Wed. Jun 19th, 2019
2020 Kia Soul EV

2020 Kia Soul EV First Drive Review

The 2020 Kia Soul is the third iteration of the boxy little crossover and the second generation of the battery-powered variant, the Soul EV. While the 2020 Soul overall is mildly upgraded compared to the outgoing model, the Soul EV makes a major leap where it counts: with a new powertrain that more than doubles the stated range to an impressive 243 miles.

The new 2020 Kia Soul EV scraps the previous 30-kWh battery for a new, more energy-dense 64-kWh unit, shared with the Hyundai Kona Electric. The battery pack feeds a motor that now makes 201 horsepower – also shared with the Kona Electric, and producing the same horsepower figure as the Soul Turbo. It spins out 291 pound-feet of torque, which is immediately available underfoot. That’s enough to chirp the front tires, and it instantly squirts the Soul ahead in the urban cut-and-thrust. It’s also plenty powerful enough for high-energy merging onto the freeway. Kia estimates a 0-to-60-mph time of 7.2 seconds.

How energetically the car responds to a prod of the accelerator depends on which of the four drive modes you’re in: Sport, Normal, Eco, or Eco+. Sport unsurprisingly was our favorite in a half-day drive in and around Seoul. Some drivers might find it too snappy, and of course it also drains electrons the fastest. In Normal mode the car is still spry, while in Eco and Eco+ one really needs to leg the go-pedal. Note that those two more abstemious settings also affect the climate control, switching it to a driver-only setting in Eco and shutting it off entirely in Eco+.

The Soul has always been more hipster than jock, and yet this well-tuned chassis doesn’t embarrass itself when the road turns twisty – and was even kind of fun when we took a hot lap around Hyundai’s handling track. The steering also is slightly quicker than before, although it’s still fairly light and numb. The new Soul EV has upped its game by switching from a rear beam axle to a more sophisticated multi-link setup, a change exclusive to the EV and one that helps it capably absorbs bumps better than many small crossovers.

For those impatient to start driving green, the Soul EV won’t arrive until summer or perhaps this fall, while the Niro EV should be in showrooms this spring. For either car, however, those showrooms are only the ones located in the 13 states that follow California emissions standards. When it finally arrives, we think green-car shoppers will find the newest version of the electric Soul to be one EV that’s EZ to like.