What is it?
This is the all-new version of one of the UK’s best-selling all-electric family cars, the Kia Niro. It’s a machine that, in its outgoing form, has helped the Korean brand buck the recent downward sales spiral that has afflicted most manufacturers, which are still reeling from the after-effects of the Covid pandemic, as well as now dealing with supply chain chaos and the impact of a cost-of-living crisis.
While many have been struggling, Kia has been soaring. Over the course of 2021, it increased sales in Europe by more than 20% and grew its market share from 3.5% to 4.3%. More important, at some points during the year, nearly half of the cars it sold were electrified.
The original electric Niro wasn’t the most exciting car, but it offered decent practicality, loads of kit and a seven-year warranty. Crucially, it was capable of a range of nearly 300 miles, a figure that’s usually only available with EVs that cost twice as much. Even before the current semiconductor shortage struck, the waiting list for the all-electric Kia would have embarrassed even Morgan.
That means there’s a lot riding on the all-new version, which, as before, is also available as a hybrid and PHEV. As a result, you could have forgiven Kia for playing safe and sticking with the old car’s fairly inoffensive approach, but that’s not how the brand rolls these days. Just take a look at the rakish Kia EV6 and (let’s be generous) distinctive Kia Sportage for proof.
At the front, the Niro’s eye-catchingly angular daytime running lights dominate, and a large flap in the centre of the grille covers the charging port that denotes this as the all-electric model. Speaking of which, this is no longer called the e-Niro, but the Niro EV. At the rear are kinked, vertically laid-out LED lights, while the flash-camouflaged rear bumper of our car denoted it as a very late pre-production prototype.
Perhaps the most attention-grabbing piece of design are the large C-pillars, which on top-spec 4 models can be finished in contrasting gloss black or gunmetal grey for an extra £150. Look closer, however, and you’ll notice they’re actually flying buttresses, designed to channel air more efficiently around the rear of the car. In combination with the vehicle’s nearly totally flat underside, they contribute to a drag coefficient of 0.29, which isn’t bad for a fairly bluff-fronted junior SUV.
Under the skin, the Niro is all-new, too, featuring the third iteration of the firm’s K platform. It’s a little longer and wider than before and increased use of high-tensile steel has resulted in a 20kg reduction of the body-in-white mass. Suspenion is handled by a new four-link independent rear axle, while at the front, MacPherson struts are retained.