Who’s been lying awake lately, unable to sleep due to the news of a pending all-electric version of an existing car model?
Exhilarating or not, that’s the news surrounding Kia and their funky/cool/edgy/different/fill-in-the-blank Soul. This fall, an EV version of the compact 4-door wagon goes on sale in select U.S. states (hint: mainly northern blue ones), and will be helped along in the Rumbling State by 17 Kia fast-charging stations.
Other states and those living in the white mass north of the border can expect their Soul EV’s to arrive in 2015.
Going by factory glamour shots, funky/cool/edgy/different colour schemes and a front fascia that says ‘no’ to incoming air will make the Soul EV stand out from its gas-sipping brethren. Official media releases claim a driving range of 200 kilometres, agile handling, “class-leading” acceleration, and a top speed of 145 km/h.
(Official blurb here: http://tinyurl.com/lszo9br)
That acceleration comes by way of a 109-horsepower electric motor making 210 lb.-ft. of torque, doled out in a big spoonful by a 1-speed automatic transmission. Contrast these numbers with the base (1.6-litre) gasoline Soul, which makes 130 hp but a paltry 118 lb.-ft. of torque.
The uplevel 2.0-litre rings in at 151 lb.-ft of grunt.
The range of the all-electric Soul doesn’t challenge the Tesla Model S, but it does top that of the Ford Focus EV and Nissan Leaf by a little bit.
The announcement of the Soul EV’s attributes and California charging network comes hot on the heels of a splashy commercial aired during August’s MTV Video Music Awards (aka the #VMA’s – OMG, LOL, WTF!).
That commercial – better known as the newest ‘hamster ad’ – served to pimp a new Maroon 5 track and was accompanied by a cringeworthy media release of its own.
(Strap yourself in and read it here: http://tinyurl.com/o85958f)
While I’m loathe to call any attention to the infuriating and insufferable Adam Levine, I’m linking the commercial here, if only to provide context to the gaspingly earnest media release (“geek chic”??!).
Despite all of this uber-hip fanfare, the biggest boon to the Kia Soul’s fortunes in the recent past has actually been… (wait for it!)… the Roman Catholic Church.
During a tour of South Korea earlier this summer, the often-unpredictable Pope Francis (who has shunned the Vatican’s armoured vehicle fleet) tooled around in a black Kia Soul. This wasn’t altogether unexpected from a pontiff who previously made headlines for scoring a great deal on a 1984 Renault hatchback.
It has since been reported that the high-profile run-in with the pontiff led to an unexpected payout for Kia.
Orders for the Soul – a niche vehicle on that side of the ocean, too – jumped 62.5% during the week of his visit.
Kia Motors was apparently so tickled by the attention given to the country’s auto industry, they’ve offered to ship the very same Soul to the Vatican as a personal gift to Francis. There, the Soul will join the ’84 Renault and a used Ford Focus the pontiff has recently been seen in.
The EV version of the Soul is a welcome development in a vehicle market that has cooled on the whole electric thing over the past year or so. Yes, automakers new to the electric game (such as Kia and BMW) are jumping into the EV fray with their own offerings, while improvements in existing models continue, but some of that excitement that surrounded the EV world circa 2010 is missing.
Maybe this sense of ‘ordinary’ is a good thing, as it shows that these vehicles – and the thought of them – are becoming more normalized and commonplace in the eyes of the public.