From £32,895
New generation of the popular electric crossover shows its colours on UK roads

What is it?

For all the brand-bending brilliance of the Kia EV6, it’s the e-Niro that has cemented Kia’s reputation as an electric vehicle force.

The second-best-selling EV in the UK last year, the Kia e-Niro has essentially become the electric equivalent of the Volkswagen Golf: the default suggestion for anyone looking to get a mainstream motor that just happens to be battery powered. There's a big market for that, as demonstrated by the fact that the e-Niro has continued to sell in big numbers right up until the arrival of this second-generation version.

It's a formula that works, and when something like that works, you mess with it at your peril. So it’s a bold step by Kia to reinvent the second-generation machine as significantly as it has – far beyond the Niro EV rebrand that has cost Robert de Niro an endorsement deal. 

What's it like?

The new Niro EV retains the 201bhp front-drive motor and 64.8kWh battery of the e-Niro but it is built on a new multi-powertrain platform and has grown in all dimensions. While Kia has invested heavily in its bespoke electric E-GMP platform, the Niro remains a model that will be offered with a choice of powertrains: this electric version is again offered alongside hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions we've already tried. Although it is worth noting that 50% of UK Niro sales to date have been the EV version.

We've already seen and tried the new Niro a few times in various forms, but it's still worth reflecting on that refreshed exterior design. It’s a step away from the original’s somewhat inoffensive ‘white goods’ styling, and quietly radical in places: which other mainstream SUV features aerodynamic air channels built into brake lights on the C-pillar?

As well as the closed-off grille, the Niro EV gains a few bespoke touches to set it apart from the hybrid and PHEV versions. Our test car featured the optional grey C-pillar, which we are still yet to be convinced by.

Inside, the new look is somewhat EV6-lite, with features from that car such as the multi-mode touch-sensitive panel beneath the large infotainment screen, and extensiveuse of plush, sustainable materials. It can't quite match the EV6 for overall feel, largely due to the expansive feeling of space offered by the E-GMP platform, but it really does cement Kia's place as one of the top contenders in the mainstream EV market.

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While there are plenty of touchscreens and the dual-function touch bar first featured in the EV6, they are easier to use than many we've tried – and there remains enough physical buttons to keep most people happy. The teo 10.25in digital screens are crisp and easy to read, as is the 10in head-up display.

There's also decent storage, lots of nice practical touches such as a feast of USB-C ports and decent space for passengers – both in the front and back – and luggage.

It’s comfortable and offers decent space for passengers and luggage. There's a 475-litre boot – which is bigger than the hybird and PHEV Niro – and the bonus of a 20-litre frunk. 

You can also option the Niro EV with a vehicle-to-load outlet, allowing you to power other appliances using the car's battery, and a range of driver assistance systems are available.

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We previously drove a prototype Niro EV in Norway, and we’ve now sampled the car – technically still in prototype form, although it felt very finished to us – on UK roads. And further running confirms that, despite that new platform, extra size and new tech, the Niro EV still drives much like an e-Niro. Which is a good thing, really.

The ride can be a bit lumpy at lower speeds, although it copes well with the many bumps you’ll find on urban British streets, and it calms down as the speed pics up. The steering doesn’t offer any major thrills, although it’s reliable and consistent, which are far more important traits for a car of this type.

The powertrain might be unchanged, but it remains well-suited to the car. The acceleration is tuned to be steady rather than sensational, and if you stand on the accelerator there’s a slight lag, almost turbo style, before the power really arrives. It’s a good way of reducing the jerkiness that having easily accessible EV torque can offer, while also ensuring there is power to hand if you need it.

There remain two drive modes and four regeneration options, controlled using the steering wheel-mounted paddles. That system works really well for a car such as this that attracts EV newcomers: if you've never experienced regen before you can work work your way up steadily to the one-pedal driving mode – which, it should be said, works very well.

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Should I buy one?

The new Niro EV doesn’t exactly represent a transformation in handling or performance, then. But there is a hint of extra maturity to it that reflects the bolder exterior and interior styling. It feels like Kia has found a way to introduce some of the daring dash of the EV6 into the Niro EV, yet without removing any of the mainstream, family friendly mass market appeal.

Our only major pause for thought would be in the price. Our test car was closest in fitments to what will the top-spec ‘4’ trim, which will be prices at £40,495. That’s uncomfortable close in price to the EV6, which even in entry-level form offers more power and range – and the benefit of a bespoke electric platform design. But lower-level versions start from £34,995, and might well prove a better bet. And, to be clear: it is a good bet: while lots on the Niro EV has changed, it retains its predecessor's strengths as an excellent mainstream SUV that just happens to be electric.

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567 14 June 2022

The car is good however for it's not exciting for people who love driving. I agree with RightSaidFred that it's another white goods alert.

RightSaidFred 14 June 2022

All the car you'll ever need.  Does the numbers.  Impressive.  But zzzzzzzzzzz white goods alert, no matter how interesting they try to make it with the detailing.  The grey pillar looks like a manufacturing error.