The Hamsters are back, and they're performing a science experiment that resulted in this: the 2015 Kia Soul EV. It’s one of the newest electric cars on the market, but what's it like to use?

Let's start with what makes the Soul EV different from any other Kia Soul to date: the powertrain. It’s driven by an 80-kilowatt electric motor (that’s 109 horsepower) that produces 210 pound-feet of torque. The motor is powered by a 27-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack mounted under the rear cargo floor.

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According to the EPA, the Soul EV is rated at 93 miles of range, with an efficiency of 105 MPGe. In our testing, though, we’ve found it easy to beat the range rating and drive more than 100 miles on a charge.

At first, the driving experience is almost eerily quiet. There’s no whine during acceleration as you’ll hear in some other EVs. The pedestrian warning sounds are part light saber, part slow-motion crickets. Frankly, from behind the wheel, the Soul EV is a really nice-driving version of what’s already a smart car.

It feels quick, but it’s hardly scorching from a standstill. There’s more than enough power for any situation below 50 mph; above that speed, it feels about as powerful as the Soul with the base 1.6-liter gasoline engine.

The Soul EV actually handles much better than the gasoline-powered Soul, despite being more than 300 pounds heavier. There’s a more glued-to-the-pavement feel behind the wheel. But the low-rolling-resistance tires don’t have much grip—meaning that if you like to corner aggressively, you won’t enjoy the Soul EV to its fullest.

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The car has two drive modes: D for drive and B for more aggressive regenerative braking. In D, or normal mode, it coasts reasonably well and you’ll feel a bit of idle creep when you lift your foot from the brake pedal. Pull the shift lever to B, and there’s a ton more brake regen here—to the point that if you aren’t a skilled ‘one-pedal’ driver, you may make your passengers’ heads bob.

So how do we get those electrons into the Soul EV? Using a 240-Volt, Level 2 charging station, you’ll take five hours or less to charge the battery pack. But there’s a CHAdeMo DC fast-charging port as well, which lets the Soul EV go from empty to an 80-percent charge in just 33 minutes. If you don’t have either of those options available, you’re looking at about 20 hours on a standard 120-Volt outlet.

Inside, the Soul EV benefits from all the updates in the second-gen Soul. The cabin is well packaged, and four adults won’t have a problem fitting inside for a road trip—and there even heated rear seats. Need more cargo room? The rear seats fold forward, and while the cargo floor isn’t completely flat, it’s close enough.

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The interface in the Soul EV is quite simple on the surface. The gauge cluster has a stable, predictable estimated-range meter, a battery-charge percentage meter, a speedometer, and a reconfigurable display in the middle. All the in-depth features are accessed by hitting an ‘EV’ button on the center stack, which brings you to a screen of EV-centric options. They’ll let you figure out where the closest charger is or set times for recharging overnight, when your electric rates may be lowest.

How much does it cost, and where can you get it? Currently the 2015 Kia Soul EV starts at $34,500, but most buyers are expected to lease. That cost is $249 a month for 36 months, with $1,999 due at signing. That incorporates the $7,500 Federal income-tax credit. Frankly, we’d call that a deal.

Unfortunately, Kia only sells the Soul EV in California, for now. It’s not even available here in Oregon! There’s a rollout plan for the East Coast states, possibly for next spring, but it hasn’t been finalized yet.

So what’s the bottom line on the 2015 Kia Soul EV? It may have the best usable driving range outside of a Tesla Model S, along with wondrous versatility and more interior room than other electric cars its size. Its biggest downfall? It’s only available in California.

Read more about the Kia Soul EV here.


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