A featured player in the automaker's green-themed Chicago show cast, the 2015 Kia Soul EV melds the cool character of its gasoline-powered sibling with an even more eco-friendly and electric personality. We were impressed with the Soul EV prototype we drove last fall, and our initial take on this now fully- sorted successor is that Kia's first volume-build electric vehicle appears ready, willing and able to take on key rivals like the Chevy Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus Electric and Nissan LEAF

Visually, the new Soul EV retains all of the standard Soul's basic styling themes but does gain a number of unique elements - starting with a two-tone paint scheme that will initially consist of Pearl White with an Electronic Blue roof and Caribbean Blue/Clear White or Bright Silver/Clear White combos. Other differentiators include a custom front fascia with a larger grill area to house the EV's dual charging ports, projector beam headlamps, LED running lights/taillamps and "Eco Electric" fender badges. The remake also brings dedicated 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped in special Super Low Rolling Resistance (SLRR) tires that trim an additional 10 percent off of the conventional low-resistance index. 

Also: More first looks from the 2014 Chicago Auto Show

Motivation for the new Soul EV comes from a 109-horspower motor that produces 210 lb-ft of peak torque. Powering the front wheels via a single-speed/constant-ratio transmission, the motor accelerates the car to 60 mph in about 12 seconds and carries it on to an electronically-limited 90 mph top speed.  The car has an air-cooled 27kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack located beneath the floor that gives it a nominal range of 80-100 miles on a single charge. 

In addition to getting on-the-fly replenishment from the automaker's third-generation regenerative braking system, the battery can be topped off by using either of two standard ports - one for Level 1 and 2 systems and a second for Level 3 480V fast-charging. Kia says an electronic refill will drop from 24 hours using the standard 6.6kW on-board charger and a 120V household outlet to less than five hours when plugged into a dedicated 240V system. It's also possible to bring the pack up to 80-percent level in barely half an hour using a 50kW Level 3 setup.  

Also: 2014 Compact SUVs at a glance 

Inside, the Soul EV's well-finished passenger compartment is impressively appointed and boasts unique trim touches throughout along with better sound isolation properties. Making extensive use of bio-friendly materials whether done in cloth or optional leather, the EV's standard feature set includes a Supervision instrument cluster with ultra-efficient organic LED (OLED) illumination, navigation with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, cruise control, Bluetooth, power windows, a power driver's seat and a multi-mode low-draw climate control system as well as a full array of requisite EV-centric controls and displays. It also offers remote-activation functionality, infotainment apps and can provide ancillary information on charging stations through Kia's UVO EV Services, which are provided at no cost during the first five years of ownership. 

While remaining fairly spacious, the transition to electric power does exact a modest cost on the Soul EV's interior volume. Rear-seat legroom drops from 39.1 to 36.0 inches - although it still tops most of its EV competitors. Cargo space also takes a hit, shrinking from 24.2 cu ft to a quite serviceable 19.1 cu ft figure to accommodate the battery cooling fan and on-board charger.

Also: 2014 Small Luxury Sport Sedans

The 2015 Soul EV will go on sale later this year with initial marketing concentrated in California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey and Maryland. Kia plans to broaden that scope in the near future to meet what it anticipates will be expanding demand - and support infrastructure. Final pricing on the Soul EV will be announced closer to its actual arrival in dealerships

More Electric Vehicle News...

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