I’ve always wanted an EV but it seemed the Chevy Volt was the best of both worlds – an affordable, stylish EV that can take a road trip. And after a few test drives I can say they delivered a hell of a car – great ride, power, and a fantastic experience especially when you add leather and the Bose sound system.
So why didn’t I get a Volt? The simple answer is the back seat. At a not exactly towering five and a half feet tall, even I found the rear seat awkward to access due to the swoopy low roofline. With a baby on the way, I cringed to think about the lower back pain caused as I contorted myself to get a kid in a seat.
After suffering a few days of depression realizing I couldn’t get the Volt after all, I went looking at basically every other PHEV and EV available in Washington state. Here’s my thoughts:
- Audi A3 e-tron – this PHEV has a laughable 16 mile electric range before gas kicks in (Volt is 53 miles) but a great interior and is fairly small family friendly. Unfortunately the dealership I visited didn’t charge their cars – so I never got the true EV experience. For me, the short range was a dealbreaker.
- BMW i3 – at the time I was looking at the 2016 model with a lackluster 80 mile range, that’s improved since to 114 miles. The motor on this thing is a gem, it’s a blast to drive fast and the interior is sexy as hell. But I also found the ride harsh, the back seats small, and the cargo space limited.
- Ford Fusion Energi – this car came as a surprise…a terrible, terrible surprise. First, the trunk is laughable for anything but a few bags of groceries since the battery is under the rear seat and in the trunk. This arrangement also leads to a car with a center of gravity high and to the rear – it drives like you’re towing a boat. All that battery pain for a measly 22 mile electric range. Quick tip Ford – batteries belong in the floor!
- Nissan Leaf – the defacto standard affordable EV, but frankly it looks goofy, it crash tests less than great, the interior is pretty blah (mouse fur, really?), and the engineering just screams they were cutting corners (no solar glass, no heated/cooled battery, etc).
So one day I’m in Renton, pop in on a whim to the Kia dealership and drive a Soul EV. While I didn’t fall in love with their playful styling immediately I was impressed with the engineering and value of the car. IIHS good score on all crashworthiness tests, a smooth and peppy ride, and great amenities (8” touchscreen, NAV, etc). The more I’ve learned about the car the more impressive the engineering for the price – heat pump, heated and cooled battery, solar glass, etc.
Perhaps more than anything what’s impressive is the packaging – my six foot father can sit comfortably in the back, fold the seats and you can fit some impressively huge boxes in the back (I got a whole rocking chair back there), its easy to load a carseat, and yet its small enough to easily parallel park and u-turn in crowded Seattle streets.
Best of all the Soul EV leased for far less money than the Volt. Even at Chevy advertised rates (the local dealers were offering it for more) the Soul EV cost $125/mo less than the Volt. So needless to say my great car search ended with the lease of the Soul EV.