The first generation of the electric Kia Niro was a bit of a phenomenon. After the Nissan Leaf, it was one of the first family electric cars that could realistically be called affordable. While Teslaand Audi were selling £80,000 SUVs, the e-Niro was offering a spacious family car with an impressive range for around £35,000. It’s no wonder it proved so popular.
In 2021 the e-Niro was the second biggest selling electric vehicle in the UK, a pattern that it continued in the first half of 2022, right up to the point where sales were discontinued in favour of this new second generation.
Like the first-gen car, the Niro EV (note the subtle name change) shares its platform with hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions and maintains its position somewhere in the middle of Kia’s crossover/SUV line-up. It’s slightly bigger and more expensive than the Stonic and Soul EV but cheaper and more compact than the Sportage hybrids and all-electric EV6.
Prices have risen slightly but, starting at around £36,000, it’s in the same realm as before and competing with everything from other SUVs like the Peugeot e-2008 and MG ZS EV to family hatchbacks like the Cupra Born, VW ID.3 and Renault Megane e-Tech.
Under the skin much of the Niro EV’s technical package is familiar but on the surface the car has undergone quite the transformation. While the old model was a slightly anonymous mash-up of crossover and estate this new model has a more assertive and solidly SUV style to it. The brand’s bolder tiger nose front end arrives on the Niro with the LED lights pushed far out to the edge of the front panel. The overall design is boxier, with prominent cladding and skid plates to give a slightly more rugged look, while boomerang shaped tail lights and option contrasting C-pillar panels add a more dynamic touch. The EV version gets a unique two-tone textured grille with the charging port mounted centrally beneath it. There are also unique lower grille and bumper treatments plus aerodynamic 17-inch alloys exclusive to the battery-powered model.
Inside things have been simplified and improved with many of the controls and dashboard elements shared with the likes of the EV6, including the drive selector that dominates the centre console and the multi-function media and air con controls. There’s a focus on sustainability, with recycled wallpaper used for the headliner and sustainably sourced eucalyptus leaves used in the seat fabric. Everything looks and feels well made but the dominance of grey and black materials means it also feels pretty dull.
Nonetheless, it’s practical and spacious. The new car is bigger in every dimension than the outgoing one and there’s more space inside, meaning four adults will fit comfortably and a fifth will only want for a bit more shoulder room. The EV has a bigger boot than either hybrid version, with 475 litres, plus a 20-litre “frunk” for storing the charging cables.
Higher spec models get a curved twin-screen setup with a pair of 10.25-inch displays behind a single glazed panel but entry-level ‘2’ has a smaller eight-inch media screen that slightly spoils the look of the dash. The 2 spec trim also misses out on faux-leather upholstery, heated seats and built-in sat nav but still has wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, dual zone climate and automatic headlights. A £2,800 step up to ‘3’ grade brings more little luxuries, improved driver assist package and extra visual touches but, more importantly, unlocks the additional £900 option of an integrated heat pump to help maximise the battery’s performance.
That battery is virtually the same size as the first e-Niro’s (64.8kWh compared with 64.4kWh before) but unlike the first car, there’s no smaller capacity option on low-spec cars. The first-gen car largely dispelled the idea of range anxiety with its 282-mile range. The new one only slightly improves on that – up to 285 miles – but, significantly, adds 350kW DC charging, which will take the battery from 10-80% in just 43 minutes.
The front-mounted motor is also the same as before, offering 201bhp and 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds, which feels perfectly quick enough for a family SUV, especially with the usual instant response when you press the throttle. Various drive modes and adaptive brake regeneration let you set the car up to suit your driving style, as long as that tends towards the easygoing approach. Soft suspension means the Niro EV rides really well over bad surfaces but feels heavy and sluggish on twistier roads and there’s not much in the way of steering feel.
But on-the-edge handling is hardly the point of the Niro EV. Its purpose is to carry on the first-generation’s role as practical, comfortable and easy to use zero-emissions family transport, which it has absolutely nailed. Not only that but it’s also still one of the most affordable long-range EVs out there, only adding to its appeal.
Kia Niro EV ‘2’
Price: £36,745; Motor: Single synchronous electric motor; Battery: 64.8kWh; Power: 201bhp; Torque: 188lb ft; Transmission: Single-speed automatic, fron-wheel-drive; Top speed: 103mph; 0-62mph: 7.8 seconds; Range: 285 miles; Consumption: 3.84m/kWh (combined); Charging: up to 350kW