You know the Kia Soul? Yea, well it’s that, but electric.
Day one: The Soul EV arrives at my office full, but not completely chock full, of electricity. It’s a pure electric car with no range extender back up and I’ve got a big journey tomorrow so I plug it in. The charging socket is in the middle on the front, rather than where the fuel hole would be on the side. In fact, the normal filler flap has completely disappeared which means they’ve altered the rear wing pressing for this one model, which in turn means they’ve spent some money on it. Putting the electro-umbilical point in the middle makes sense, especially if you’re neurotic about cable stretch.
Later I’m driving home without the stereo on, enjoying the smooth silence of electricalicityness when my brother rings me and his call connects through the Bluetooth. It’s only then I notice the light-up rings around the door speakers pulsing every time he speaks. I’ve seen this on a diesel powered Soul. They do it in time to whatever you’re listening to on the stereo. In a normal Soul, it’s a bit idiotic. In this electric one, it’s idiotic and a waste of precious electricity. Fortunately, you can turn it off.
Day two: The Soul EV has a claimed range of 132 miles. But even after a full charge last night the most it would show was 92. It’s a bit parky. Maybe that’s why. The problem is, today I’ve got to drive to somewhere that’s about 60 miles away. This might sound fine, but experience tells me that the range-o-meter on an electric car can be cheerily optimistic right up until the point you attempt to keep up with normal traffic or go onto a motorway. Then it plummets to the point where you it becomes clear you’re not going to make it and you will run out somewhere in the countryside and be unable to get help and have to live out your days in a forest. So this could go horribly wrong. Except, it doesn’t. The Soul turns out to have the most accurate range predictor I’ve ever seen. As long as you don’t ineptly mash the throttle like Maldonado on a pit entry, it seems to tell the truth. A mile goes by, it clicks off another mile. Sometimes it doesn’t even do that. I make it to where I’m going without range stress and buttockular clenching then plug it in, knowing I’ll get home again just fine. Which is an pleasant surprise.
Day three: Having established that the Soul isn’t a liar, it’s much easier to relax and enjoy its smooth, torque-rich electricness, knowing that whatever the range readout says is actually about right. I don’t know how they’ve done where others can’t. What I can tell you is that there’s one clever, electro-specific feature on this car, which is a button that sets the heater to driver-only mode, so it’s not wastefully guffing its efforts into the rest of the car for no reason when you’re on your own. Nice touch.
Day four: A day of padding around town. In most respects the EV is like the normal Soul. It’s roomy, the view out is good, it’s a fully functioning car. Except actually I think the ride is very slightly better. It’s firm, but not uncomfortable. And the dashboard, which for some reason is now beige, feels of better quality. I might be imagining that. Either way, it’s well made without being the full VW. Only the gear selector lets it down, being massive and with a horrid surround, like you’d see on some weird 1990s JDM import you find yourself when you call a minicab in a town you’ve never been to before. I like the Soul’s seats, which appear to be made of the same material as that sloppy sweatshirt you wear on a Sunday when there’s a grand prix on and you’ve no plans to go out.
Day five: My electrician comes round. ‘What’s that?’ he asks, pointing at the Soul. Ahh, I say jauntily. It’s an electric car. ‘Oh,’ he replies, flatly. I thought he’d be more interested, what with being an electrician and everything. I think the Soul looks alright, although for no readily explicable reason the EV version is only available in two colours. There’s blue with a white roof, which is the colour scheme of electric car cliché these days and shouts ‘Look how sodding eco I am’, or a grey, which has the opposite effect, and makes the Soul look like a very normal car. You’d think there’d be at least another couple of colours in the middle. Apparently not. I’d have the grey.
Day six: A trip to the supermarket. It’s a Waitrose so naturally it has an organic Essentials electric car charging point in the car park. Which is handy for a quick juice up. Except that some utter frig kettle in a normal car has parked in the electrical parking space. What a nob. And what a very modern problem. As electric parking spaces get more commonplace, at least it’ll give selfish twats somewhere else to park if all the parent and child spaces are taken.
Goodbye: The Soul EV is going away again. It feels like a very thoroughly developed electric car, usual long distance and charging limitations notwithstanding. It’s not as strenuously normal as the VW e-Golf and not as self-consciously wacky as the Nissan Leaf. It also seems much better at predicting its own range than either. If you’ve got 25 grand to blow on a school run-ish sort of car that lives in town it could be quite handy. I liked it.
The car talked about here is the Kia Soul EV. Its electric motor makes 109 horsepower and 210 lb ft, giving a 0-62 time of 10.8 seconds and a top speed of 90mph. Including the government’s £5000 plug-in car grant, it costs £24,995.