Since more than a few of us are going to be faced with some hard choices if the EV tax credit gets axed, I thought I'd post my thoughts about the Kia Soul EV, and directly compare it to my 24kwh Leaf SV. I'll also compare it to the Bolt Premiere I drove recently.
As often happens with test drives, this one was just a little rushed because of the hour, and I didn't think of everything at the time. Still, I did get to walk around the car (tiny truck?), move the seats around, check out the parking sensors, and drive it at 45MPH on a lightly trafficked four lane boulevard.
SIZE: The Soul, like the Bolt, is shorter than my Leaf, and seemed slightly narrower, while being the same height or slightly taller. The rear cargo area is a mixed bag: with the rear seats up, it's fairly tiny, like the Bolt's, and similarly fairly shallow because of the hidden storage compartments under the rear deck. The Leaf's cargo compartment is clearly larger and more useful with the rear seats up. Lower the back seats, though, and the cargo area opens up nicely, with a much larger seeming, squared off area in the center of the car. I've seen photos of the Soul with seats folded, and they seemed flatter than the one I tested, but that have been because the front seats were well back in their tracks. Anyway, the Soul appeared to me to have the most useful cargo area of the three cars in two-seater mode. It would have been hands-down the best if not for the relatively tiny rear hatch, which seems to have been designed more for style than for ease of stowage. As it is there is the same kind of "bottleneck" back there as the Leaf has, in the area of the rear strut towers. It was my impression that the Soul has the lowest liftover height of the three cars, but I'm not certain of that.
Conclusion: none of these cars make great station wagons, but the Soul seems to have the most useful storage with the rear seats down, and the least with them up. The Leaf is the best with the rear seats up, and the Bolt may be the best compromise because of its flatter-folding seats.
DRIVING IMPRESSIONS: The Soul is the most truck-like in the way it seats people, high up with excellent visibility. I hope that the driver's seat can be lowered from where it was, but I didn't try because I didn't realize it was too high until I was on the road. The Bolt, however, is definitely the most truck-like in suspension compliance and road noise. The Soul, like the Leaf, is fairly quiet on the road, and absorbs bumps well without being too soft. I've read complaints about the lack of steering feel, but after four and a half years of driving my Leaf I didn't notice it - I guess that "numb" is "normal" for me now. I didn't do any hard cornering, but I have no reason to doubt accounts of the Soul handling well. Acceleration was bit of a disappointment: I don't know how Nissan managed to make the Leaf so quick off the line with 108HP and 189lb-ft of torque, but even though the Soul has one more HP and something like 21 more lb-ft of torque, the off the line acceleration is adequate, but not thrilling. I'm guessing that mid-range power is better than the Leaf's (and both of course are worse than the Bolt's). Otherwise the slightly faster 0-60 time for the Soul would make no sense. I didn't try to change dash options, but the large digital speed readout on the right side of the dash was OK - no straining to interpret a 19th century dial display. The cruise control is slightly harder to activate than my Leaf's (and similar to the 2018 Leaf's) because you are pressing two buttons out of six or so on a TV remote-style shuttle pad located on the steering wheel. Anyway, the fairly short drive was neither disappointing nor invigorating. The car's Guess O Meter was optimistic, but not as much as the Leaf's GOM. I was told that we were the second test drive since the car was last charged, and it was still reading 85% SOC when I parked it, having blasted the heat in 36F weather for the whole drive. This suggests to me that the Soul really is more efficient than the Leaf, and really does have significantly more range. (The heater is, however, noticeably slower to provide heat. It took about three minutes. I wonder if the heat pump runs alone in mild weather, to save power?)
FEATURES & COMFORT: The Soul comes in two trim levels (three in California), the EV and EV+. As with the Bolt, if you choose the higher trim option you are forced to accept leather seating. This seriously Irks me, because I usually want the higher option level, and have no desire whatsoever to sit on leather. The seats are actually only a little more comfortable than the Bolt's crappy seats, and are also too narrow, although not as much so. I also found the driver's seat too hard. There is a panoramic sunroof available on both trims, IIRC. It doesn't interest me, and the only thing you get bundled with it for about $1k more is pulsating lights on the speakers. Riiight...
I drove an EV+ because I wanted to check out the parking sensor system, which is of course only available on the EV+. It was a big disappointment. I drove the car to a well-lit part of the lot with no cars around, turned the sensors on, and crept towards the 6" curb. Nothing happened. I knew that I was close enough, so the salesman got out and waved me forward. Just about when I expected to hear loud scraping and popping sounds from the nose, the car started beeping hysterically, and the salesman signaled me to stop. I got out, and the front bumper was actually ABOVE THE CURB and several inches in above it at that. There was a light post with a concrete base about 2' behind the curb, and the salesman theorized that the sensor system had focused on that instead of the curb. FAIL. It's a good thing the Soul has plenty of ground clearance.
Conclusion: I'd cheerfully lease an EV trim Soul instead of an EV+ and install aftermarket parking cameras, but naturally the dealership only has EV+ cars left on the lot. The interior wasn't as nice as my Leaf's, at least from my perspective, but it was still less annoying than the Bolt's. The button for the electric parking brake is located down in a well in front of and between the seats with the parking sensor button, and it's both hard to locate and rather indifferent to requests to activate - you have to press it firmly.There is no reason, IMO, to get an EV+ unless you like leather-covered seats with air conditioning channels in them. I did like the energy saving driver-only climate control mode, but didn't test it as I had my housemate along for the ride.
FINANCIALS: The Soul lease is the best buy out there, right now. For $2k down I'd get a 36 month EV+ lease for $173 a month, plus state tax. If they had an EV trim Soul in stock, the lease would have been $157 with the same down payment, again with tax not included. I forgot to ask about the residual, but I've read elsewhere that it's about $11k, making the car affordable to buy when the lease ends. The Bolt is the worst lease deal by far: for the same $2k down I'd be paying $360 a month for a well-optioned Premiere, with a residual North of $25k. Feh. I'm going to get a quote for a well-optioned LT, again having to add my own parking cameras.
I'm not going to get a lease quote for a 2017 Leaf, because the 30kwh packs are so terrible, apparently, that you have to live in the Upper Midwest or Northwest to risk even leasing one...
2013 "Brilliant Silver" SV with Premium and no QC, a 2009 Vectrix VX-1 W/18 Leaf modules, and 3 EZIP E-bicycles.
PLEASE don't PM me with Leaf questions. Just post in the topic that seems most appropriate.