Electric vehicles have been around for quite some time now. However, no manufacturer in the budget segment of the industry has managed to launch a vehicle that can actively replace conventional petrol driven vehicles. Cars such as the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Spark EV, Ford Focus Electric and Fiat 500E have made an honest attempt at making their mark in the world but fall short in some department or the other. The latest manufacturer to join the club is South Korean heavyweight Kia. With the upcoming launch of its Soul EV, we may see a winner soon enough. We pit the Nissan Leaf against the newcomer to see how the South Korean electric hatch fares.
The Nissan Leaf was introduced back in 2010. Since its debut, the little electric hybrid has changed little over the years. While the Nissan Leaf’s off-beat exterior may have been appealing a few years ago, it may require a bit of sprucing up to meet the competition. The front end features a pair of large bulging headlights not unlike India’s very own Micra. Nissan has also incorporated the charging port up front for better ease of access. The rear features a pair of long, free-flowing tail lamps that extend from the roof to the bottom of the trunk giving the leaf a bit of zest.
Kia Soul EV
Similar to the Nissan Leaf, the Kia Soul EV does not manage to impress. Although the car maker is owned by Hyundai, Hyundai’s Fluidic Design philosophy has not managed to creep into any of its own models. As a result, the Kia Soul EV may not turn as many heads as its Hyundai counterparts. Major differences between the Soul’s petrol driven variant and the electric model are the sealed grille, dual color paint job and revised lower front bumper.
Winner: Kia Soul EV
The Nissan Leaf was targeted to be a budget electric hatchback. As a result, the Nissan Leaf does not feature exotic materials or extraordinary design characteristics. However, the Nissan Leaf’s cabin offers the same levels of functionality as its more conventional petrol driven counterparts. The dashboard features a gloss black floating center console that houses a large landscape oriented touchscreen for the infotainment system. Similar to the now discontinued Honda Civic, the Nissan Leaf’s instrument cluster too sports a dual display system. With the primary display housing the details for the battery guage, odometer and diagonostics; the secondary display is a dedicated unit for the speedometer. The three spoke steering wheel features controls for the infotainment system that handles features such as the music system, radio and navigation.
Kia Soul EV
The Kia Soul EV features a fairly standard interior with the center console sporting an infotainment system replete with navigation, Bluetooth telephony and automatic climate control. However, the white/beige color scheme of the Soul EV’s interior does induce a bit of dullness that is not present in its Japanese competitor.
Winner: Nissan Leaf
Under the Hood
Powering the Nissan electric hatchback is an 80 kW motor that churns out 109 hp and a peak torque of 187 lb-ft. While the power figures may not be groundbreaking, one must keep in mind that the Nissan Leaf is an electric vehicle that was developed from the ground up. As a result, the Leaf manages to utilize every horse in the most efficient way possible. The total claimed range offered by the Nissan Leaf is 84 miles.
Kia Soul EV
Unlike the Nissan Leaf, the Kia Soul EV is derived from a petrol model also sold in Kia’s international range. However, an electric model along with its associated requirements was taken into consideration during the design of the latest generation. As a result, the Kia Soul does not make too many compromises with regards to the space and electric range/power. In fact, Kia’s first electric offering manages to dish out better range (93 miles) than most of its competitors.
Under the bonnet is a permanent-magnet AC motor that churns out 109 hp and a max torque of 210 lb-ft. Power is sent to the front wheels via a one speed direct drive gearbox.
Winner: Kia Soul EV
Althought he Nissan Leaf may sport better styling than the Kia Soul EV and can also boast of being developed from the ground up, the little Japanese electric hatch needs significant rework to keep up with the competition. While the Kia Soul EV manages to win this one, both vehicles are in dire need of a radical revamp to produce themselves as serious competition to GM’s upcoming Bolt, a product heralded as a revolution in the electric automotive industry.