We should all be used to the street profile of the KIA Soul, its boxy presence separating it visually for the past ten years from many in the nation’s carparks and outside its schools. Perfectly functional, well put together and well equipped, the original Soul ticks a lot of boxes with ease, the issue of its outward appearance easily forgotten via its user-friendly persona.
Nonetheless, it’s a brave and confident move by KIA to put their now third generation Soul as their electric conveyance, instead of the more conventional shaped hatchback or saloon. The great thing is that it really works!!
Voted by Irish Motoring journalists as the Continental Tyres Irish Car of the Year 2020, the KIA e-Soul had me at Hello. It is brilliantly welcoming, so easy to go mobile, so well-equipped and with an optimum range in excess of 450kms, even a road trip from Dublin to Athlone was an easy ask.
If your driving has you living on our motorway network, any EV will eat into its range, having very little opportunity to regenerate. For those mixing it up between rural, hilly and commuter travel, the e-Soul will feed itself every time you lift off the throttle or brake – you are in e-Soul territory.
There is an undoubted fixation with checking the range-gauge, until you settle into everyday life with the e-Soul, where it is almost therapeutic in the traffic flow, gliding along with those to the fore, while leaving them in a blink should the road open up, its immediate torque and silent progress bringing a smile to your face and a tremor to your licence in equal amounts.
Our motoring world is now fully accepting of change and while petrol and diesel engines will be with us for probably two more decades, the presence of full electric and hybrid propulsion is getting more established. The onus is on us as drivers to conform to their driving dynamic – it does not happen the other way around.
The e-Soul goes a long way to free the fret of running out of motion and during my two weeks of living electric, I was somewhat sad to return it to Aidan Doyle of KIA Ireland. This year will welcome other combatants into the electric arena, our motoring mix never more varied and accomplished.
The e-Soul slipper will fit many a foot, as long as it is not asked to be shoehorned onto someone who should be wearing one two sizes up. Being new technology, there is a premium to be paid and even with the discounts on VRT and SEAI grants, the financial demand over equivalent petrol and diesels has to be acknowledged.
Importance of Home Charging
One major factor in owning an EV must be accepted by the new owner – home charging. It is absolutely necessary that you fit a wall charger to your place of residence, a 7.2kW unit being the maximum a domestic electric system can support, the lesser 3.6kW unit charge time commiserate with its output.
This domestic charger, which is subject to a €600 grant, will suit any of the new long-range EV’s, the alternative use of a domestic plug going to take well into double digits to recharge. EV owners should therefore not overly rely on street charging, albeit the government’s plans are to increase the 1200 public charging stations already in place. There are also the considerations of availability and serviceability of these stations, which can seriously affect your drive plans.
Charging times for your e-Soul
The e-Soul can be charged via a CCS/Combo plug that allows it to fast charge, as well as use the slower public charger. The normal 3-pin plug can also be used, referred to as a Granny Plug, just don’t be in a hurry.
Empty to Full Charging Times
· 3-pin Plug at home - 29hours to fully charge.
· 3,6kW Home/Work - 18hours to fully charge
· 7.2kW Home/Work/Public location - 10hours to fully charge
· 50kW Public Location – 50 minutes to fully charge
· 150kw Public Location – 40 minutes to fully charge
Charging rates can differ based on the ambient temperature, the state of the battery (e.g. empty or half full) and variation in charging rate.
This e-Soul is no GTi, but it requires serious respect if the go-pedal is stomped upon, devouring tarmac at, what for many, will be an astonishing rate. It handles well without being overly athletic and will satisfy the driver in most. A charmer and definite test drive candidate.
Format: Crossover: 5-Door, 5-Seat - Battery Electric Vehicle
Official Driving Range: 452kms
Engine: 64kW Lithium ion polymer battery
Transmission: Single gear Automatic
Drive: Front-wheel drive
Drive Modes: Normal, Sport, Eco, Eco+
CO2: 0g/km - Zero
Tax Band: A0
Annual Road Tax: €120
Boot Space: 351 litres – 1,339 litres with rear seats folded
Kerb Weight: 1682kg
Range starting, €37,495, (including VRT rebate and SEAI grant equal to €10,000)
Warranty: KIA 7-Year, 150,000km New Car Warranty including electric motor and battery.
Some of the Competition:
Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Kona Electric, Tesla Model 3, KIA Niro, Golf ID
Distinctive and dressed in white livery with at red roof, I must admit to liking the stance of the e-Soul – the black and red option also easy on the eye. Being electric, it doesn’t need a front grill, which houses the charging point and looks the better for it, the high front bumper, the slatted headlights and Day Running Lights, all delivering good visual appeal. At the rear nigh-on boomerang LED’s provide illumination and style in equal measure, the overall result giving the e-Soul its own street personality.
Immediately spacious, the e-Soul is welcoming, assisted by a tactile three-spoke leather steering wheel, good layout of driver and centre-consoles. Materials used plus fit and finish are without complaint, the coloured door panel inserts working well in daylight and night conditions.
No complaints on the level of safety and comfort available. The driving position is good and multi-adjustable, with the driver’s console providing all the necessary information, with an eight-inch Head-Up Display (HUD) offering all the relevant information to the driver only, once on the move – every car should have this.
Apple CarPlay and Android access are available just by plugging in with your USB charge cable – easy. The touchscreen 10.25” centre console allows access to the e-Soul’s entertainment, comfort and safety systems, with the steering wheel allowing for adjustments to some of them on the move, plus voice activation and a very important feature on the e-Soul, cruise control.
Safety is well represented with KIA’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, (ADAS), which includes Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCA) and Smart Cruise Control, not forgetting the VESS system that emits a noise to warn pedestrians when the e-Soul is stealthily rolling in urban environs.
With all EV’s being fully automatic, virtually silent and instantly responsive, new incumbents are best consider putting ‘post-it’s’ all over the place until they are familiar with this new method of propulsion.
Turn on the ignition, i.e. Press the Start Button, select Drive on the rotary dial and press the throttle. With no hint that 204bhp and 395Nm of torque are under your right foot, your KIA e-Soul is so ready to boogie, as it hushes forwards with a serenity that should come with a halo.
Park its Eco-credentials for a Nano-second. Electric vehicles will cover ground at an eye-watering rate, no fuss, no engine revs, no bother. This demands any new owner to know, find out and remember that they may have a planet cuddly EV, but they also have a vehicle that can subtly put their licence under threat.
Four Drive Modes are available, my selection being Normal for around the city and Eco to Eco+ out in the 80kilometre plus zones. Paddles at the rear of the steering allow for extra retardation on deceleration – brilliant and an aspect of the e-Soul to be cultivated.
During my time with the e-Soul, I drove to Athlone, recharged in the very accommodating Sheraton Hotel, before motorwaying home at 120kph, all fuss and frantic-free. Around the city the e-Soul was great company, easy to manoeuvre and so stress-free that it was close to being therapeutic.
2020 will undoubtedly see and highlight the option of going EV. Getting yourself a drive in the KIA e-Soul is a must.
Tony Toner is a member of the Association of Professional Motoring Press and a voting juror on Irish Car & Irish Van of the Year.