The first wave of electric car rollouts are over, so auto events (like the Los Angeles show happening later this week) don’t always generate kid-in-a-candy-store excitement for green guys like me. Nonetheless, the Kia Soul EV is all-new to me, and I was stoked to have one in my possession last week.

Is the Soul a credible competitor to, say, the Nissan Leaf? You bet it is. And the South Korean automaker has sold 123 of them in the first month (so far in California only, though other states will be added in 2015). Of course, Nissan sold 2,589 Leafs in the same period, but the Kia is just getting started. The Ford Focus electric, after years on the market, only moved 186 units in October, and the Smart ED moved 150.

The Soul EV retains all the luggage and human capacity of the gas version.

The Soul  EV retains all the luggage and human capacity of the gas version.

First, the basics: The Soul offers 93 miles on a charge of its 27-kilowatt-hour battery pack (only the Model S offers more), and costs $33,700 before the federal income tax credit. It's got a miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) of 105. The 81.4-kilowatt electric motor produces 109 horsepower, and 210 pound feet of torque. It’s got an airy, roomy cabin with plenty of uncompromised luggage space. I parked next to my friend’s Leaf, and it was plain that the tall-roofed Kia (while about the same in other dimensions) has the edge in headroom.

The first thing that struck me about the Kia was how quiet it was. Electric cars have been moving in that direction, and the Soul gives you access to the chirping of birds, your neighbor’s lawnmower, and the argument in the back seat (which also has great legroom.)

The Kia Soul has two ports for charging

There are two ports for charging.

My second impression was that, like the BMW i3, the strong regen braking dictates a look-ma-no-brakes driving approach — one I’ve embraced. It’s easily possible in the Soul to coast to a long stop as the regen does its thing, and watch the car gain a mile of range.

Charging the Kia Soul at the local library's WattStation.

Charging at the local library's WattStation.

Recharging is simple enough. A button on the dash opens a forward port where the grille would be. Inside is both a J1772 Level II socket and a CHAdeMO fast charge. I was easily able to top the car off overnight using the provided Level I cable, but at Level II it should take a fairly standard five hours. And my town now has no less than 11 public charge points — I was even able to plug in at the public library.

I’ve seen some loser EV interfaces lately, but the Kia’s is not one of them. All the information you’ll need living with an electric car is readily available and easy to scan, including (accurate) lists of nearby charging stations.

Look at all the charging options!

Look at all the charging options!

As you can tell from those power ratings, the Kia isn’t a hard highway charger, but it’s very quick and fun off the line. Around town, it’s low center of gravity (thank that strategically located battery pack) make it a hoot to drive.

I’d look more objective if I could come up with some caveats, but there’s nothing to report. Occasionally I had to push the charge-port door button twice. The bottom line is this is a very credible, affordable EV, and in the Hyundai/Kia tradition of affordable transportation. My friend, Scott, is coming off his Leaf lease, so I showed him the Soul and asked if he’d consider it. Nope, he’s set on getting a VW e-Golf. Scott’s a confirmed plug-a-holic now. Once you’ve gone electric, you don’t go back.  

Here’s the Kia on video:

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Jim Motavalli ( @jmotavalli ) writes about cars, technology and the environmental world to anyone curious enough to ask.

First drive in the ultra-quiet Kia Soul EV
The Korean electric car is a credible competitor to the Nissan Leaf. It's affordable, too, so let's break the California-only barrier.