As one era draws to an end another one begins. With the 240 series, dating back to the 80’s, Volvo introduced diesel engines on a large scale, now with the new S60, diesel engines disappear from the Swedish maker’s catalogue in favour of plug-in hybrids
Kia deserves the credit for being the first to introduce the concept of Urban Crossover to the market, opening the doors of the automotive market to an additional niche back in 2009 with the debut of the Kia Soul. Not your normal crossover with front-wheel drive only and the declared ambition of being a true urban vehicle... and a little more. From the second series - dated 2014 - we saw the introduction, alongside traditional power units, of a totally green version, the Soul EV (Electric Vehicle), revamped five years later with a renewed, enlarged and enhanced version of the e-Soul, now in its third series.
A unique style
Although the distinctive design, which has always distinguished the Soul, does not differ much from its predecessors, the latest edition definitely gains in size and volume, reaching 4.2 metres in length (+55 mm), 1.8 in width and a height of 1.61 m, with a wheelbase of 2.6 metres, also increased by 30 mm to enhance dynamic stability and internal room able to comfortably accommodate five passengers, while space in the boot ranges between 315 and 1,339 litres, thanks in part to the compact size of the battery pack housed under the floor and the absence of a spare tire. Externally, at first glance, the main difference between with the ICE versions is the grille, which is absent here replaced by a smooth panel that acts as the natural link between front and hood with the charging flap to one side. With the exception of front and rear, the edges being now somewhat softer, not much has changed in the overall design of the Kia Soul, apart perhaps from the new pillar at the rear window and both bumpers which incorporate new full LED light clusters both front and rear. An optional bi-colour combination, with contrasting tones for the roof and external rear-view mirrors, further characterizes the Soul’s visual impact, with many possible combinations. The optional Suv Pack adds enlarged wheel arches, engine guard plate and dedicated inserts on the lower end of the doors, more for decoration than functionality.
A general renovation could not spare the interiors; while maintaining the original configuration, they now offer an updated and more upmarket, set of features, considering the type of car, both from a technological point of view and style. Surrounded by fabric, real leather or imitation leather upholstery, depending on the version, with stitching in neutral or bright colours, we find a latest-generation electronic kit. A multi-function steering wheel and digital dashboard with a 7" TFT display from which all the functions and information useful for the driver can be easily accessed. A central 10.25" touchscreen displays diagnostics and mileage, battery charge level, navigation and entertainment. This is the heart of the Uvo Connect system, which allows passengers to connect with the outside world, providing real-time information on weather conditions, traffic, navigation with relative points of interest and parking, as well as recharging stations accessible along the route. Through the Uvo app, all information on battery charge levels, route planning, pre-heating – or pre-conditioning - can also be remotely accessed on a smartphone. In addition, as one might expect, there is no shortage on active driving control devices, the ever-present ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System), managed by radars, sensors and video cameras. Among the many, we can mention the road information projected on the windscreen, Forward Collision Assist, Smart Cruise Control and Park Assist, useful to avoid going crazy with a thousand manoeuvres in tight city spaces. With Vehicle Stability Management, on the other hand, traction and stability control reduces the risk of skidding and sliding, while in the unfortunate event of an impact being unavoidable, the 6 airbags and a reinforced steel and aluminium bodywork protect more than adequately the passengers.
Far from being a tame little electric car useful only in city traffic and little more, Kia’s Soul boasts a permanent magnet synchronous motor with high output that guarantees loads of fun. A unit available in two versions, Mid-range and Long-range, associated with as many lithium-ion polymer cells (Li-Poly) battery packs, credited with an energy density of 250 Wh/kg, 327 and 356 Volts of total voltage, more compact and able to deliver high performance - and safer – being now able to store 25% more energy than previous lithium-ion batteries. The entry level comes with 136 hp, a maximum torque of 395 Nm between 0 and 2,400 rpm (39% more than the previous Soul EV) and capacity of 39.2 kWh, with an estimated energy efficiency of 145 Wh/km (data obtained in the combined WLTP cycle), which allows a range of up to 277 km, speed limited to 155 km/h with acceleration 0-100 km/h in 9.9 seconds. Going up a level, the e-Soul Long-range, with 204 hp of power, still 395 Nm of torque but between 0 and 3,600 rpm, with a capacity of 64 kWh, extends its range up to 452 km, top speed of 167 km/h and a brilliant acceleration 0-100 km/h in 7.9 seconds. Waiting times for recharging have also improved, through the Combined Charging System - CCS - which guarantees up to 80% of the capacity in just over 40 minutes, through a 100 kW Fast Charger system, while the 7.2 kW Wall Box can recharge completely the batteries in about 6 hours.
Significant improvements in mileage that translate in longer range of action, here guaranteed also by advanced energy recovery systems, such as regenerative braking, able to recover kinetic energy through five levels of intervention, so efficient as to allow the car to stop even without having to push the brake pedal.
Braking is guaranteed by a system managed by four discs, including self-ventilating front discs, adequate to guarantee short stopping distances despite 1,680 kg GVW of the e-Soul Long-range, 90 kg less for the Mid-range. The four independent suspension and double stabilizer bars combines the tried and tested McPherson front suspension with a brand new rear multilink - in place of the previous torsion axle - to give the driver greater stability, responsiveness and comfort.
A single wheel set-up meets the need for grip and low rolling resistance, thanks to 215/55 tires mounted on 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, which further distinguishes the Soul EV from the ICE range.