Like its sister car, the Hyundai Ioniq, Kia’s Niro crossover is intended to be a beacon for the brand’s electrification efforts. The Niro already is offered as a conventional hybrid and a plug-in hybrid, so it stands to reason that Kia’s next fully electric vehicle will be a battery-powered version of the Niro. Such a car is being previewed in concept form by this creatively named Niro EV concept, a thinly veiled look at a production all-electric Niro that should arrive within the next year or so.
The Niro EV concept’s electric powertrain is a clear shot at the current leader among affordable EVs, the Chevrolet Bolt EV. Its claimed driving range of 238 miles exactly matches the Bolt’s EPA-estimated figure, which is surely no coincidence. The Kia’s lithium-ion battery pack, at 64 kWh, is slightly bigger than the Chevy’s. A 201-hp electric motor should enable considerably better acceleration than the Niro hybrid, which makes do with a combined 139 horsepower from its gas-electric drivetrain. We don’t expect the Niro EV’s numbers to change much for production, given Kia’s specificity at this early stage.
We do think (and hope) that the concept-car design will be considerably toned down before it reaches showrooms, as the Niro EV concept features plenty of bulbous styling add-ons including aggressive front and rear fascias, hood bulges, and huge, fanciful-looking wheels. The grille-less front end should stick around to help with aerodynamics and distinguish the Niro EV from its hybrid brethren, although the interactive display panel on the concept car’s front end likely won’t transfer to the production version.
Kia also is using the Niro EV concept as a vessel to show off all sorts of new interior and safety technology features. A minimalist dashboard layout uses a combination of touchscreens and gesture controls, with swipes and other hand movements operating the infotainment and HVAC systems. The new setup also incorporates face- and voice-recognition to allow different drivers to personalize some vehicle settings. Interestingly, Kia is exploring a way of separating audio environments with noise-canceling speakers so that those in the front can listen to something different than those in the back.

We expect to hear more about the impending Niro EV over the coming months as it makes its transition from concept to reality. It presumably will replace Kia’s current electric offering, the Soul EV, which is starting to look outdated with its paltry 111-mile range. The Niro EV, which should start in the mid-$30,000 range, is shaping up to be a much more formidable rival to the latest crop of EVs.

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