For those wanting to reduce their carbon footprint without minimizing their visual footprint, the 2016 Kia Soul EV won't forsake anonymity in the name of efficiency.
The Kia Soul EV joined the still-growing field of conventional economy cars converted to electric powertrains in 2015. As such conversions go, the Soul EV is off to a promising start, with a stylish exterior, a long list of standard equipment and hatchback versatility. In short, the 2016 Soul EV is blessed with strong fundamentals, but Kia has done a credible job with the EV part, also. The result is a fully competitive product with an EPA-estimated 93-mile driving range.
This impressive range is largely a function of its 27 kWh (kilowatt-hour) lithium-ion polymer battery, which gets its juice from one of two charging ports concealed behind a sliding panel in the grille. The AC port accepts either household-grade 120-volt current (requiring 24 hours for a full recharge) or 240-volt current (5 hours), while the special DC port's 480-volt current provides an 80 percent charge from empty in a claimed 33 minutes. Of course, 480-volt power sources don't exactly grow on trees, but Kia has equipped a number of its EV dealerships in California with DC charging stations, enabling Soul EV owners to (at least in theory) to go on extended road trips with minimal downtime. The company has also partnered with PlugShare to aid in finding the nearest charger, as well as the Greenlots charging station network to facilitate additional long-distance travel.
The 2016 Soul EV's flush grille and special alloy wheels are the most obvious visual clues to the Electric's identity.
But what about states other than California? That's the significant issue with the Soul EV. Although Kia does plan to offer it in five additional states by the beginning of 2016, the Golden State will be the focal point for the immediate future. If able to buy or lease a Soul EV, however, you'll find little to argue with. The only functional compromise relative to the regular Soul is a modest loss of rear leg- and headroom; even so, a couple of adults can still sit in back in reasonable comfort. Surprisingly, cargo space isn't affected by the battery under the floor, and the Soul EV actually feels more responsive around town -- despite its additional heft -- than its gas-powered counterpart due to the electric motor's instantly available 210 pound-feet of torque.
If you're shopping for an electric vehicle, there are a few other options you might want to check out. The Nissan Leaf has a longer optional range this year and, as the segment's pioneer, it has years of experience and proven reliability. The Ford Focus Electric provides only 76 miles of range and has a tight backseat and trunk, but it offers better handling and a high-quality cabin. There's also the Volkswagen e-Golf, which features classy, understated styling and an exquisitely trimmed interior, and the stylish and easy-to-park Fiat 500e. The 2016 Soul EV compares favorably, though, especially for those who enjoy the conventional Soul's unconventional vibe.
The 2016 Kia Soul combines the best attributes of hatchbacks and small crossovers. Middle-of-the-road fuel economy and performance keep it from being a must-have, but overall the 2016 Kia Soul is a solid buy.
The meteoric rise of the subcompact and compact crossover has sounded the death knell for tall, boxy wagons. The 2016 Kia Soul is now the sole carrier of the squared torch passed on by the departed Scion xB and Nissan Cube. It's a funky car that is hard to categorize, possessing qualities of a tall hatchback and compact crossover, but it has styling and a personality that few cars in those segments can match.
As befitting a car of its dimensions, the 2016 Kia Soul is immensely practical. The interior is spacious, with plenty of headroom for front row occupants, and even rear seat passengers will find ample legroom. The cargo area is rather modest in size, but folding the rear seats reveals the true benefit of the boxy shape by tripling the amount of carrying capacity. Also generous is the sheer volume of options available on the Soul. The Soul can get pricey as features such as premium leather and ventilated front seats are added, but these aren't even available on most cars in this class.
The boxy design of the 2016 Kia Soul affords more usable cargo space than some hatchbacks and small crossovers.
The Soul does have some downsides, though. While undeniably practical, the Soul's boxy shape creates invasive wind noise at speed that's hard to ignore. There's also the possibility of a rather harsh ride in Souls equipped with the 18-inch wheels that come bundled with some of the more desirable option packages. Fuel economy is unexceptional, coming in somewhere between subcompact and compact crossovers. Small hatchbacks are typically even more fuel efficient.
Some of those hatchbacks are also more fun to drive, such as the 2016 Ford Focus and 2016 Mazda 3. And it's probably worth your time to check out a few of the latest subcompact crossovers, particularly if you want all-wheel drive; the 2016 Honda HR-V and 2016 Jeep Renegade are desirable picks. For those considering the Soul in its more expensive forms, the 2016 Volkswagen SportWagen offers a higher-quality interior and more cargo room. But overall we're still glad to see the Soul carrying the fun-and-funky wagon torch. It's a solid choice for a budget-friendly runabout that does most things well.