Kia’s all-electric Soul proves that EVs don’t have to be drab … or hamsterless

After the excitement of the LA and Detroit Auto Shows, it was hard to imagine anything coming out of Chicago reaching quite the same level. But Kia is doing its best to prove me wrong. And fortunately it has nothing to do with those damn hamsters; instead it is the shocking new Kia Soul EV.

The Soul EV looks to hit the dealer lots as one of the most impressive entry-level EVs on the market. From the ground up, the Soul EV is designed to be as environmentally friendly and practical as possible. The construction makes use of new panda-friendly bio-plastics derived from plant products, as well as the latest in battery technologies. For all this eco goodness, the Soul EV receives an important first: a certification from Underwriters Laboratory.

Like most EVs not made by Tesla, the Soul will have less range than a gas vehicle. Kia claims that the car can manage a range of 80-100 miles, or more depending on driving conditions. These figures haven’t been verified by the EPA, but Kia has had them checked by outside analysts.

Even better, you can charge the Soul from just about anything that produces electricity. In fact, the Soul EV has two charging ports concealed behind its grill, one for a standard home outlet and another for rapid charging. With the quick charge outlet, you can get an 80 percent charge in just over half an hour.

Don’t expect too much in the way of performance, though; the electric motors may produce 210 pound feet of torque, but only 109 horsepower. Kia says that the Soul EV will get from 0 to 60 in less than 12 seconds. But that is sort of like saying it’s been more than one day since the last fatal accident at your work place: it’s a fact that makes people grimace.

Ultimately though, the zip isn’t the point. The Soul, even in its gasoline version, has been about practicality with a personality. The distinctive block-y styling makes for good interior room, which is largely unchanged in the electric version. But Kia wanted to make sure that when the all-electric Soul drives by you on the street, you notice it.

The masked grill and floating accent color-roof make the Soul EV hard to mistake for anything else. Personally, I have never been a fan of the Soul’s styling, and the changes made to the EV version haven’t changed my mind. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and what the Soul may lack in beauty it more than makes up for in boldness.

Unlike some of its competition, buying a Soul feels like you are actually making a distinctive personal choice. The EV version takes the Soul a step further, making it one of the most interesting choices a consumer on a budget can take.

Unfortunately, if you want one of these you had better live in Oregon, California, New York, Maryland, or a very few other markets. However, if the Soul EV does well we may see it crop up in other places.

Regardless, between the GT4 Stinger, the K900, the Niro concept and now the Soul EV Kia is making a statement about its future, which might just be one of the most compelling out there. 

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