By Matt Degen
KBB Expert Rating: 8.9
There's nothing on the road quite like the 2015 Kia Soul. With its funky exterior design and interior roominess that both come thanks to this vehicle's boxy design – not to mention its sub-$16,000 starting price – Kia's 5-passenger rectangle on wheels is appealing as both an economy car and style statement. This wasn't always the case. When the Soul launched in 2009 it faced rivals such as the Nissan Cube, Honda Element and Scion xB. With the Cube and Element now gone and the xB aging rapidly, the Soul is now the standout among small, boxy cars. Fresh off a revamp, Kia's 5-door hatchback returns for 2015 with impressive technology and creature comforts, plus a new all-electric version available in select states.
Whether you desire value, practicality, stylish looks or surprising technology and amenities in your economy hatchback, the 2015 Soul checks all the boxes. The new plug-in Kia Soul EV, meanwhile, offers all that in an electric car with an EPA-estimated range of 93 miles.
KBB Expert Ratings
The big news is the new 2015 Kia Soul EV electric car, initially for sale in California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey and Maryland. Other than that, the Soul receives only minor updates such as UVO telematics packaging for base models and available Nappa leather seating in top trims.
With its 29-percent-stiffer chassis and reworked suspension, this latest-generation Kia Soul is far more graceful than the first-gen model that exited in 2013. The cabin is quieter...
... and the suspension does a better job of absorbing all but the largest of road imperfections. While it's true that Kia's funky 5-door hatchback offers the Flex Steer feature to let you tailor steering resistance among three levels, all remain poor conduits of information from the front tires to the driver. Even so, the Soul steers predictably and corners with more confidence than prior versions. Acceleration is merely adequate when overtaking traffic or merging on the freeway, even with the more powerful 2.0-liter engine. Like its gasoline counterpart, acceleration isn't a strong suit of the new Soul EV, but the all-electric Kia did prove quiet and showed respectable handling and responsiveness in our initial test drive.
UVO is the name for Kia's infotainment suite, which includes everything from audio entertainment and Bluetooth phone pairing to navigation and vehicle diagnostics. For 2015, UVO adds Geo-fencing, Speed Alert, Curfew Alert and Driving Score, all of which can be especially helpful for keeping track of younger drivers and their habits.
VENTILATED FRONT SEATS
A sweat-free posterior is a wonderful thing. How cool is it, then, that the glorious comfort of ventilated front seats is available in the Kia Soul – a car with a sub-$16,000 base price? Sure, the ventilated seats cost extra, but man are they worth it.
The 2015 Kia Soul features a 2-row, 5-passenger cabin whose looks and functions improve as you climb the three trim levels, from cloth seats in base models to available Nappa leather in top-line versions. The 2015 Soul does an admirable job of blending practicality and whimsy. This hatchback's boxy shape and folding rear seats make it surprisingly spacious, while features such as speaker lights that pulsate to the beat are nothing if not different. The optional panoramic sunroof is an unexpected treat in such an economy car. The electric Soul features bio-friendly materials and an efficient organic LED instrument screen.
The latest Soul retains the original's tall, rectangular profile, but stays fresh thanks to a reworked front end and tall taillights. The Soul’s tall profile offers function in addition to fashion. Along with abundant headroom and luggage space, the high roof allows for raised seating positions and good visibility for all inside. Top-line models further stand out with LED turn-signal indicators in the side mirrors, projector-beam headlights and LED taillights. The Soul electric car sets itself apart with a hidden charging port up front and a 2-tone paint scheme initially consisting of white with a blue roof or silver with white roof.
The 2015 Kia Soul comes in three trims: Base, Plus (+), and Exclaim (!). The Base trim includes basics like air conditioning, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, a 6-way manual-adjust driver's seat, power windows and doorlocks, Bluetooth wireless technology, and 6-speaker audio with USB input. Plus models add a larger engine and automatic transmission, plus cruise control, keyless entry and upgraded cloth trim. Top-line Exclaim Souls include 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, power-folding outside mirrors, Kia's UVO eServices, a rearview camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat. EV models include an 8.0-inch touch screen with navigation and a suite of EV-centric controls.
Upgrades vary by trim level but include an 8.0-inch touch-screen display and navigation, rearview camera, leather seating, heated front and rear seats, ventilated front seats, LED interior lighting, push-button start, and automatic climate control. Premium tunes can be heard via an Infinity audio system with a prominent center speaker. Drivers looking to eke out fuel economy have the option of the Idle Stop & Go system, which cuts engine power when the vehicle is stopped, such as at traffic signals.
Two 4-cylinder engines are available in the 2015 Soul. Base models come with a 1.6-liter, while the two higher trims use a larger and more-powerful (and more-recommendable) 2.0-liter. All Kia Souls are front-wheel drive, and all except the base model come with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Base models use a 6-speed manual (the automatic is optional). The Soul EV uses no gasoline at all, but rather an electric motor powered by a lithium-ion polymer battery pack. Power is sent to the front wheels via a single-speed transmission. Range is estimated to be 93 miles per charge, which is expected to take from 24 hours on a 120-volt outlet to under five hours on a 240-volt outlet. A DC fast-charging unit can offer an 80-percent charge in about 30 minutes.
130 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
118 lb-ft of torque @ 4,850 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/30 mpg
164 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
151 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/31 mpg, 24/31 mpg (with Idle Stop & Go)
AC synchronous electric motor
27kWh lithium-ion battery pack
210 lb-ft of torque
EPA-estimated range per full charge: 93 miles
EPA city/highway fuel economy equivalent: 120/92 mpge
The 2015 Kia Soul has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at a tantalizing $15,900. Keep in mind that is for a base model with manual transmission. Opting for the automatic transmission on the base model is an extra $2,000. Top-line versions of the Soul begin at around $21,500 and can hit $27,000 fully loaded. The all-electric Kia Soul EV starts at $34,525 before incentives (such as the $7,500 federal tax credit). Even with an automatic transmission, the Soul's entry cost undercuts the base price of the Fiat 500L, Nissan Juke and Scion xB. Pricing for the Soul EV is still to be announced. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Kia Souls. Resale value is expected to be very good for the Soul, though still trailing that of the xB in the long run.