Kia Niro EV combines quiet competence with engaging modern design

The Kia Niro EV sets a new standard for compact electric cars, with sophisticated design, impressive range and plenty of equipment

Kia Niro EV parked with green hills in background
(Image credit: Kia Motors)

Do you really care passionately about cars? Are you a self-described ‘petrolhead’? Does the sound of a throaty exhaust trigger some kind of automotive ASMR deep inside you? If you’ve clicked on a story about the new Kia Niro EV then you probably won’t answer ‘yes’ to any of those questions.

Kia Niro EV on the road driving past wind turbines

(Image credit: Kia Motors)

Kia’s Niro EV is a car for those who firmly believe that four-wheeled transportation should just do its job and not over-commit to extraneous baggage like ‘brand DNA’, personality, spirit, verve, or what-have-you. Kia has evolved into a very straight down the line company, seemingly more committed than ever to unfussy design and easy functionality.

Kia Niro EV in country landscape

(Image credit: Kia Motors)

The new Niro exemplifies this approach. Available as a conventional hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and a pure EV, as tested here, it’s a modest-sized hatchback that is externally unfussy and internally accommodating. A simple two-tone paint job makes the EV stand apart from the hybrids, with daytime running lights marking out the extremeties of the ‘tiger face’ front end, a signature Kia look.

Kia Niro EV approaching on road

(Image credit: Kia Motors)

The Niro does a lot of things extremely well. It’s easy to drive, thanks to a sensible scale and good visibility. It rides well, cloaking the weight of the battery with well-tuned suspension and deft steering. Inside, there are well laid-out switches and infotainment screens that don’t bamboozle with unnecessary complexity. It’s also very well equipped, with heated and cooled seats to avoid using the battery-draining aircon, and the ability to power electrical devices like vacuum cleaners and laptops from the main battery.

Kia Niro EV

(Image credit: Kia Motors)

Kia has made good use of the innate power of an EV. The car generates the equivalent of 201bhp, giving it a welcome boost in ‘sport’ mode, as well as a claimed 285 mile range – expect about 80-90 per cent of this in normal, everyday use. 

electric car interior

(Image credit: Kia Motors)

In many respects, Kia has now manoeuvred itself into a similar position that Audi and BMW held at the turn of the century, when the German brands were jostling for the role of design and technology leader in a car industry driving relentlessly upmarket. However, the type of tech that once defined ‘premium’ is now thoroughly mainstream, and a strong, idiosyncratic design and thorough, reliable engineering is more appealing than the power of a badge.

Kia Niro EV in front of wind turbines

(Image credit: Kia Motors)

Built to exacting specifications in South Korea on a new platform (the Electric-Global Modular Platform, or E-GMP, architecture), the Niro EV is one of 14 EV models the company will launch be launching by 2027. EVs currently make up nearly a third of Kia’s current UK sales, and cars like the Niro will no doubt boost that percentage.

Also on the horizon are a speedier GT version of the excellent  Kia EV6 (which replaces the old-school but swift and elegant Kia Stinger), as well as a production version of the Tonka Toy-like EV9 electric SUV concept. 

By not adopting the conventional metrics of premium cars – performance and luxury – Kia is quietly transforming the middle ground.

Kia Niro EV, from £36,795

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.