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Kia adds some Soul to electric motoring

Wednesday, 26th June, 2019 4:27pm

“So honey, now don’t you fret,” sang classic soul duo Sam and Dave. “Cause you ain’t seen, nothing yet… I’m a soul man.” And so on.

Great song, and it seems to be a good fit for the world of electric cars right now, as you really ain’t seen nothing yet.

There’s still a lot of doubt and even a touch of controversy fizzing in the air when it comes to electric motoring, but there’s one thing we can rely on —the cars are only going to get better and better from here on in.

Just as well, when the Government is now pushing hard to get us all out of our petrol and diesel smokers by 2030, but appropriately cars like this, the Kia e-Soul, will help to make the shift to electric motoring much, much more pleasant.

The Soul has a bit of an odd history as a car. Originally and primarily developed for the US market (it was designed as transport for American college kids, and suburban family types who wanted something different from the family car norm), it never really took off over here.

A combination of oddball styling, the presence of the much more conventional Sportage in the range, and an older-tech diesel engine that didn’t have a particularly tax-friendly emissions figure kind of nailed its chances in Ireland to the floor.

Which was a shame, as it always had a kind of quirky charm.

Well, the quirk is most definitely still present and correct, but the emissions have been equally definitely sorted.

The Soul, or e-Soul to give it its correct name, will only be sold in Ireland as an electric car, so it will only ever have an emissions figure of precisely zero.

The styling, though? Well, I love it, but I could kind of understand if you don’t so much.

That square, almost wilfully-boxy shape. The pugnacious face with its grille-less appearance, and narrow eyes. The flat-top roof and the big alloy wheels.

It’s sure distinctive, but equally you can see that it’s a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it marmite car, something that Kia itself happily admits.

That’s okay too, because if the e-Soul’s styling is too much for you, you can always stroll across the showroom to the more conventional-looking e-Niro electric crossover, which shares the e-Soul’s battery and electric motor. And what a battery it is. And what, for that matter, an electric motor it is.

The e-Soul is front-wheel drive, and uses a single electric motor, but it’s packing 150kW, which is the equivalent of 204hp. That’s quite a bit, even in a car weighing 1,682kg.

There’s also a chunky 395Nm of torque, all on tap from precisely zero rpm, so as soon as you step on the accelerator pedal (can’t really call it a ‘throttle’ anymore) the e-Soul responds.

And really responds. There’s a slightly odd go-dip-go pattern to its performance. There’s the initial instant torque hit, which surges the car forward. That tails off for a second or two, as the electric motor spins up to speed, and then the e-Soul piles the speed on, feel more and more like a hot hatch the harder you press the pedal. It’s a deeply impressive performance.

All of which would be for nothing if it ran out of juice every five minutes, but thankfully that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Kia Ireland is selling the e-Soul only in long-range form, with the largest 64kWh battery, so on a full charge the range figure stands at a hugely impressive 452km. For the record, that’s more than you’d get from the likes of a Jaguar I-Pace or Audi e-Tron quattro, both of which cost more than twice the price of this Kia.

The range seems, on our initial test at any rate, to be genuine too.

We drove in mixed conditions, flitting between the various Eco, Eco +, Normal, and Sport modes on offer, and taking full advantage of the e-Souls muscular acceleration, and barely seemed to dent the battery range on offer at all. It’s impressive stuff.

It’s not quite so great to drive, but that is down to the weight. Keep the Soul to low-ish urban and intra-urban speeds, and it’s just fine — in fact, it’s very good with nicely weighted steering and a really impressive ride quality; firm, but with well-judged damping.

The problem comes when you try to exploit that hot-hatch performance on a tighter road. Do that, and the weight of those batteries pushes the e-Soul into understeer, and it just never feels agile enough. Slow back down to more sensible speeds, though, and it’s fine.

The interior is also hugely impressive — excellent build quality, good space in the back and a tolerable (if slightly small, given the exterior dimensions) boot.

The big central touchscreen looks good and is simple to use (not always the case) and the part-digital instruments look smart. Actually, it’s a slightly difficult car to pry oneself out of, which must surely be a good thing.

The price could be a stumbling block — €35,995 ain’t cheap, but then you do have to take into account that long range, a decent list of standard equipment (the screens, plus lots of safety equipment including Lane Keep Assist, Smart Cruise Control and Front Collision Avoidance), and the usual Kia seven year warranty.

I can understand if you’d like your electric motoring to look a little more conventional than this, but for me the new e-Soul is hitting all the right notes.

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