New Kia Soul EV Urban 2023 review

The new Kia Soul EV Urban is set to give city drivers electric motoring at a cheaper price point

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Verdict

The Kia Soul EV has long struggled to justify its existence next to its more rounded Niro EV stablemate. While this remains the case for the range-topping Explore model, with its big battery, the cheaper Urban car may well have carved out a niche for itself. It’s priced close to many electric superminis on the market, but its higher driving position and extra practicality will appeal to some.

The Kia Soul has been a bit of an oddball since its inception, even over the three years that the more polished third-generation model has been on sale in the UK. It remains an electric-only offering for customers here – but now, thanks to a range reshuffle, Kia has introduced a new Urban model that costs a whopping £6,000 less than the regular Soul EV, which has since been renamed the Explore.

Key to the Urban model’s lower price point is its smaller 39kWh battery (Explore cars get a 64kWh pack), which reduces the range from 280 miles (WLTP) down to only 171. While this may not seem like a lot, the Urban, as its name suggests, is designed primarily for town driving; Kia says the model will do just over 250 miles on a charge if you stay within the confines of city streets.

Another way Kia has cut costs is by stripping away some of the luxuries from the Soul EV’s well finished cabin. The touchscreen, for example, is downgraded from a 10-inch display in the Explore to a relatively low-res seven-inch unit in the Urban, and instead of a leather steering wheel, the Urban’s rim gets a rubberised plastic finish which, unfortunately, rather resembles a swimming-pool noodle in both appearance and texture.

The steering itself is light and effortless, making the Soul EV a doddle in town. A high seating position, paired with the car’s boxy shape, allows for plenty of visibility.

Our test route mostly comprised sweeping country roads, which aren’t exactly the model’s intended stomping ground. But they did highlight that even with a less powerful 134bhp electric motor (the Explore gets a beefier 201bhp unit), the Soul is still decent to drive. While we wish the steering would weight up when switched into Sport mode, body control remains surprisingly tight for such a tall, boxy car, staying rigid in even the twistiest of bends.

Don’t be fooled by that 9.9-second 0-62mph time, either; instant EV torque means the Soul EV feels deceptively nippy
– especially when accelerating hard from low speed, with the skinny front tyres scrabbling for grip whenever you put your foot down. This inherent ‘get up and go’ only adds to the Soul’s city-driving prowess.

The Kia is pretty relaxing to drive when you want it to be, too; the whir of the electric motor becomes audible only under hard acceleration, although there is a bit of wind noise at high speed – no doubt caused by the upright stance. The suspension is supple, too, but if the roads are particularly rough wherever you live, then a Citroen e-C4 will be kinder to your back.

According to the Soul EV’s slightly dated instrument cluster, we were able to return around 4.2 miles per kWh during our test drive, resulting in a range figure of just over 163 miles. This is only slightly shy of the aforementioned 171-mile claimed range for the Soul, and with a light right foot we expect it would be pretty easy to get close to the 200-odd-mile ranges of other similarly priced EVs.

With this in mind, the Soul EV Urban looks to be a compelling choice; starting at just under £33,000, it’s around the same price as much less practical electric superminis, such as the Peugeot e-208. The Kia’s 315-litre boot is only a little bigger than the Peugeot’s, but its square shape makes stacking luggage easier. Also, the Soul’s tall roofline means that adults can sit comfortably in the back, despite the rear bench’s poor under-thigh support.

Model:Kia Soul EV Urban
Price:£32,845
Powertrain:1x e-motor, 39.2kWh batt.
Power/torque:134bhp/395Nm
Transmission:Single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
0-62mph:9.9 seconds
Top speed:97mph
Range:171 miles
Max charging:100kW (10-80% in 47min)
On sale:Now
Consumer reporter

Tom is Auto Express' Consumer reporter, meaning he spends his time investigating the stories that matter to all motorists - enthusiasts or otherwise. An ex-BBC journalist and Multimedia Journalism graduate, Tom previously wrote for partner sites Carbuyer and DrivingElectric and you may also spot him throwing away his dignity by filming videos for the Auto Express social media channels.

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