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Sibling rivalry: 2020 Kia Niro EV vs. 2021 Kia Soul EV

Which all-electric Kia small hatchback is right for you?

As governments and automakers push for more alternative energy solutions, there’s plenty of hype surrounding electric vehicles (EVs) these days. However, much of the focus so far is at the higher end of the market. That’s where this pair of electric front-wheel-drive (FWD), 5-passenger hatchback siblings come into play, as the 2020 Kia Niro EV (2021 models have yet to go on sale) and the 2021 Kia Soul EV offer relatively affordable electric transportation for the masses.

With its SUV-like exterior styling and conventional hatchback packaging, the compact 2020 Kia Niro EV doesn’t scream “electric car!” Like its Hyundai Ioniq platform-mate, the Niro offers three   levels of electrification: a gas-electric Hybrid, a plug-in electric hybrid PHEV, and an all-electric EV.

With its boxy, space-efficient design that leaves plenty of room for passengers and their cargo, the sub-compact 2021 Kia Soul EV is an urban-friendly electric ride. In its second generation, the electric Soul was one of the first small and affordable EVs to arrive on the market. 

Read on to find out which of these Kia electric hatchbacks is right for you.

 

Price

Sitting at the top of the electrified Niro range ahead of the $26,845 CDN Hybrid and $35,995 CDN PHEV (with its 42 -kilometre electric range) is the $44,995 CDN Niro EV SX. The topline $54,495 CDN Niro EV SX-Touring adds a power sunroof, heated steering wheel and front and rear seats, premium audio system, lane-keeping assist system, and blind-spot detection Ssystem.

You can buy a gas-engine 2021 Kia Soul for as little as $21,195 CDN. Unlike the electric Niro, the Soul EV offers two levels of electric power: the 134-horsepower $42,995 CDN Premium and the 201-horsepower $51,995 CDN Limited. The Soul EV Limited also adds a heads-up display, premium sound system, leather seats, heated and air-cooled front seats, and sound-reactive mood lights.

Note that both of these small Kia EVs qualify for Transport Canada’s EV purchase incentive program for electric vehicles as well as additional incentives in both British Columbia and Québec provinces.

Winner: 2021 Kia Soul EV

 

Interior 

Several years ago, Kia’s interior design went from frumpy to fantastic, and the cabin of the 2020 Kia Niro EV is one of the finest in its class. The design is clean and straightforward with an upscale feel and high-quality materials. The layout is intuitive, and all of the controls work with precision. Seat comfort is excellent.

Based on the Kia Rio sub-compact platform, the neat and diminutive 2021 Kia Soul hides a deceptively huge interior. Occupant space is ample in all positions, thanks to the excellent head and knee room, plus generous rear-passenger foot space under the front seats. Material quality varies, with higher trims trading rigid plastic surfaces for fashionable stitching and softer materials.

While the Niro offers slightly more front leg- and headroom, the Soul’s boxy, upright design results in more rear headroom and more cargo space behind its rear seats with up to 663 litres compared to 629 in the Niro. 

Winner: Tie

 

Performance & Driving Range

Both of these Kia EVs share many engineering features. But there are some subtle differences when you dig into the details.

The second-generation 2020 Kia Soul EV hatchback offers two levels of electric powertrains. The base Premium uses a 327-volt electric motor, resulting in 134 horsepower, 291 pound-feet of torque, and an estimated electric range of 248 kilometres. 

The Soul EV Limited and Niro EV use the more powerful 356-volt e-motor that scores the same torque rating as the 327-volt unit but with a higher 201-horsepower rating. The electric ranges between the two more powerful Soul and Niro trims results in nearly identical driving estimates of 383 and 385 kilometres, respectively.

Winner: 2021 Kia Soul EV


Ride and Handling

The 2021 Kia Soul EV moves with a sophistication that’s rare among mainstream sub-compact vehicles. An elevated seating position and large side glass give occupants a superb outward view. The interior is relatively quiet at higher speeds, and ride quality is more than acceptable. Credit goes to the Soul EV’s sophisticated independent rear suspension (over the gas model’s torsion beam setup) to accommodate its battery pack.

Kia wanted to be sure its EV kept pace with the company’s sporty image, so it injected the Niro with a platform that feels solid and refined. In town, the Niro feels right at home, with a tight turning radius. 
Winner: 2020 Kia Niro EV
Safety

On par with most of their small hatchback rivals, the Kia Niro EV and Kia Soul EV come with a healthy bit of standard safety technology and equipment. But according to the U.S.-based International Institute of Highway Safety, when both Kias are outfitted with the optional safety features found in the higher trims, the Niro received a Superior rating. At the same time, the Soul was awarded the higher Top Safety Pick.

Winner: 2021 Kia Soul EV

 

Overall Winner: 2021 Kia Soul EV

Both the 2020 Kia Niro EV and the 2021 Kia Soul EV offer affordable electric transportation for the masses. But after we added up the scores, the Soul wins this sibling rivalry. 

If rear-seat accommodations and cargo room are not a priority, overall, we think the Niro EV’s more upscale interior makes up for some of its smaller interior dimensions. And with its wider wheel track and longer wheelbase, the Niro EV also feels more planted in the corners and smoother on the highway than its Soul EV sibling.

Yet, depending on your driving range requirements, the 248-kilomtre range Soul EV Premium may be all the EV you need. Even the longer-range Limited is less expensive than the Niro EV, plus offering more rear passenger and cargo and higher safety scores. 

Of this pair of electric siblings, the 2021 Kia Soul EV is our winner.

 

Specs

2020 Kia Niro EV

2021 Kia Soul EV

 

Engine

Permanent magnet synchronous motor

Permanent magnet synchronous motor

Horsepower

201 hp @ 3,800-8,000 rpm

Premium -134 hp @ 2,600-8,000 rpm

Limited -201 hp @ 3,800-8,000 rpm

Torque

291 lb-ft @ 0-3,600 rpm

Premium -291 lb-ft @ 0-3,600 rpm

Limited -291 lb-ft @ 0-3,600 rpm

Transmission

1-speed automatic

1-speed automatic

Electric Range

385 kms

Premium -248 kms

Limited -383 kms

Fuel Economy

2.1 L/100 km (1.9 city, 2.3 hwy)

Premium -2.0 L/100 km (1.8 city, 2.3 hwy)

Limited -2.1 L/100 km (1.9 city, 2.4 hwy)

Warranty

5 yrs/100,000 km

5 yrs/100,000 km

Max Seating Capacity

5

5

Curb Weight

1,764 kgs

Premium - 1,572-1,612 kgs

Limited – 1,685-1,754 kgs

Wheelbase

2,700 mm

2,600 mm

Overall Length

4,375 mm

4,195 mm

Width

1,805 mm

1,800 mm

Height

1,570 mm

1,605 mm

Headroom, Front

1,018 mm

1,013 mm

Headroom, Rear

957 mm

988 mm

Legroom, Front

1,059 mm

1,044 mm

Legroom, Rear

914 mm

1,340 mm

Cargo Volume, Behind Rear seats

629 L

663 L

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