Five-star family electric experience

APART from zero-emissions, low running-costs and an impressively serene driving-experience, what do most family-friendly electric vehicles have in common? Answer: a ridiculously long waiting-list…

Not so for the brand-new Soul EV which Kia have ensured is available in sufficient numbers to meet the growing demand for affordable electric vehicles in the UK.

But you ain’t going to splash the cash on a vehicle just because it’s in stock right now. You have certain standards, right?

Top of the list for any EV is range and the good news is the Kia Soul EV comes with a 64kWh drivetrain giving you a healthy 280 miles of range (combined). I found that figure realistic with mixed-driving around the Peak District and with an 80-mile round trip on the M1 thrown in for good measure.

I also popped into my local Morrisons for a top-up on their newly-installed fast-charging stations and it only took 40 minutes to go from 20% to 100% – about the same time it takes to do the weekly shop.

Now let’s talk about the Soul EV as a family motor. First off, you won’t lose it in the car park – the Kia Soul EV is distinctive and quite tall thanks to its boxy profile and the distinctive bi-tone colour schemes available on this First Edition model.

The Soul EV’s 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.

I’m trying to avoid the word ‘funky’ so I’ll settle for ‘futuristic’ for the overall look. I can see why it may appeal more to the younger end of the market as it is a little radical.

That boxy, slab-sided look isn’t all about style though – the Kia Soul EV makes good use of space and is very practical as a family car.

There’s plenty of room in the rear for three kids or two adults. 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-Niros but should be enough at 315 litres. Drop the rear seats and you get a spacious 1,339 litres.

Up front you have not only space to play with but plenty of tech too. The dash is dominated by Kia’s latest 10.25in floating infotainment screen that I found hassle-free to use thanks to a responsive screen and icons that aren’t too small to hit while on the move.Other tech includes High Beam Assist, Lane Keeping Assist System and Forward Collision Warning. There’s a Drive Mode Select system, satellite navigation with European mapping, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility and a 10-speaker Harman/Kardon premium sound system.

You even get a wireless smartphone charger and Reversing Camera System as well as black leather upholstery, 17in alloy wheels and adaptive Cruise Control.

Every new Soul EV comes with this generous spec because there is, currently, only one Soul EV model – the First Edition (from £34,295, after PiCG Deduction).

I’m told the interior of the Soul is inspired by music and finished with “acoustic-inspired shapes and textures”. I’m not sure about that but I can see the sound-system’s tweeters book-end the dashboard nicely. Fit and finish is very good with enough soft textures to give the Soul EV a quality feel.

Overall, up-front is a great place to be seated. Visibility is excellent, as you would expect from such a tall-sided SUV. The rear window is fine too and the fully-digital dash is clear and easy to read as well as being multi-configurable.

The multi-adjustable front seats are heated and very comfortable with a good driving position easy to find, while the leather-clad, multi-function steering wheel is of excellent quality.

However, it’s the on-road manners of the Kia Soul EV that really surprises. For such a tall-looking SUV it really does drive very nicely indeed.

This, of course, is due to that powertrain that gives you 201bhp and an impressive 395Nm of torque which means the Soul EV can whisk you from 0 to 60mph in under eight seconds. And because the Soul is an EV you get all that power instantly and in an incredibly linear surge that makes it feel much quicker.

The rest of the dynamics are a pleasant surprise too. The ride is a little on the firm side but not enough to cause any problems over rougher roads. You won’t be throwing it around A and B roads but on country roads there is definitely some fun to be had thanks to that instant-on power.

Yes, there is body-roll if you take things quickly but it’s not the boaty feel you may be expecting and the steering weights up nicely too, although it will always remain on the light side of perfect – just as it is on all the Soul EV’s rivals.

Motorway driving is a breeze with very little noise getting into the cabin even at 70mph where the Soul EV feels very stable and is a genuine pleasure to drive.

Overall, I think the Kia Soul EV could be the perfect family EV. It has the range and interior practicality to suit most families as well as a price that considerably undercuts any rivals that can match that impressive range.

Take into account all the driver-aids and tech that come as standard as well as Kia’s unbeatable seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty (yes, that includes the batteries) and you really do have a no-brainer of a decision.

• The Kia Soul EV is in stock at OMC Kia Oldham and available to test drive without a lengthy waiting list unlike some other full battery electric vehicles.

RATING: *****

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