrically-powered car than one with a combustion engine) and, of course, that decent battery range, and the Soul EV really seems to represent the way forward in small to mid-size eco motoring.
The only drawback, perhaps, is the cost of buying it. A new Soul EV will cost you £33,795 on the road, double the cost of the outgoing petrol version. And the likelihood is that Kia will struggle to keep up with demand, meaning prices won’t fall until electric cars become more mainstream.
Assuming, that is, that the world eventually returns to normal…..