Curing range anxiety with the 2021 Kia Soul EV

2021 Kia Soul EV

The 2021 Kia Soul EV at a Glance

Engine201 hp electric motor
Recharge times9h 35m (AC Level 2) 1 hour (DC 100KW)
Tech featuresAdaptive cruise control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a heads-up-display, Harmon-Kardon sound system, wireless phone charging
Price as tested (estimate)(MSRP Canadian)$54,179

Kia Canada provided a 2021 Kia Soul EV with a full charge for this review

The least striking thing about the 2021 Kia Soul EV is how good it is at just being a car. People who make electric vehicles seem to believe that they need to make them the most futuristic versions of themselves. In most cases, the manufacturers themselves have played right into this belief, turning their EV models into glorified tablets. The 2021 Kia Soul EV does more than offer up the simple experience of driving a car. It goes a long way to help ease many of the worries we seem to have about making the switch from gas to electric.

Getting over it

Before picking up my test loaner from Kia this November, I reached out to AutoTrader’s EIC Jodi Lai in a bit of a panic. I was worried. I worried because my home doesn’t have a fast charger, and I had many long trips to do that week. I worried because it was getting cold, and the 2021 Kia Soul EV already had less than 400 km (285 miles) of range in the best conditions. To be blunt, I had a classic case of range anxiety. “It’s so easy to live with,” Jodi told me in response to my plea for tips, “there’s absolutely nothing you need to know!” She was right. A week with the 2021 Kia Soul EV all but eliminated most of my concerns about range anxiety and making an EV a daily driver.

The little Kia works hard to put your mind at ease about the diminishing number. As with most PHEVs or EVs these days, the Soul EV game-ifies your driving characteristics. It feels rewarding to see the green piece of the pie fill up, even if there’s no prize. With the build-in navigation equipped, a name and distance to the closest applicable charge station show up. Around my part of Ontario, Canada, the nearest charge station was never more than 5 km away. Even when it fails to find one, it took five minutes on my phone to Google a nearby grocery store charger. It’s a safe assumption that the coverage of these charge networks will only get better with time.

A useful little car

Calling the 2021 Kia Soul EV a “little car” isn’t entirely accurate. It feels much larger than you expect inside, thanks to the raised roof height. It’s the first compact car I’ve driven from Kia, and the Soul EV looks and feels like its ICE twin. There’s space for five, although there isn’t much space in the trunk for the stuff five people might need. Even something like golf clubs required taking advantage of the 60/40 split-folding rear seats—the storage issues aside, the rear seats to provide lots of space for full-grown adults. Where the Kia Soul EV shines is in the driver seat. It is the only car, to date, that has comfortably accommodated my six-foot seven-inch tall friend.

Our top-trim Limited tester had everything you might need in a commuter car. It felt well-built inside, without feeling upscale. The Kia Soul has a more trendy vibe than most, but it does so on the inside without making generally uncool people, like the author, feel out of place. If anything, it’s a refreshing deviation from a typical interior. With the price factored in, the car almost feels about what you’d expect. Kia still has one of the best infotainment systems in the business. However, wireless Android Auto or Apple CarPlay is notably missing at this level. As a tricked-out economy commuting car, the 2021 Kia Soul EV ticks all the boxes.

2021 Kia Soul EV

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Electric future

As Kia makes the Soul EV look and feels like a standard car, it doesn’t take long to be abundantly clear that it isn’t. Full disclosure, the Soul is the first EV I’ve spent time in, meaning the 2021 Kia Soul EV also set my expectations for our electrified future. Driving an EV is a mind-bending experience at first if you have only drive combustion cars your whole life. You won’t find the numbing hyper-acceleration of a Tesla here, but the sensation is unexpected just the same. When equipped with the upgraded 201 hp motor, the 2021 Kia Soul EV is a bit of a sleeper car. It feels faster off the line than some hot hatches. Thanks to the battery’s rigidity, it feels more stable and controlled than a standard Kia Soul might. Considering the electric system’s weight to the Kia Soul EV, Kia has done an admirable job managing body sway. The car still feels light, maneuverable.

Regenerative braking is a term we’ve all heard, but it’s city driving in an EV where it shines. As with most EVs, the 2021 Kia Soul EV lets you control the severity of the “weight” you feel when lifting off the accelerator pedal. Each drive mode has a default regeneration setting or set to your preference in the vehicle settings. At the maximum, and after getting used to it, the 2021 Kia Soul EV is drivable primarily by moderating one pedal’s input. While you’ll wind up using the brakes a whole lot less, it was clear the brakes liked getting used. We got mild rear brake clunking near the end of our week with the Kia Soul.

The range for real life

It’s refreshing how easy the 2021 Kia Soul EV makes the bar of entry into the EV world. As an urban commuter car, and even for the road trip up north, the Soul EV takes a lot of the range anxiety away from you. While the cost of charge networks and electricity is not free, there’s an argument for the savings in total ownership cost that an EV gets. The 2021 Kia Soul EV is also an example of the biggest hurdle we face in EV ownership. At $51,995 Canadian MSRP, the 2021 Kia Soul EV Limited is almost twice the same gas model’s sticker price. It may take the entire life of the EV to make up that difference.

Costs aside, the 2021 Kia Soul EV is an excellent all-around package. It’s a friendly introduction into the world of EVs, one that makes the transition easy for lifelong petrolheads. The Kia Soul sets a high bar as a commuter car, and the EV version is no different. It doesn’t have the best battery range or performance among its EV peers, but the 2021 Kia Soul EV is an excellent all-around car. Whether you’re a fan of EVs or looking to make the jump into one, go check out this car.

Dan Croutch
the authorDan Croutch
Dan is a freelance automotive and technology writer. He enjoys all things pickup trucks, classic cars, and minivans (really). The intersection of vehicles and technology fascinate him.

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