Break out the hamsters and the hip-hop, because Kia is back with yet another redesigned Soul. Always wild and never mild, the new 2020 Kia Soul sticks with the fun and funky styling themes that have defined the odd little multi-purpose vehicle since its inception. And yes, an electric version remains a part of the program.
What’s that? You didn’t know the Kia Soul came in an EV format? Yep, but now you can forget about it until late March 2019 when the redesigned 2020 Soul EV arrives. That’s because the new one is going to have about twice the driving range and nearly double the power of the outgoing Soul EV, and in a much-improved wrapper.
You’ll be able to identify the Soul EV by its unique front styling and offset charging port cover. Unlike many electric cars that are based on traditional gas-engine vehicles, the Soul EV’s styling looks absolutely natural (if influenced by Disney’s Pixar “Cars” series), from its scowling LED headlights to its literally over-the-top LED taillights.
Two versions of the new Soul EV will be available: standard and Designer Collection, which sounds like a discount rack at Payless. At Kia, Designer Collection signals extra schwag including two-tone paint, fancy side mirrors, an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats and steering wheel, and a synthetic leather called Sofino.
Perhaps more important, the Soul EV Designer Collection is equipped with a wireless smartphone charging pad and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system with Clari-Fi digital music restoration technology. But more on all of that technology later. Let’s talk about what electrifies this car.
Long-range Electric Driving Plus Speedy Acceleration
Anyone familiar with the electric powertrains in the Hyundai Kona Electric and the Kia Niro EV will instantly recognize the 2020 Soul EV’s bonafides.
Kia uses the same 150-kW electric motor and 64-kWh Li-ion battery pack as its corporate cousin and close sibling. The motor generates 201 horsepower from 3,800 rpm to 8,000 rpm and a whopping 291 lb.-ft. of torque from the second you step on the accelerator pedal to 3,600 rpm, scooting the Soul EV to 60 mph in about 7.5 seconds, according to Kia.
That’s quick, and all that instantaneous thrust will make it feel even more so. This isn’t a high-speed hauler, though, topping out at 104 mph. Not that you’d want to go much faster than that anyway.
Kia has not finalized driving range numbers, but for comparison, the Kona Electric is estimated to go 258 miles between visits to an electrical outlet while the Niro EV should make it 240 miles on a single charge.
When the time comes to juice up, the new 2020 Soul EV is equipped with standard Level 3 fast-charging compatibility, giving the car an 80% charge in an hour using a 100-kW charger. Plug the car into a 50-kW charger and you can add another 15 minutes to that wait time.
At home, you’ll want a Level 2 240-volt charging station, which gets the deed done in a claimed 9 hours and 35 minutes. If you’re pinching pennies, you can run an extension cord into the house, but it takes 59 hours to fully recharge the Soul EV using a Level 1, 120-volt wall outlet.
The Soul EV supplies Eco, Comfort, and Sport driving modes. If you’re serious about maximizing range, there’s an Eco+ setting, too. A smart regenerative braking system also preserves as much battery as possible, adjusting calibration based on traffic ahead and even topography.
Four brake-regen settings are available through the paddles on the steering wheel, and a Brake and Hold function provides what is known as one-pedal driving. Basically, you don’t use the brake pedal in this mode. Instead, you pull back on the paddle and hold it, allowing the brake-regen system to bring the car to a stop. It takes some planning and skill to get this right, though, which is fun for people who like to drive and, umm, not fun for people who don’t.
On either end of the 1,008-pound battery that’s located under the passenger compartment, a 4-wheel independent suspension aims to manage the extra weight while delivering a decent ride and the slot-car handling characteristic of EVs. A set of lightweight, aero-styled 17-inch aluminum wheels is standard on every 2020 Soul EV.
A Small Car With a Big Interior
Open the Soul EV’s door and you’ll find roomy accommodations for four – five if you absolutely insist on cramming people into the back seat. Compared to the gas-engine Soul, there is more front headroom and less rear legroom in the Soul EV. Final cargo volume numbers are unavailable, but Kia promises the new Soul EV will provide more space for stashing your stuff than the previous version supplied.
The driver faces special gauges that convey EV-specific information, such as a Smart Eco Pedal display that shows real-time battery use based on accelerator input. The car’s center console is different, too, offering more storage space thanks to the unique round transmission control knob. Single-zone automatic climate control is standard and has an energy-saving Driver Only function.
The standard infotainment system provides Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, reversing camera, and a 6-speaker sound system. Kia’s Your Voice (UVO) telematics technology is also included, supplying special remote-access smartphone functions related to charging status, charging time remaining, charge scheduling, and more. UVO also equips the Soul EV with 911 emergency services, panic notifications, a Find My Car function, and other useful features.
Kia says a 10.25-inch touchscreen display will be available for the Soul EV, along with upgraded UVO Link remote services connectivity and an oversized 8-inch head-up display.
On the safety front, a Kia Drive Wise package of important driver assistance and collision avoidance systems is standard. Highlights include forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, and a driver attention monitor that continually observes you in order to detect sleepiness or distraction.
Kia says every Soul EV will include adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, while blind-spot monitoring with collision warning and a rear cross-traffic alert system with automatic braking are options. Only the Designer Collection gets rear parking sensors, though.
Practicality and Personality
On sale in late March 2019, the redesigned Soul EV will compete head-to-head against the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Nissan Leaf e+, and peripherally with the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV.
Though I’m no fan of rodents, the Soul EV will probably be my favorite of this group, for what promises to be a legitimately useful electric drivetrain combined with a ton of practicality and personality.