2015 Kia Soul Driving Impressions

For commuting and driving around town, we found the Kia Soul capable and comfortable. We preferred the 2.0-liter engine because fuel economy is nearly identical and the added power is beneficial when a passenger and cargo are along for the ride.

Underway, the Soul feels like a box. There is quite a bit of lean around the corners, which is typical for these types of cars. Steering is comfortable, but not sporty. While we had to actively steer the car, we also felt like it wasn’t the most responsive. Every Soul comes with an adjustable steering system that Kia calls Flex Steer. It allows the driver to choose from three modes: Comfort, Normal, and Sport. Sport seemed to make the steering feel more heavy, while Comfort made it feel more loosey-goosey. The Flex Steer system does not change other vehicle dynamics like throttle response or shift points.

Suspension is on the firm side, but is not nearly as teeth-chattering as the Mini Cooper Countryman. The Soul behaves best on smoothly paved roads. Potholes unsettle the car a bit, but the current generation handles bumps and undulations much better than earlier Soul models. Braking is smooth and comfortable, and the 6-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly.

Similarly, the Kia Soul EV is great for city commuting, but not for jaunting around twisty roads. Acceleration is peppy off the line, thanks to the inherent low-end torque from the electric motor. Brakes have a comfortable, linear feel and aren’t at all grabby like many hybrids or EVs, a stark contrast from BMW’s one pedal approach that has so much built-in drag that one can stop its car at slow speeds just by lifting. While the Soul’s brakes might not regenerate as much energy, it’s definitely more comfortable and familiar. Super-low-rolling resistance tires help to achieve better efficiency, but moan and squeal when barely pushed in corners. Overall, it’s quite pleasant.

The biggest issue with the Soul EV is the same issue with every electric car: You need a place to charge it. And finding a charging location is only part of the battle. In Santa Monica, California, chargers are abundant, but so are electric cars. It’s rare to find a station that isn’t already occupied by a Leaf, Volt or Tesla. Fortunately, many city parking charging stations are free in SM. To make matters more complicated, different companies operate different charging stations and one must have a separate account for each.

In addition to 120-volt household and Level-2 charging ports, the Soul EV also has the newer, DC fast-charge port. Though it’s much quicker, we paid $9.99 for a single use for the fast charger (those with accounts pay less), and charging stopped at 84 percent, since fast changers won’t charge to 100 percent capacity.

Soul EV is easy to keep charged in the suburbs. We charged one up on house current in New Jersey overnight and discovered it to be idiot-proof easy and a non-event. We became aware of the importance of parking near an outlet and we noticed the charge indicators on the adaptor were hard to read in bright sunlight. The connections were easy and when complete we quickly disconnected, closed the lid in the grille, stashed the charge cable in a compartment under the cargo floor, and drove away.

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