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First drive: 2023 Kia Soul EV. Image by Kia.

First drive: 2023 Kia Soul EV
Lightly refreshed electric crossover gets upgraded line-up with choice of batteries, trim levels and powertrains, but is it still competitive?


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Kia Soul EV

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Kia's Soul EV has felt a bit neglected of late, overshadowed by the superstar that is the Niro EV in the compact electric SUV market. But Kia has aimed to rectify that with a light update that sees the Soul EV move downmarket slightly, with a lower price tag intended to draw urban customers to the funky crossover. The question is, can it work?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2023 Kia Soul EV Explore 64kWh
Price: Ariya from £46,145, e-4orce 87kWh Evolve from £58,590
Engine: 150kW electric motor
Transmission: single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Battery: 64kWh lithium-ion
Power: 204hp
Torque: 395Nm
Emissions: 0g/km
Range: 280 miles
0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
Top speed: 104mph
Boot space: 315 litres


Kia hasnít done a lot to the Soulís styling, but then why would it? The car already looked funky and modern Ė too modern, to some Ė and the South Korean company has simply left it as it was. Itís quite boxy, but itís less abrasive than it once was, even if the sit-up-and-beg stance remains. And itís bright, with Mars Orange paint offered as standard on both trim levels, alongside four optional metallic colours. The top-spec model tested here, meanwhile, gets a two-tone colour scheme, with Snow White Pearl bodywork joined by an Inferno Red roof. Customers can also choose black with a red roof, or they can have red or blue colour schemes paired with a black roof.


The Soul EVís cabin is, as it always has been, remarkably upmarket for something so compact. Of course, it isnít perfect Ė there are some cheaper plastics knocking around Ė but if you can get past the overly circular design features, youíre left with something that feels quite premium. All the switchgear feels nice and solid, all the touchpoints feel well made and all the panels fit together nicely. Add in impressively comfortable seats, and itís very difficult to find fault.

Even the on-board technology is good, with high-end models getting a massive central touchscreen thatís responsive and easy to navigate. The navigation system itself isnít brilliant, but that doesnít really matter when most customers will simply plug into the standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration tech anyway. Credit should also go to the digital instrument display, which may not be the fanciest on the market, but itís clear and intuitive. The only slight catch is the battery level display, which is a bit difficult to get your head around at first.


A quick look at the vital stats suggests the Soul EV isn't especially roomy. Unlike some electric cars, there's no 'frunk' under the bonnet, so storage is limited to the 315-litre boot. That isn't pathetic by any stretch, but you will get more space from an MG 4 EV or a BYD Dolphin. Where the Kia shines, though, is in the rear, where the boxy shape means headroom is ample for even the tallest of adults, and legroom is more than sufficient, too. There are executive saloons with much less rear cabin space.


For the first time ever, the Soul EV is available with a choice of two different battery options, each of which comes with its own motor. As standard, the Urban model gets a 39.2kWh battery and a 136hp electric motor, taking it from 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds and on to a 97mph top speed. More importantly, the official range is 171 miles. That might be a bit tight for long journeys, but this version of the Soul EV is clearly aimed at those living in town, where space is tight and range is not an issue.

If you want to go further afield, though, you can upgrade to the Explore model we tested, with its 64kWh battery and its 204hp electric motor. That provides bright performance, getting from 0-62mph in less than eight seconds, while the bigger battery allows an official range of 280 miles. Naturally, this is expected to be the best seller.

Performance is, as the numbers suggest, quite perky, with plenty of acceleration available at more or less any time. It's a nippy thing. And though the range of 280 miles will require a gentle right foot and lots of urban driving, you're looking at a real-world range of 200 miles over a mixture of roads, or perhaps 175 miles on the motorway. And, as is often the way with electric Kias, the range readout on the dash is fairly accurate, which makes life an awful lot easier when you're planning your journey.

Ride & Handling

With its boxy, upright shape, the Soul is naturally flawed in the ride and handling department. It's destined to roll in corners and to be badly affected by crosswinds on the motorway, but other than that it isn't too bad. Yes, the steering is quite numb and motorway miles are not its forte, but it's quiet and the low-slung battery means the roll isn't quite as bad as you might expect. There's plenty of grip, too, so it corners predictably and safely, if not engagingly.

Unfortunately, the battery has also had an impact on the ride, with the weight dragging the car down into potholes. It feels quite soft over longer undulations, including speed bumps, but over sharper imperfections it's quite harsh.

At least it's quiet, or it is if you can turn off all the safety systems. The lane departure warning is irritating, but that's easily disabled with a long press of a button on the steering wheel, and though the steering assistance comes on whenever you engage the cruise control, that's also dealt with quite easily. The problem is the speed limit assistance, which is utterly infuriating. Every time it sees a new speed limit, it bongs, and every time you exceed the limit, it bongs. Turning it off requires delving into a menu on the touchscreen, and you have to do it every time you start the car. It was so annoying we more or less stopped driving the car after a few days.


Soul EV prices start at £32,795, which pays for the basic Urban model. Although it's an entry level offering, it still comes with 17-inch alloys, an eight-inch touchscreen and a digital instrument cluster, not to mention a reversing camera, climate control and keyless entry. But if you want the Explore model, you'll have to pay another £6,200, which pays for the larger touchscreen navigation system, leather upholstery and heated front seats, plus a heated steering wheel, automatic front wipers and a power-adjustable driving seat.


The Soul is a solid little electric SUV, and if the design is up your street you won't be disappointed by what's underneath. But with the Niro proving so solid and so popular, the Soul remains a slightly left-field choice in the Kia line-up. Nevertheless, it has a bit more character than the Niro, and it will doubtless have plenty of fans. Or it would, were it not for the bonging. We've taken half a star off for that alone.

James Fossdyke - 6 Jul 2023    - Kia road tests
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2023 Kia Soul EV Explore 64kWh. Image by Kia.2023 Kia Soul EV Explore 64kWh. Image by Kia.2023 Kia Soul EV Explore 64kWh. Image by Kia.2023 Kia Soul EV Explore 64kWh. Image by Kia.2023 Kia Soul EV Explore 64kWh. Image by Kia.

2023 Kia Soul EV Explore 64kWh. Image by Kia.2023 Kia Soul EV Explore 64kWh. Image by Kia.2023 Kia Soul EV Explore 64kWh. Image by Kia.2023 Kia Soul EV Explore 64kWh. Image by Kia.2023 Kia Soul EV Explore 64kWh. Image by Kia.


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