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KIA SOUL EV: FULLY CHARGED

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Perception and its effects on the human mind have a peculiar relationship. Take for instance the Kia Soul. The unorthodox and offbeat styling of the Kia Soul was distinctive in the crossover segment. In what we saw as a bold move, it stepped away from the conventional designs sported by most other crossovers and brought in a fresh perspective into the segment. However, it was a design so fresh it teetered on the verge of being ahead of its time or, as some might argue, in a totally different time dimension altogether. And we agree, it might have been a little too out of the box to be considered instant eye candy. Not because it was an eye sore, but more because of its unique styling that made it an acquired taste.

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Now, rip out the fossil fuel churning engine and replace it with an electric motor , slap an ‘Eco Electric’ badge on it and all the quirkiness falls into place. The boxy design with dropped rooflines, straight back end and futuristic grille mix well to make a concoction that fits into the futuristic electric vehicle persona. And to many petrol heads reluctant to jump onto the eco-friendly bandwagon, it serves as decent motivation; enough to tempt us into getting behind the wheels and taking it for a spin.

EXTERIOR

The Kia Soul EV retains a lot of design elements from the regular Kia Soul, so much so that it might be difficult for many to differentiate them from each other if it weren’t for the closed out grille and eco-electric badge. The Kia Soul EV maintains the individualistic personality that the designers integrated into the Soul.

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Replacing the small chrome lined grille is a solid plate that opens up and reveals an electric input port, which is flanked by blue accented projector beam headlights.

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They also get auto light control that turns the headlights on or off as required to further support the case of energy conservation. Because there is no engine, the front end also loses the mesh grille in the bottom bumper aiding the aerodynamics. The power-folding side mirrors with integrated LED turn signal indicators are very cohesively integrated into the boxy design of the Soul.

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It has a dropped roofline which gives the Soul the smallest hint of a JEEP-ish appearance. The Soul has a straight back look with a number of design features integrated into it. Brake lights and indicators are large and placed on either edges of the rear between which is a singular rear privacy glass pane.

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INTERIOR

Most electric vehicles we’ve tested haven’t really scored high marks when it comes to space and comfort. To be honest, ingress and egress for the larger than average person can be a bit of an ordeal to perform in the cramped cabins. In contrast, the Kia Soul EV has plenty of space and storage; enough to seat 4 grown passengers. There is plenty of legroom and headroom for both front and rear passengers.

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Once inside, you will notice that it has a light gray interior, much of which is made from recycled materials. Kia have taken environmental consciousness very seriously and, therefore, nineteen parts of its total interior mass are composed of bio-based materials.

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It also gets distinctive and futuristic instrumentation. The left dial features a charge/discharge meter along with a “fuel” gauge that indicates the battery’s state of charge. In the middle of the display is the all-important distance to empty. The right dial shows the speedometer and how much energy is being consumed.

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Kia has accommodated the 27 kWh lithium-ion batteries, which adds 282 kilograms to the kerb weight of the regular Soul, in the middle of the car underneath the floor so that it does not eat up the space.

PERFORMANCE

With the fossil fuel powered mill chucked out, an electric motor with single speed transmission takes its place. The electric motor puts out 109 horsepower and 210 lb.-ft. of torque, which propels the EV to 100km/h in 11.4 second. And because it is an electric motor, you reach peak torque the instance the wheels turn, which means the EV bolts off the line. And once it gets rolling, the performance doesn’t stray too far off from its fuel-powered counterpart.

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There are four driving modes: Drive and Brake that can both be used with the eco setting on. Turning on the brake and eco mode on maximizes the driving range and transforms the Soul EV into a one-pedal drive. Brake ramps up the regenerative braking, which allows the driver to control vehicle speed using the accelerator pedal alone.

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Handling is crisp and responsive and the suspension does a good job of soaking up road irregularities and controlling unwanted body motion. Also, every time you decelerate or go downhill, the regenerative braking system recovers kinetic energy that would otherwise be lost and that energy goes straight to recharging the battery.

VERDICT

Electric vehicles could very well be the next step towards the future of automobiles, but we’ve never really been too keen about it. Don’t get us wrong, moving around with a conscience sans of the guilt of contributing to global warming is an enticing prospect; however, the mess of squeezing into an embarrassingly tiny car that struggles to keep pace with a peppy scooter on the road only to appear environmentally conscious is equally uninviting.

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Kia managed to turn that on its head with their Soul EV. They haven’t gone out of their way to announce to the world that they’ve come up with a futuristic, otherworldly contraption that begs for attention. The Soul EV, apart from a few tweaks and changes, retains the appearance of the fuel powered Soul. And because it was already a quirky, futuristic design, the appearance finally fit the persona of its electric soul. This meant that we didn’t have to look like pretentious, attention seeking tree huggers but could still do our part for the environment.

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In addition, we didn’t have to feel like we were driving something less than par. Eco friendly, good looking, and able to hold its own on the road. We never thought we would be saying something like this about an electric vehicle, but this one is off the charts. It actually has the competence to go head to head with fuel powered alternatives as an option for potential buyers. Good going Kia.

For specifications and pricing, click here

VIDEO: KIA SOUL | PRODUCT WATCH

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