Kia Niro EV is a fuss-free family electric car

The Niro has been a hero for Kia

Kia Niro EV
Its bold styling won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the Kia Niro EV is an excellent electric car (Adam Warner)

As it faces into 2024, there is a swagger about Kia that is hard to square with the South Korean brand’s first tentative steps into our market in 1991.

Back then it needed gimmicks such as luring would-be customers across the threshold with the promise that you could drive off in a new Kia in exchange for a £1 deposit. The cars were pretty humdrum, too - Kia’s debut into Northern Ireland was the Pride, a rebadged Mazda 121.

Skip forward to today, and there is nothing humdrum about Kia. From relying upon other manufacturers’ old hardware, it has leapfrogged the likes of Volkswagen and Ford and is one of the industry’s leading exponents of its most important technology, electric cars.

Walk into a Kia showroom today and you’ll find a range of offerings that is almost unrivalled in its breadth, from the city car Picanto and shooting brake Proceed to the family favourite Sportage and sophisticated electric EV6.

And while few Kia models are conventionally handsome, they are each distinctive designs which project confidence. The EV9, the £65k-£80k electric seven-seat SUV, is not the sort of product that a company which was unsure about itself or its products would ever bring to market. That it is pitched directly at premium brands BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Volvo tells you all you need to know about the journey Kia has been on over the past 30 years.

Kia Niro EV
Official, laboratory-based figures suggest the Niro EV is good for 285 miles on a full charge. In the real world, 240-250 miles is achievable (Adam Warner)

Milestones along the way have included the Sportage, which surfed the swell in demand for family crossovers/SUVs to become one of our most popular cars, and the Ceed, which demonstrated that Kia could design and engineer a car to the specific and demanding tastes of European buyers in that most competitive of sectors, the family hatchback.

Another important waypoint was the Niro. Bigger than a Ceed but smaller than a Sportage, it arrived in 2016. When its range was complete, you could buy it as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or fully electric e-Niro.

Going electric

While it was novel enough at the time to offer the one car with three electrified drivetrains, it was the e-Niro which really caught the attention. Here was a sensibly sized, sensibly priced EV with a range of 280 miles…

Kia Niro EV
Kia sells Niro models in hybrid, fully electric and plug-in hybrid flavours (Adam Warner)

It quickly gained a loyal following and, importantly, opened up the idea of electric car ownership to an increasing number of people previously put off by range or price - or both.

That baton has now been passed to the second generation Niro. As before, you can have it as a hybrid (from £30,075), plug-in hybrid (though this isn’t available to order at present) or electric (£37,325 to £42,325). What was once the e-Niro is now dubbed the Niro EV.

The name isn’t as imaginative as the Niro’s styling, which is bold and features futuristic flourishes, such as the distinctive contrast pillar at the rear.

The Kia Niro does everything well in an unfussy, gimmick-free way, and this latest version remains easy to recommend to anyone considering an EV

It’s slightly larger than before, with notably more space in the back for taller and lankier passengers. The roomy cabin hasn’t come at the expense of luggage space, as it does in a Honda; the Niro offers a boot volume of 475 litres, growing to 1,392 litres when you fold the seats.

Kia Niro EV
The distinctive 'C' pillar isn't just there for show - it's an aerodynamic element which channels airflow along the side and rear of the Niro (Adam Warner)

For good measure, there’s also a small storage compartment under the bonnet - ideal for holding a charging cable which, given how dirty they can get, you really don’t want to have to carry in the boot with your shopping and bags.

As you would hope, this is a highly accomplished EV. It’s well built and supremely easy to drive, with nippy acceleration (there’s 201bhp and 188lb ft) and regeneration levels that can be tweaked on the fly from the steering column paddles.

Kia Niro EV
In trademark Kia fashion, the Niro EV's dashboard and controls are clear, easy to operate and solidly made (Adam Warner)

An ‘official’ range of 285 miles from the 64.8kWh battery easily translates to at least 240 miles in normal, mixed driving, which is impressive and useful.

Clever features include a sat-nav system that, when you point it towards a charging point, preconditions the battery for a more efficient charge. The safety systems’ propensity to beep at every turn are a nuisance, though.

It’s easy to understand why the Niro has been such a success for Kia. It does everything well in an unfussy, gimmick-free way, and this latest version remains easy to recommend to anyone considering an EV.

Kia Niro EV
There's nothing meek about the Kia Niro EV's styling (Adam Warner)
Kia Niro EV
Kia Niro EV (Adam Warner)