Set to become the South Korean brand's first-ever mass market electric vehicle, the Kia Soul EV has been officially unveiled at the Chicago auto show ahead of its third-quarter launch.
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The hero car of Kia’s ‘Clean Mobility’ program, the Soul EV – spied days before its official unveiling – will initially be sold in specific EV-ready US states California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey and Maryland, with future expansion dependant on infrastructure and demand.

Powering its front wheels via a single-speed constant-ratio gear reduction unit – similar to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) – the Soul EV teams an 81kW/284Nm electric motor with an Optima Hybrid-derived 27kWh lithium-ion polymer battery located under the floor.

Kia claims an expected full-charge range of approximately 128-160km, with its own internal testing netting results in excess of 161km – around 38km short of the recently updated Nissan Leaf already on sale in Europe.

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Equipped with Kia’s third-generation regenerative braking system, said to be able to capture up to 12 per cent of the car’s kinetic energy when coasting and braking, the Soul EV offers drivers a choice of four different regeneration modes – ‘Drive’ or ‘Brake’ in either Eco-mode ‘On’ or ‘Off’.

Kia says additional cross bracing required for the low-mounted battery improves the Soul EV’s torsional rigidity by 5.9 per cent over its petrol-powered twin. The EV is slower, however; Kia claims it completes the 0-100km/h dash in “fewer than 12 seconds”, while its top speed is electronically limited to “approximately” 145km/h.

The inclusion of the battery also results in rear legroom reduced by 79mm and rear cargo space by 144 litres.

Accessed via a front grille-mounted sliding door, the Kia Soul EV can be plugged into any standard 120v outlet or a conventional 240-volt EV charger with charging times varying from five to 24 hours. The car maker says an 80 per cent charge can be achieved in 33 minutes with a 50kW-output charger. A fast-charging 480-volt port is additionally available.

For added convenience, Kia retailers who sell the Soul EV will also offer owners no-cost charging.

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With looks inspired by the 2012 Kia Track’ster concept, the Kia Soul EV will be offered in two trim levels, ‘Base’ and ‘+’, and three exclusive two-tone colour combinations – Pearl White with Electronic Blue roof, Caribbean Blue with Clear White roof, and Bright Silver with Clear White roof.

Equipment includes projector headlights, LED daytime running lights and tail- lights, an eight-inch navigation touchscreen, rear-view camera, Bluetooth connectivity, power driver’s seat and cruise control.

Distinctive 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped in super-low-rolling resistance tyres and ‘Eco Electric’ wheel arch badging complete the package. Pricing will be announced at a later date closer to car’s US launch.

Kia Australia public relations general manager Kevin Hepworth told CarAdvice there are no plans to offer the Soul EV in our market at this stage.

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