Kia launches an electrified Soul and a redone Optima Hybrid

February 6, 2014

Behold Kia’s perky Soul, electrified. The 2015 Kia Soul EV is Kia’s first entry into the burgeoning American electric car market, which also currently the Nissan Leaf, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus Electric, and is soon to welcome newcomers like the BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf.

If the Soul EV pushes the envelope at all, it’s not by much. An electric motor that produces 109 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque sends power to the front wheels via a single-speed, constant-ratio gear reduction unit. The lithium-ion polymer battery pack is both compact and juicy, with 27-kWh of capacity. It can be fully charged in 25 minutes using a Level 3 100-kilowatt charging circuit. A 240-volt outlet can charge a depleted battery in five hours, while 110-volt plug could require more than eight hours.

Acceleration is a little on the slow side, even among EVs, with zero to 60 taking about 12 seconds according to Kia. At very low speeds — under 12 mph, or in reverse — the Soul EV will emit a virtual engine sound to warn inattentive passersby and neighborhood cats that might otherwise cross the Kia’s path. Top speed is in the 90 mph neighborhood, though don’t expect much range at that pace.

Speaking of range, perhaps the most important consideration of an EV customer, Kia claims that the Soul EV can travel 80 to 100 miles in the real world, with some in its test fleet achieving over 100 miles of ultimate range. The brake regeneration system is also said to be able to reclaim up to 12% of the car’s kinetic energy.

The Soul EV retains much of the funkiness of the standard Soul, which was just redesigned for 2014, but cleans up the front end with a width-emphasizing front fascia and a paneled-over aero grille. Inside, the Soul EV features unique white trim pieces and special sound-proofing materials are designed to quell road noise that might otherwise become noticeable in the absence of engine sound.

The 2015 Kia Soul EV arrives in California later this year, and will spread to other markets such as Oregon, New York, and New Jersey by spring of 2015. The Soul EV’s price is has yet to be announced, but Kia promises it will be “music to your ears,” which we take to be somewhere near $30,000 before any government incentives.

The Soul EV wasn’t the only electrified vehicle Kia brought to Chicago: the refreshed 2014 Optima Hybrid also crept onstage, showing off its more aerodynamic front fascia, new LED taillamps, unique headlamps, and lightweight wheels. No changes were made to its hybrid powertrain, which produces 199 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque and achieves 36 mpg city / 40 mpg highway, and 38 mpg combined