Anyone with a passing knowledge of popular culture knows what the TARDIS is.
It’s a blue box that’s bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
From the outside it’s relatively compact and certainly boxy. That quirky design is going to split opinions but I’m a fan of its almost cartoonish appearance. From the front the blanked-off grille area and slit-like headlights give it a unique but endearing frowny face while from the side the flat roof and tailgate make it look like an oversized roller skate.
It’s all very fun and funky but beneath the overblown styling lies a thoroughly sensible vehicle with a surprising amount of passenger space.
Climb inside and you’ll realise that this is a true five-seat car. Not the four-and-a-half seats that most vehicles this size offer but five proper seats with enough leg, head and shoulder room for a family of five to fit comfortably. Front seat space is what you’d expect from a mid-sized crossover but the rear bench is flat and wide with an upright seating position that means there’s loads of room for three passengers. And thanks to that boxy exterior the roofline is high and flat, creating a feeling of space only slightly harmed by swathes of dull black fabric and plastic.
Of course, there has to be a payoff and that comes behind the rear bench, where the boot is a relatively meagre 315 litres. It’s enough for the weekly shop but if five of you are heading away you’ll struggle to fit all your luggage in.
The other slight compromise, depending on your taste, might be the cabin design. It’s in keeping with the cartoony exterior styling and everything from the infotainment surround to the textured panel on the door cards is a touch oversized. It’s well laid out and feels well made but it won’t win any awards for classiness.
Moving the Soul along is a 201bhp electric motor on the front axle, powered by a 64kWh battery sandwiched in the floor. It’s more than sufficient in terms of power and pace, hitting 60mph in 7.6 seconds and pulling strongly at any speed thanks to the instant availability of 291lb ft of torque.
As with any EV the Soul delivers its power in a smooth linear way that makes the lag from a petrol or diesel feel prehistoric and it offers four stages of regeneration under braking, as well as four driving modes ranging from Eco+ to Sport.
Sport speeds up the steering and throttle response but the Soul is still a relatively heavy crossover and despite sharp steering and decent handling it’s not the last word in dynamic ability. It’s also not as refined or smooth riding as rivals like the Citreon e-C4 or Peugeot e-2008.
Where it leaves those too - and others - behind is in the performance of its drivetrain. First off, it officially offers an unrivalled (for the class) 282 miles of range compared with the French duo’s 217 and 206. In the real world that translates to a usable range of 250 miles.
Just as importantly, though, its trip computer can be trusted to consistently offer an accurate range estimate - something neither the Peugeot or Citroen can manage. So when it says it could do 250 miles, it really can.
And, personally, that 250 miles is enough to make the Soul a viable option as a main family car. With five on board I’m never likely to drive further without a stop anyway, and the 100kW charging capability means a half-hour stop will add another 100 miles or so while the family stretch their legs and stock up on sweeties.
There’s only one - well equipped - trim level available and at £32,445 after the PICG the Soul feels like great value. That price puts it on a par with the far less practical Renualt Zoe as well the Honda e with its tiny battery and cabin space. A 62kWh Nissan Leaf starts at £30,445 but is less appealing in every way, and the Hyundai Kona electric gets close to the Soul’s range but not its practicality.
In fact, the most obvious alternative to the Soul comes from Kia itself in the shape of the e-Niro, which offers the same drivetrain but with more conventional looks for the same price. The e-Niro beats the Soul on boot space and has a more appealing cabin but feels less roomy and less individuality. And no-one will ever mistake an e-Niro for a time traveller’s space ship.
Kia Soul EV
Price: £32,445 (after PICG); Motor: Single 150kW synchronous motor; Battery: 64kWh; Power: 201bhp; Torque: 291lb ft; Transmission: Single-speed, front-wheel-drive; Top speed: 104mph; 0-62mph: 7.6 seconds; WLTP range: 282 miles