2015 Kia Soul EV First Drive

Kia's first EV is a serious contender.

What It Is
An all-electric compact hatch with an affordable price tag.
Best Thing
Better driving range than other EVs.
Worst Thing
The drive experience feels the best in the city; small seats.
Snap Judgment
The Soul EV should be a top consideration for those looking for an all-electric car.

By the end of the year, there will be a dozen options on the market for drivers who want to travel on pure electricity. Still, range anxiety remains a primary deterrent for buyers who would otherwise opt for a gas-free vehicle.

In terms of total miles you can travel on a single charge, the Kia Soul EV is the next best thing after the Tesla Model S. Its range is 93 miles combined in city and highway driving, putting it ahead of the Ford Focus Electric, Chevy Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Nissan Leaf, and the rest of the mainstream EV market. For many buyers, this will be the Soul EV's main selling point. But how does the car manage to compete in other areas will determine its staying power in the long term. We test drove the Soul EV around Orange County, California to get a better idea.


The Soul EV captures the same whimsical charm as the regular Soul, complete with creative paint colors, a fun interior, and the classic econobox shape. But the EV gets a few exclusive touches that bring the fun-meter up to an even greater level.

2015 Kia Soul EV Front Three Quarter View 31

An exclusive two-tone paint theme is available on the EV. Buyers can choose from Caribbean Blue with a white roof or Shadow Black with an Inferno Red roof. The model is also available in Titanium Gray and Clear White.

The EV has a larger, body-colored grille that not only distinguishes it from the regular Soul but provides a port for recharging. The model also receives unique projector headlights, LED positioning lamps and tail lights, Eco Electric badging, and 16-in alloys paired with tires that resist rolling and help boost range.

2015 Kia Soul EV Rear Seat

Sitting Down

Circular shapes and bright plastics, reminiscent of what we see in the Fiat 500, comprise the main theme of the interior. The circular seats are small yet relatively stiff, and our model came equipped with gray seats and bright blue stitching, giving off a distinctly young vibe. Bright white plastics surround the gear shift lever and infotainment screen, and plastics in the roof pillar, door panel, and carpeting are derived from cellulose and sugar cane. Continuing the eco-friendly theme, materials are coated with environmentally-friendly paint.

Standard features are a-plenty: an eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, DC fast charge port, rear camera display, 6.6 kW on-board charger, Bluetooth hands-free system, cruise control, power window and driver seats, and an HVAC system that improves range. Buyers will also enjoy plenty of cargo room to pack in groceries for the whole family.


We can imagine that getting behind the wheel of this model would be a very strange experience for someone who has never driven an EV. Braking in this car is particularly slow and spongy, and when you take your foot off the accelerator, it does not continue to roll along the road like most cars but instead stops abruptly.

2015 Kia Soul EV Driver Side Profile View 2

Unlike in many EVs, the Soul EV has a very soft motor whine, which makes driving it an eerily quiet experience in the city. We found the Soul EV nimble around turns and it wasn't slow to get up to speed at a stoplight. We thought it had plenty of pep for city driving, but the experience was slightly different on the highway. While the car had enough motivation for highway adventures, wind and road noise permeated the cabin when traveling quickly down the highway.

Keeping track of how many miles are left on the car was easy. An information display in front of the driver was pretty accurate, and unlike in many cars, did not fluctuate wildly from one minute to the next. Kia says its batteries have been put through the paces through testing near the Arctic Circle, and have been shown to achieve thermal stability, which should make its estimated 93 mile range reliable, but only real-world long term tests will prove this.


Abundant standard features and class-leading range make the Soul EV a stand-out competitor in its segment. Still, the car's drive feel and funky interior layout may feel alien to many drivers, so this won't be the model for everyone. Unfortunately, the model will only be available in California at first before launching into other markets next year. Buyers should give it a close look, but may also want to consider plug-in models like the Chevrolet Volt.

Basic Specs

27kWh, air-cooled, 200 watt-hour/kg, 360-volt lithium-ion polymer battery 1-speed transmission, front-wheel drive, 109-hp, $34,500 (before $7,500 federal rebate) 120 mpge city/92 mpge hwy 93 miles range 24 hours recharging (120v), 5 hours (240v), 80% charge in 33 minutes (DC fast charging)

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view

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