Kia Soul EV: The Happiness of Electric Driving. And the Joy of Getting There

Kia Soul Ev

You want electric, but you need space. Yes, you can have both.

If you were to design the perfect car, it would have tons of room for all of your stuff and people, be a cozy space for conversation and music, and not take up a half a football field to park. And of course, never make you go to the gas station—which is what we like about electric cars most. No gas station stops.

But the conundrum is that electric cars are typically small affairs, unless they cost a gazillion dollars and then, what’s the point of all that savings if it doesn’t save you money?

Kia Soul Ev

The fleet of 2020 Kia Soul EVs we drove in Korea. We drove all day–literally all day– and still had half the battery range at the end of the day. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Who the Kia Soul EV is For

  • Drivers who want an all-electric car
  • Drivers who need cargo and passenger space
  • Buyers who can benefit from the federal tax credit
  • Buyers who don’t want to drive a car that blends into the background; the Soul EV is distinct, full of character and fun

Related: The redesigned 2020 Kia Soul grows up (just a little)

Kia Soul Ev

The rear end of the Kia Soul EV was redesigned for 2020. Designers added boomerang taillights and a slightly sloped roof line. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What this Car Costs

Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but pricing should be similar to the 2019 model:

  • Soul EV: $33,950
  • Soul EV+: $35,950
  • Buyers may qualify for federal and state EV tax credits of $7500 or more

Related: Discovering the Soul of Kia by visiting Korea  

Kia Soul Ev

The front cabin of the 2020 Kia Soul EV. Notice that we still had 173 miles left on our range after a half day of driving. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Range, Range, Range: The EV Secret Sauce

This is what sets electric cars apart from each other and plug-in hybrids. In fact, it’s mainly what determines the price difference between Tesla models.

Range simply refers to the number of miles you can drive on a full charge. A 100-mile range might sound good—you only drive 20 miles a day but add that up over a few days, make a special trip to see a friend in another county or decide to head upstate to your college reunion and suddenly, you’re using up your miles and then… suffering from range anxiety.

As in, “Will I make it to a charge station?” “Will I have enough time to charge a significant amount?” “Will a spot be available?” “Will the hotel have a place to charge my car?” And then, a lot of buyers rethink the EV idea. The constant worry that your battery will run out may not make the joy of EV driving worth it.

So, electric car makers have been on a mission to extend the range of EVs, to go further on a full battery, to recharge faster and to recoup energy as they drive. All this can make EV driving and fun.

Related: The Hyundai Kona all-electric crossover 

Kia Soul Ev

The hope for electric cars is that they will help reduce air pollution, which we saw plenty of in Korea. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Soul is at the Top of the Pack for EV Range

The 2020 Kia Soul is estimated to get 243 miles to a charge, beating out all EVs except sister brand Hyundai’s Kona EV at 258 miles and Audi E-Tron at 248 miles (and Tesla). This is a coup considering the Soul’s size and shape; while it’s not overly large, it is boxy so it incurs more air resistance.

The Soul EV takes 9 hours to fully charge with a level 2 charger (a 220 V, which is standard on commercial charging stations but needs to be installed in most homes). However, the 202 Soul can reach an 80% charge in 75 minutes. Its range is more than double that of the current Soul EV.

But… you can actually get better range than this with regenerative braking.


Kia Soul Ev

The gear selector on the Kia Soul EV is now a dial shifter; this frees up room in the Soul’s cabin. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Regenerative Braking: Turning EV Driving into a Game of Talent and Will

Didn’t I say driving the Soul is fun? Well, it’s not just the drive experience that’s fun (keep reading for that).

Regenerative braking is its own little fun challenge.

So…what is it? This is a set of systems designed to feed power back to the battery as you drive. Soul has several ways to do this. First, there’s just plain old braking: as you depress the brake pedal all the unused energy is recycled back to the battery.

Then, you can set the Soul for automatic regenerative braking. This is what happens when you take your foot off the accelerator and the car slows; you can set it to slow a little or a lot. Just pull on the paddle on the left side of the steering wheel to set regen braking for level 1, 2 or 3. Level 1 is hardly noticeable; the car slows a bit more than usual when you take your foot off the accelerator. Level 2 is distinct; you can really feel the car slowing. Level 3 is best for when you are driving alone. When you lift your foot from the accelerator the car has a very active response, almost a lurch. I like that it’s grabbing all that energy and holding tight to it; my passengers might not be as enthusiastic.

Then, you can add even more regen braking to the mix, recouping even more energy by using the regen paddle on the right side of the steering wheel. While it slows the car a bit, it doesn’t have the full force of slowing the car that the foot brake does. Using the right paddle on level 3 will add maximum energy back to the battery.

If you monitor your driving and range you can see when and where you’re feeding more energy back into the battery. You’ll learn to maximize your regenerative braking on hills and in traffic, and the huge reward is you’ll see your range creep UP instead of down.

Kia Soul Ev

The look of the 2020 Kia Soul EV is refined but still retains its original character. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The New Soul Design: This Fun Car Grows Up… Just a Bit

The 2020 Soul is distinguished by a new design from Kia’s California design studio. From the start, this boxy urban car has been popular for its distinct look and interior space. Now in its third generation, the Soul has a more modern interior and some nice details, including:

  • A dial gear selector, which opens up space in the center console
  • Head up display- YAY!
  • A groovy new sound system with customizable lighting that can pulse along with your music
  • Apple Car Play/Android Auto
  • Wireless phone charging
  • A cargo cover that doubles as a shelf for added haul space
  • An amazing suite of safety tech including level 2 autonomy with lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control (with stop and go!) and pre-emergency braking, as well as blind spot monitors and automatic high beams, all adding up to a very nice package
  • A heat pump system for climate control to maximize energy use
  • Heated seats and a heated steering wheel – a must for an EV
  • It comes with a charge cord
  • The charge port is in the front of the car, so it’s easily accessible in a garage or parking spot with a charger
Kia Soul Ev

My drive partner Robby and me. Robby was really good at recouping some of the battery power on curvy and hilly roads. I, however, cost us by getting us a bit lost. Photo: Scotty Reiss

How Fun is this EV to Drive?

That might be the first question a prospective buyer would ask. But the question EV engineers are asking themselves is, how can they curtail the instant acceleration EVs are capable of and deliver a responsible yet responsive drive experience?

The Soul is squarely in the middle of that equation: fun to drive, quick accelerating but not unhinged. And, like any good electric, it’s quiet. Other than that, it’s all you expect in a car.

We drove the Kia Soul through the countryside in Korea, where the car is built, and put it to the test on hills, curves and through villages, which in Korea are lined with plenty of speed bumps. The Soul was fun to drive and I really loved the ample window space that the car’s shape affords. The panoramic sunroof (an add-on option) and seats that are more upright than low slung, as they can be in many cars, made the curves and speed bumps completely tolerable.

For some buyers, the Soul will be the perfect combination of features: a roomy interior, ample cargo space, and shape that allows hauling odd-sized things. And for those who hate stopping for gas, it might be everything you want and need in a car.

What We Listened to in the 2020 Kia Soul EV

Robby is a musician. So we had fun with the sound system in the Soul; the upgraded Harman system delivers a good sound and in an EV, that’s a bonus. Driving in silence is really silent. Here’s what we listened to as we cruised across the Korean peninsula.

Disclosure: I was Kia’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.

You Know The Joy Of Getting Gas? No? Well, There'S A Better Way: The 2020 Kia Soul Ev: 243 Miles On A Charge With Room For You, Your Friends And Your Stuff.

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss