Dana Point, Calif. ? Kia recently invited me to Southern California to sample a couple of their latest not so mainstream vehicles — an electric car and a minivan, which Kia prefers to call a multi-purpose vehicle, which actually makes more sense.
Kia didn?t have a cake or blow out candles, but it was kind of a birthday for them, because they started selling cars in the United States just 20 years ago. In fact, the first four dealerships were practically in my back yard in Portland, Oregon. Since then Kia has had some ups and some downs, but the general trend has been UP! This year they will celebrate selling their five-millionth vehicle in the U.S. and according to Michael Sprague, Kia executive vice president of sales and marketing, 2014 will be the best year ever.
Bill, my husband and writing partner, and I have always said the most important factor in new car sales is good products, and Kia has been one of the brands we thought best illustrates that concept. Kia products have improved constantly in design, quality and performance. After spending a little time in the latest variation of the popular Kia Soul, it seems to be another impressive Kia product. I?ll tell you about the new Kia Sedona in another story.
2015 Kia Soul EV
As much as I enjoy electric vehicles I have to admit I?m still afflicted with a bit of ?range anxiety.? For example, my driving partner and friend, Mary, and I were busy enjoying the smooth silent response of the Kia Soul EV and the sights along the Southern California coast a couple of weeks ago. Like often happens to us on these drives, we were having such a great time, we kind of forgot to watch the battery gauge and we ended up far from the charger with a low battery. There are ways to better preserve the battery charge using techniques like coasting and regenerative braking?wish we?d paid better attention. We did make it back with a few amps to spare and smiles on our faces, however.
The Soul EV is Kia?s first venture into pure electric vehicles, and they picked one of their most popular models to represent the brand?s efforts in the all-electric-zero emissions arena. The hip urban crossover is well designed to handle the transition with the 109-hp electric motor fitting nicely under the hood in place of the gasoline engine. The motor produces 210-lb.ft. of torque giving it spunky response when stepping on the ?go ahead pedal? on the floor ? it didn?t sound right to call it the gas pedal. Under full acceleration, the motor driving the front wheels zooms the Soul to 60 mph in 12 seconds, but it feels faster. The motor is liquid cooled and uses multi-layer magnets which improve efficiency and reduce the familiar electric motor whine, leaving the whining for the passengers to do. For those who are curious, the Soul EV has a top speed electronically limited to 90 mph.
Unlike some electric devices, the battery is included with the Kia Soul EV. The battery tucks nicely under the rear seat area and the flat design minimizes intrusion into the cabin reducing rear leg room by about three inches, but it still has more legroom than some competitors. Rear cargo space remains unchanged at a spacious 18.8 cubic feet, so it shouldn?t limit shopping purchases.
The 27kWh lithium battery is larger than the competitor batteries which range from 20 to 24kWh. That means better range. The extra battery power gives this new Soul EV an estimated 93 mile range and earns it an EPA MPGe rating of 92 miles highway and 120 miles city, and a combined rating of 105 miles. While that doesn?t cure range anxiety by itself, it helps.
The extra charging power we didn?t take advantage of on our drive comes from Kia?s third-generation regenerative braking system which can capture up to 12 percent of the car?s kinetic energy, which is fed back into the battery while the Soul EV is coasting and braking.?I don?t totally understand how it works, but apparently it works well. The car has four drive mode combinations to allow the driver to program the car for the type of driving.
There are a variety of available chargers allowing the owner to plug into a standard 120v outlet, conventional 240v EV charger or a fast charging (480v) port. The connectors are conveniently located behind a sliding door located in the front grille. The charging process can take as long as 24 hours to as little as 33 minutes, depending on the size charger being used.
The 2015 Kia Soul EV is well equipped with standard features like navigation with an eight-inch screen, a 6.6kW on-board charger, rear camera, Bluetooth?, cruise control and a special low power climate control system.
Kia?s innovative UVO EV Services is included free for the first five years. The special version of this telematics and infotainment system is expanded to help the EV better manage charging and find available charge stations using a smart phone app.
Soul EV pricing starts at $33,700 plus the destination charge, however when you factor in the $7,500 federal tax credit, the price looks pretty reasonable at $26,200. There is one other trim level which adds $2,000 to price and features like leather seating, parking assist, fog lights, heated and ventilated front seats and power folding outside mirrors.
The Kia Soul EV makes a lot of sense for someone or a family that sticks fairly close to home or uses it for a commute. Owners can save big by not have to buy gasoline and that provides a nice benefit for the environment.