Is it possible to swap an electric drivetrain into an established gas-powered model and end up with an even better vehicle? It certainly helps when the company designing the car in question – in this case Kia – made sure to future-proof its compact Soul wagon by including battery-friendly features in its original design. The 2015 Kia Soul EV boasts the second-best range on the Canadian market (just a tick over 150 kilometres), at half the price of the entry-level Tesla Model S (which breaks the 300 km mark), and it loses none of the practicality that has endeared the standard version of the Soul to legions of entry-level buyers.
Still, when evaluating whether the Kia Soul EV outperforms its internal combustion counterpart, I discovered that it really boils down to what you consider important in a daily driver. Forget the traditional metrics: the best car to park in your garage is always the one that fits the most snugly into your lifestyle.
The 2015 Kia Soul EV is remarkably subtle about clueing you in to the fact that a whirling storm of electrons, rather than a combustible melange of aerosolized gasoline, keeps it motivated. Sure, the wagon comes in the standard array of eco-friendly colours that the auto industry has seemingly come to an agreement will be sprayed on all battery-powered vehicles – including ‘electronic’ blue and pearl white – but aside from that, you’ve got to be detail-oriented to spot the other differences. These include badging on the front fenders, the aero-friendly wheels that diminish the Soul EV’s drag profile, and the utter absence of a grille or any form of forward cooling. The Kia’s front bumper is a solid piece of plastic that fills in the honeycomb found on the gas model, and while the original grille outline is maintained it now houses the EV’s plug door.
Inside it’s a similar story, as all the standard Soul design elements are present and accounted for. The only discernible difference between my high-spec EV tester and the gas model was the gauge cluster, which has been transformed into an LCD wonderland that displays battery charge remaining, power output information, vehicle speed, and estimated range.
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It’s also worth pointing out that because Kia foresaw the eventual introduction of a battery-powered model, there are no real sacrifices to be made in terms of interior space to accommodate the wagon’s power pack. Cargo space is identical to the standard Soul thanks to the decision to locate the battery underneath the rear passenger seat. The end result is a slightly higher position for those riding in the second row but it’s something you’d only notice if you’d spent time in past versions of the Soul before climbing into the EV.