Both are similarly sized full-electric five-passenger four-door hatchbacks, and they stack up well against each other.
Actually, the first decision to make here is whether should you consider a 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV or wait for the 2020 model. That’s because the 2020 version, which is expected to arrive in dealerships soon, will have a longer operating range of 259 miles on a charge, which is up from the current 238 miles. Chevrolet says improvements made to the battery pack’s cell electrode energy enabled engineers to bump up the car’s range without having to change the physical battery pack.
The 2020 Bolt EV otherwise carries over and will continue to be sold nationwide. The sticker price remains unchanged at $37,495, which includes the destination charge. If the added range isn't a dealmaker, the 2019 models are currently being offered with a $6,500 cash rebate. On the downside, the one-time federal tax credit granted to Bolt EV buyers drops to $1,850 on October 1 and will be eliminated on March 31, 2020 (unless Congress extends the full credits in the meantime, as has been proposed).
The redesigned Soul EV won’t launch in the U.S. until early 2020, but the Environmental Protection Agency has already posted details on its estimated operating range. The car gets a significant increase to 243 miles on a charge (it was previously at 111 miles). Pricing has not yet been announced for the 2020 Soul EV, but we expect it will be competitive with the Bolt. Though the previous generation was only sold in California and Oregon, Kia says the 2020 model’s availability will be expanded to the fourteen U.S. states that have adopted California’s zero-emission regulations.
The Bolt EV continues with its rounded hatchback styling with short front and rear overhangs. A stubby front end features blacked-out faux grille elements and large headlamps with LED running lights. The roofline is sharply tapered and there are crisp creases alongside the vehicle. The rear end features LED taillights and an integrated lip spoiler. The interior is futuristically styled with a “floating” dashboard, electronic instrumentation, and a large touchscreen. The Bolt is available in LT and Premier trim levels.
Like the rest of the Soul lineup for 2020, the EV receives a freshened appearance inside and out. The car retains its trademark boxy profile, but features a more aggressive look, especially at the front end, with slim LED headlamps and a solid front grille insert. There’s muscular wheel arches at all four corners, deep angular creases along the sides, and LED taillights at the rear. The interior is updated with a wide-screen display for the car’s infotainment system, and larger buttons and dials for the climate control system, among other changes. It will be offered in base and Designer Collection versions.
The Chevrolet Bolt EV packs a 66 kWh lithium-ion battery and an electric motor that generates 200 horsepower with 266 pound-feet of torque. It can reach 60 mph from a standing start in 6.5 seconds. A selectable mode amps up the car’s regenerative braking to enable “one pedal” driving. When depleted, the battery can reach a full charge in around 10 hours using 240-volt Level 2 charging. Connected to a DC Fast Charging station, it can take on up to 90 miles of range in 30 minutes. These specs do not change from the 2019 to 2020 models.
The 2020 Kia Soul EV runs on a 64 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and its electric motor generates 201 horsepower and 291 pound-feet of torque. Kia says that’s good for a 7.6-second 0-60 mph time. Owners can select from four driving modes and four levels of regenerative braking, with the ability to bring the car to a full stop via steering wheel-mounted paddles. Charging time is estimated at about 9 hours 35 minutes with a Level 2 line. It can reach 80 percent of its capacity in around 75 minutes via DC Fast Charging.
Both the Bolt EV and the Soul EV are comparably sized. The Bolt measures 164 inches long, 69.5 inches tall, and 62.8 inches wide and rides on a 102.4-inch wheelbase. The Soul EV stands at 165.2 inches long, 70.9 inches wide, and 63.0 inches tall, with a 102.4-inch wheelbase.
The Bolt offers 39.7 inches of headroom up front and 37.9 inches in the rear. Legroom is at 41.6/36.5 inches front/rear. There is 16.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat, and 56.6 cubic feet with the seatbacks folded flat.
Given its horizontal roofline, the Kia affords a bit more rear-seat headroom than the Chevy. The Soul EV’s cabin affords 39.9 inches of headroom up front and 39.5 inches in the rear. Passengers get 41.1/36.0 inches of legroom front/rear. Final cargo specs haven’t yet been announced, but in the gas-fueled Soul they’re at 18.8 cubic feet behind the seats and 49.9 cubic feet with the seatbacks deployed.
Both models can be well equipped, with many features optional on base models and included with the top trim levels. The Bolt offers amenities like heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, wireless mobile phone charging and a premium Bose audio system. Keyless entry/start, a remote starter, and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot are standard. Available driver assist systems include lane-departure, blind-spot, and rear cross-traffic warnings, rear park assist, a lane-keeping system, low-speed auto-braking with pedestrian detection, a surround-view camera, and auto high-beam headlamps. They’re included with the Premier version.
The Soul EV gets an edge here, by making several advanced safety features standard, including forward auto-braking, adaptive stop and go cruise control, a lane-departure warning, and a lane-keeping system. Also available is a reverse parking warning, and blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert. Keyless entry/start and navigation come standard. The top model includes heated power folding outside mirrors, a premium Harmon Kardon sound system, a wireless phone charger, a power driver’s seat and heated front seats.
The Bottom Line
The choice between the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV and Kia Soul EV is a tough one. Both offer comparable operating ranges and performance. While the Kia has yet to be priced as of this writing, we expect it would come close to the Chevy’s suggested retail. Styling is quirky with either model, and it depends on which look you prefer.
The Soul EV has the advantage of offering several important driver assist features as standard equipment, including forward auto-braking. Such systems are optional on the base Bolt EV and are included with the top Premier trim level. Again, pricing has yet to be announced for the Soul EV, and it could well wind up being priced higher to accommodate the added features.
Either of two aspects may ultimately tip the sales, however. For one, the Kia Soul EV will be eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax credit, while the Chevrolet Bolt EV’s credit is at $1,850 as of October 1 and will be eliminated next spring. One critical hurdle that would prove to be insurmountable for some electric-car shoppers is that sales of the 2020 Soul EV will be limited to 14 states, while the Bolt will continue to be available nationwide.