ELECTRIC vehicles (EVs) are becoming a more familiar sight on our roads. (writes Steve Berry)
Families are coming around to the idea real savings can be made on running-costs and range-anxiety is becoming a thing of the past.
Kia currently have two of the best family-friendly EVs available – the all-new Soul EV and the e-Niro.
Both are based around the same 64kWh Lithium-ion battery and share the same motor and gearbox.
It is no surprise then performance and range (around 280 miles) is almost identical.
The Soul EV and e-Niro are different in their styles but can be classed as Crossover vehicles: not out-and-out SUVs but having a raised ride-height providing good visibility and a refined ride.
Price for the funkier-looking Soul EV starts from £34,295 after Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) deduction.
The e-Niro starts from £29,595 (after PiCG deduction) for the base ‘2’ model, rising to £36,145 for the ‘4-plus’ model.
Outwardly, the e-Niro is only distinguishable from the hybrid Niros by way of a closed-off tiger-face grille, new alloy wheels and some electric blue highlighting. Surprisingly, the Soul is available ONLY as an EV in the UK.
The interior of the e-Niro impresses and feels more upmarket than the Nissan Leaf or Hyundai Kona electric.
It’s cabin and rear passenger space is also more generous and is vastly superior to the more-expensive VW e-Golf.
The real highlight is driving the Kia e-Niro as, being a fully-electric vehicle, the whole experience feels so relaxing and civilised from the moment you push the start-button.
Select ‘D’ from the large rotary gear-selector, give the accelerator a push and off you waft, silently and without fuss.
Select reverse and the touchscreen shows the view behind. You will also hear some subtle reversing beeps to warn pedestrians that this silent car is about to move off.
Out on the open road the electric Niro is no slouch. It can hit 60mph from a standing start in 7.5 seconds.
Do not expect sports car handling though; the e-Niro is a family Crossover after all and as such is damped for comfort rather than blasting along A-roads.
That is not to say the e-Niro cannot put a smile on your face though because the way it lays down its 201 bhp is quite addictive.
With just one gear for the automatic transmission to worry about and all that power being available instantly, you will marvel at just how quickly the e-Niro goes about its business.
There is an ‘other-worldly’ whine from the drivetrain that you can hear occasionally. But it is never intrusive and is something common to all EVs.
The overall impression you will get is a serenity you won’t find in anything but an electric vehicle.
Much the same can be said for the Soul EV too. It shares the e-Niro’s driving characteristics in that it is a very relaxing drive and so easy.
I did find the Soul EV a little quieter at speed on the motorway though. I also found the damping a little firmer on the Soul EV although it handles lumps and bumps just as well as the e-Niro.
The Soul EV’s looks will be polarizing because it is so distinctive. Personally, I would have it over the e-Niro for its striking looks alone. The front-end looks mean with narrow LED headlamps and – in the white of my test car – I couldn’t help but think of a Stormtrooper.
That boxy, slab-sided look isn’t all about style though – the Kia Soul EV makes good use of space and is practical as a family car – so long as you don’t need a large boot.
There’s plenty of room in the rear for three kids or two adults. Three adults are definitely a pinch.
Two child-seats fit in easily and thanks to wide-opening rear doors and the Soul’s tallness, those kids are easy to get in and out.
Boot space is down on the e-Niro’s and just “adequate” at 315 litres. Drop the rear seats and you get a spacious 1,339 litres.
Both cars get plenty of tech even in their basic spec and the infotainment screens are large and responsive with sharp graphics.
Dashboards are digital and multi-configurable. Steering wheel paddles allow you to select the amount of regenerative braking and different driving modes are selectable on both vehicles.
Both EVs come with Kia’s industry-leading 7-year, 100,000-mile guarantee, which also covers the car’s batteries.
If you have young children and need to get buggies and shopping bags in the boot then the e-Niro may suit you better.
If you like your car to stand out from the crowd in both styling and colour-scheme, then the Soul EV is the obvious choice.
Ultimately, a visit to the Kia showroom will help you decide and although there may be a wait for some of the lower-spec e-Niros, you will find most models are available immediately.