Pick Your Plug-in Personality: Kia Unveils Niro and Soul Electrics

Kia brought a choice of electric vehicles to the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, giving a North American debut to the more conservative 2019 Niro EV and a world reveal of the funkier, more youthful EV version of the 2020 Soul. The hatchbacks share the same battery-electric, front-wheel-drive powertrain underneath — but top it off with very different personalities.

Related: More 2018 L.A. Auto Show Coverage

The heart of both is a 201-horsepower electric motor that puts out 291 pounds-feet of torque and a 64-kilowatt-hour, liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack. It’s the same electric platform also used in the corporate cousin Hyundai Kona EV due on sale in early 2019 and EPA-rated for 258 miles of range on a charge.

Kia estimates that the system will be rated 239 miles of range for the bigger 2019 Niro; it did not provide a range for the 2020 Soul EV, which is based on the redesigned conventional 2020 Soul that also was unveiled at the L.A. show. Both EVs are expected on sale in the spring, but unfortunately for EV shoppers, the Niro and Soul electrics, like the Kona EV, will be offered only in limited quantities in “select markets,” which likely means California first and then in other states that also have zero-emission-vehicle sales mandates.

2019 Niro EV

The electric Niro completes the trifecta for the dedicated electrified hatchback that is conservatively styled like a small SUV and has so far offered gas-electric hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions.

Kia says the electric version will be equipped with standard DC fast-charging capability that can add 100 miles of range in 30 minutes or charge the battery to 80 percent of capacity in 75 minutes. A full charge will take around 9.5 hours on the more common Level 2 (240-volt, 7.2-kwh) public chargers or home chargers.

The system includes four drive modes (Eco, Normal, Sport and Eco Plus) that let the driver balance energy efficiency, comfort and driving manners. The modes adjust the aggressiveness of the regenerative brakes and climate-control settings, and can also set speed limits. Four brake regen levels can be controlled separately via steering wheel paddles, and you can also use the paddles to bring the car to a full stop without using the brake pedal. The regen system also uses the front sensors to adjust braking if it detects a vehicle in front.

The EV is otherwise familiar as a Niro, appearing different only with the closed grille, special 17-inch wheels and some additional aero shaping for the bumpers and door sills. The larger battery cuts about a cubic foot from the cargo capacity of the 2018 model, which for the EV version now means 18.5 cubic feet behind the backseat and 53 cubic feet with the seat folded.

The Niro EV will be offered only in the higher EX and EX Premium trim levels with a load of features, including Kia’s Drive Wise bundle of safety and driver assistance tech that includes a forward collision warning with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist and lane departure warning.

The EV interior gets its own blue-highlighted upholstery, and available are a rotary shifter with mood lighting and special graphic door trim. Standard is Kia’s latest Uvo multimedia system with a 7-inch or 8-inch touchscreen, depending on trim level, along with EV-specific features including real-time charging station updates, and the capability to schedule charging and precondition the cabin climate.

2020 Soul EV

While Kia did not provide range or charging details for the new Soul EV, it’s sure to be a big leap from the less capable 2019 Soul electric version with a 109-hp motor and an EPA rating at just 111 total miles of range.

It will continue to be a fun and youthful alternative to the sibling Niro even though the basics are the same along with the powertrain. The Soul EV also offers four drive modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport and Eco Plus) that let the driver balance energy efficiency, comfort and driving manners. Similar to the Niro EV, the modes adjust the aggressiveness of the regenerative brakes, climate-control settings and can set speed limits. It also has four brake regen levels controlled via steering wheel paddles and one-pedal driving using the paddles to bring the car to a stop. The regen system also uses the front sensors to adjust braking if it detects a vehicle in front.

And as with the Niro, standard is Kia’s Drive Wise bundle of safety and driver assist tech that includes forward collision warning with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist and lane departure warning.

Related: 2020 Kia Soul: More Flavors of Cute Non-Ute

From there, however, the Soul takes its own path, with the styling, funkier interior and other features shared with the redesigned 2020 gasoline model. The electric will offer two upscale trim levels, the Soul EV and “super-fancy-sounding” Soul EV Designer Collection. Both have an updated Uvo multimedia system with a big 10.25-inch touchscreen with EV-specific features. The fancier EV Designer Collection adds a gold, red or black contrast-color roof and gloss-black caps for the heated side mirrors. It also gets a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Sofino imitation leather upholstery, wireless phone charging and a premium Harman Kardon audio system.

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