In October, Kia confirmed what Internet rumors had been suggesting; the Korean automaker is throwing its hat in the gas-free vehicle market in 2014 with a revamped take on the Kia Soul, called the EV. The specs of the Kia Soul EV suggest this all-electric “natural extension” of the boxy compact is an effort to compete with the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric, and Chevy Volt.
Speaking about the evolution of the Soul EV, Kia Motors America executive director of product planning Orth Hedrick said in an official statement: “Eco-consciousness already comes standard on the all-new Soul with 85 percent of its materials able to be recycled at the end of its lifespan, and the Soul EV will further demonstrate Kia’s engineering capabilities as well as our commitment to producing vehicles with reduced environmental footprints.”
So Kia isn’t holding back on the environmental branding or their targeting of forward-thinking car buyers. Kia also said that the Soul EV would not be priced “to stimulate demand.” Experts speculate that this means somewhere around $35,000.
So that’s the first answer. They are marketing an upgrade on a car people already liked well. Some of the major specifications of the Soul EV suggest even more about what it will mean for the U.S. electric car markets. Experts have guessed that with a CVT transmission and the revamped Soul body, it will have a charge range of around 100 miles and top speeds near 80 mph. Information leaked from press events shows that the new Soul EV will also boast a smoother ride with better handling due to changes in the suspension, a reworked subframe and a number of other adjustments.
And based on how the new Soul was announced, we can further deduce that Kia expects the Soul EV to be a fun, enjoyable ride. Launch photos showing the Soul EV in and around the canyon roads of San Diego are a stark contrast to the Soul’s initial 2009 photos from pan-flat Miami. If you’re looking for a peppy electric vehicle to romp up and down hills, Kia wants you to think you’ve found it.
Based on this information and its early popularity, we can make a few guesses about what the 2014 Kia EV will mean for North American energy-efficient car markets. First, it will steal those potential customers from the Leaf, Focus EV, and Volt who prioritize image. The new body design is sleeker than the original boxy Soul, and has exactly the appeal this kind of EV buyer wants. Only the Nissan Leaf comes close to its aesthetic. In terms of price, it’s right in the same ballpark as all three major competitors.
The other significant impact is the simple fact that a new major player in a relatively small market means more options for consumers. There are a number of electric and hybrid vehicles, but very few in this niche offer the balance of youth-appeal, a dynamic ride, and a laser focus on relevant environmentalism.
It will be clearer what exactly the 2014 Kia Soul EV means for the United States after its official car show unveiling. But one thing is clear: Kia has found something that resonates with EV car aficionados, and they are distilling it very effectively for the roll out of their first foray into all-electric vehicles in the United States.
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Alex Gabriel is a writer at Reply! with several years of digital marketing and copywriting experience. A native of Portland and graduate of the University of Oregon, Alex has a passion for writing about new cars. To learn more about the latest Kia model lineup, read his Kia guide at Reply! today.