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First Impressions KIA Soul EV

When I first saw the KIA Soul back in 2008, I did think to myself, ‘what on earth is this, and what are KIA thinking about’. I did think the design was a bit, or a lot too different, and just not modern enough, to put it bluntly, it looked awful, with no appeal whatsoever. But over the years, KIA has changed the exterior styling, and although it is basically the same design format, it has improved as the years have gone on, and has become more acceptable.

The latest version of the Soul does look so much nicer, with a much improved front end, softer lines and a very modern and sleek front end, with some very nice lights.

The Soul I drove recently near Henley-on-Thames was the EV version, or to be more precise the ‘First Edition’ which costs £33,795.

This car is fully loaded with lots of goodies, including: leather upholstery, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, lovely and a must have here in Huddersfield. 17” alloy wheels, trip computer, satellite navigation, reversing camera, though I’m not a fan of these, Bluetooth, I am a fan of this, automatic headlight control, and so the list goes on.

The EV on the Soul means Electric Vehicle, and that is exactly what it is. It is fully electric with no petrol or diesel assistance. There are positives and negatives with an Electric vehicle, with no puns intended. The positives are the simple fact that there are no tailpipe emissions, so helping the air we breath, and allegedly the planet, but we really don’t know how much pollution is created in the making of electricity to power the thing, I am reliably informed that pollution from power stations is getting less and less as time goes on and these plants get cleaner.

The negatives are that Electric Vehicles from all manufacturers are relatively more expensive than the petrol or diesel powered equivalent, even after any Government Grants are deducted. The range can also be an issue as many only have a range of around 200miles on a full charge. The Soul, it is claimed, can go up to 280 miles, so going around your local area this could last many days. But go further than that and you would need to stop, and find somewhere to recharge and spend some time, and money buying tea or coffee or soft drinks waiting for it to get more miles in the battery.

With my experience of charging electric cars, it normally takes longer to charge than the advertised time. At home I have a charging box in the garage and although it has a 3-pin plug, it does take a while to get a car fully charged, even an overnight charge generally is not enough. Add to that the fact I need to leave the garage door open, as it will not close with the cable going on the floor, so security overnight is an issue for me.

KIA has mastered the EV system and is probably now one of the best in the industry for getting maximum range, for minimum cost. The 280 mile range is class leading, with few other electric cars being able to offer anything like this range. But the 280 miles is not guaranteed, it will use much more electric at higher speeds on motorways, it will use more with the air conditioning on at full power, and lights being on will affect range.

Now the technical bit, the Soul EV has a 64Kw Electric Motor, with an equivalent power output of 201 bhp. It goes from 0-100km in a very quick 7.6 seconds. The battery pack is Lithium-ion polymer, and it has a top speed of 167kph, try doing that anywhere in the UK, or anywhere in fact…not a chance. The charging times, according to Kia UK are: 3-pin household plug AC 230v 31 hours, AC 7.2kW 9hrs 35 mins, DC charge 50kW 1hr 15 mins and using a quick charger which are few and far between, 54 mins. I personally don’t understand the AC/DC and kW technology, so won’t try and explain it, I’ve just copied it from their Press Pack, so I assume they know what they are talking about!

To drive the Soul is so easy, you just press the start button, there is no sound, then press the button to go forwards or backwards, and off you go, so silently. The advantage of an electric car is if you are leaving home early in the morning, you do not wake anyone up, but an even bigger advantage is if you are home late at night, you can creep up your road, on your drive in complete silence, and no nosy neighbours hear you come and go, no curtains twitching. But with it being so quiet, you do need to be more aware of other road users particular pedestrians and cyclists.

Once out on the road the Soul EV is so easy to drive, you just press the accelerator pedal and off it goes, all you have to do is steer it. It is incredibly quick too, it’s off like a rocket, no messing, and unlike a petrol or diesel there is no lag in the acceleration, no waiting for the engine to burst into life, from pressing the pedal to it going quickly is immediate, with more than enough power.

Around town it is a dream to drive, so easy and all the controls are in the right place and so intuitive. The sat nav is easy to use and very accurate. We drove the Soul on quite a cold day, so put the heater on as soon as we got in the car, and within literally seconds it was toasty warm, the car was warm immediately.

The Electric car revolution is apparently coming, and around town it is the perfect place to use one, providing you can charge it up, and you don’t want to go far, and have plenty of money to buy one. You have to wonder if a small cheap petrol or diesel runabout will do the same job as an expensive EV.

The advantage of an EV is there are few, if any running costs apart from buying electricity. As there are no components to fail, the brakes are hardly used as braking is done by the electric system, and the car automatically slows down when you take your foot off the accelerator. It is a very clever system and KIA have got it absolutely right.

The Soul still looks a bit odd and not to everyone’s taste, so that goes against it a bit. But others love it, like its quirky design and just how practical and flexible it is.

I really enjoyed the time spent in it ‘down-south’ and did everything it was supposed to. But would I buy an electric car, any electric car, probably not at the moment, but in time, I may change my mind

Martin Ward

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