• Revised front fascia
  • Fog lights moved to the flanks
  • Could have a different grille
  • Side profile remains unchanged but could get lighter wheels
  • Rear end will see a revised lower fascia and new badges
  • Could be AWD with two or four electric motors
  • With four motors it could provide torque distribution on demand
  • Range will vary from around 150 miles to 310 miles depending on battery size
  • 140 to 200 horsepower can be expected
  • Competition includes: Jaguar I-Pace, Mercedes EQ, Hyundai Kona EV, Tesla Model Y

The battery-powered Niro is about ready to play with the big boys!

The Kia Niro EV has finally been spotted in the wild for the first time, and it was testing with its slightly smaller cousin, the Hyundai Kona EV. Based on its hybrid twin, the Niro Hybrid, the EV will ride on the same dedicated platform but is expected to deliver somewhere around 200 to 250 miles per charge. Then again, the Hyundai Kona is expected to offer up somewhere around 310 miles with its largest battery option, and both brands will use the same equipment, so the Niro could deliver closer to 300. But we’ll talk more about that a little later. With that said, not a lot has changed from the hybrid version of the Niro, but Kia has made a few changes that we can talk about.

Before we dive too deep into the details, let’s just point out that it’s not likely Kia will disappoint with the Niro EV. The Niro started life as the 2014 Kia KX3, which was already near-production ready. A couple of years passed before we saw the production model, but Kia didn’t disappoint and, if anything, it actually improved on its conceptual design for the Niro. The Niro is still relatively new on the market, making its initial push for the 2017 model year but it has taken the subcompact crossover market by storm. Kia promised us the EV by 2018 and, so far, it looks like Kia is about to hit yet another home run as this EV looks like it’s ready to bring the bacon to the table. Let’s take a good look at it before Kia beats us to the punch.

The Concept Car

The Niro EV made its public debut as a production-ready concept at the 2018 CES

Unlike its hybrid sibling, which was previewed by a very futuristic concept, the Niro EV made its public debut as a production-ready show car at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show. The Niro EV Concept is almost identical to the regular Niro on the outside, but it uses new headlamps and taillights, revised bumpers, and new wheels. It also has revised daytime running lights, black window trim, sportier side skirts, and a "Motion Graphic" lighting system in the front grille. Of course, the latter was replaced by a full panel since electric cars don’t need the cooling system of a vehicle that uses a conventional engine.

Interestingly enough, the concept’s interior is notably different from the production Niro hybrid. It has a new dashboard and steering wheel, a digital instrument cluster, gesture control, and more premium upholstery. Under the shell, the Niro EV appears to feature a production-ready electric drivetrain. Kia also released preliminary specs, but more about that in one of the sections below.

Exterior

  • Revised front fascia
  • Fog lights moved to the flanks
  • Could have a different grille
  • Side profile remains unchanged but could get lighter wheels
  • Rear end will see a revised lower fascia and new badges
2019 Kia Niro EV Spyshots Exterior
- image 742858
Could have a different grille
The Niro EV won’t change all that much from the hybrid model it is based on

As is the usual case with cars-turned-electric, the Niro EV won’t change all that much from the hybrid model it is based on. It will, however, take on a few changes and, despite all of the camo and padding, we can already make out a pretty decent idea of what we can expect. First off, the main shell of the car will go on unchanged from the basic hybrid model, as well most of the body panels, including the front fenders, front hood, and rear hatch – aside from different badges, of course. What will change outside, however, is the front fascia and maybe even the rear fascia to a very small extent. As best we can tell, the fog lights will be moved to the sides and sit directly below the headlamps, which is completely different compared to the hybrid. The design seems to be borrowed from the concept car.

Those corner vents on the hybrid are also left aside for a different look that will include triangular units that are much smaller and feature horizontal louvers. That’s yet another feature seen on the concept car. I suspect the air dam will also be smaller as there is little need for cooling outside of the battery packs and a little airflow for the electric motor. The real question is whether or not Kia will do something different with the grille. Since this is an EV, there’s no need for a radiator, and the grille is, therefore, rendered redundant. So we could see a body-colored panel like on the concept car. The "Motion Graphic" lighting system could also be used here, so the Niro EV might be able to display certain messages on the grille.

2019 Kia Niro EV Spyshots Exterior
- image 742863
Range will vary from around 150 miles to 310 miles depending on battery size
The side profile and roof will remain untouched in comparison to the standard hybrid model, as will the rear hatch and taillights

The side profile and roof will remain untouched in comparison to the standard hybrid model, as will the rear hatch. I think that the taillights will carry over too, despite the concept using sexier, slender units. I mean, it would be nice to get them, but it’s not really an option due to production costs and the automaker’s desire to keep the entire Niro line recognizable.

As I mentioned earlier, the rear fascia may change just a little bit, but for the most part, it will remain the same, evidenced by the stout body lines that we can see on the corners below the taillights. What we can point out is that there are some horizontal louvers in the lower corners of the rear fascia that aren’t present on the hybrid model, and this is where the minor differences lie. With so much camo and padding, there’s no telling what is really going on here, but it can’t be too different, as the same license plate recess in the center of the lower fascia is in place as it should be. Being an EV, this Niro won’t have an exhaust pipe, so look for a cleaner lower bumper design.

Again, not a lot to separate the EV from the hybrid, but there’s enough to make it known to those who have a keen eye for spotting the little things. Are there any other little differences I missed? If you see anything, let me know in the comments at the bottom of the article. If not, let’s talk a little about the interior.

Interior

  • Interior will be nearly identical
  • Will get an all-digital instrument cluster
  • Infotainment display may be revised
  • No need for a gear shifter
2017 Kia Niro High Resolution Interior
- image 665044
Interior from 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid shown here.
The interior will be nearly indistinguishable from any other non-EV Niro you find on the road

If you like the interior you see here, then you’ll be happy to know that the EV badging outside and the lithium-ion bits under the metal won’t bring a lot of change to the interior. Sure, the concept car has an entirely different lineup and a host of new features, but that’s likely only for auto show purposes. Putting a different interior in a car that already has a new design seems pointless and it would only make the production model more expensive.

You can expect the same exact layout – seating for five, comfortable but not-so-supportive seats up front, pleasant-looking dash, and dual-zone climate control. Truth be told, the interior will be nearly indistinguishable from any other non-EV Niro you find on the road. There should be a few changes, however. First off, all interior lighting is all but guaranteed to be LED in nature – this will help preserve that precious go juice from the battery. To add to this, there will likely be a different shifter as the EV will be void of a typical transmission, and the infotainment system could be up for a change as well. Not necessarily a different look, but there could be different software involved; more specifically, software that is designed to account for various bits of data like state of charge, battery health, etc.

What you can be sure to see is a new instrument cluster ahead of the steering wheel. As is the usual case with all-electric cars, the analog or semi-digital instrument clusters go bye-bye while all-digital units become the only choice. This is to help preserve power as it’s much more efficient to have an all-digital screen than a motor-actuated needle. Plus, there’s no need for a tachometer on an electric car, either. So, the instrument cluster should be home to a few new meters that include a battery meter, state of charge, range indicator, and it may even supplement the navigation system by pointing you to the nearest public charging stations. After all, there’s a big plug next to the grille up front for a reason – this thing doesn’t run on dreams and unicorn farts, that’s for sure.

Drivetrain

  • Should get its drivetrain from the concept car
  • 64-kWh battery pack
  • Up to 201 horsepower
  • Up to 238 miles per charge
  • Likely one of the most efficient on the market
Powered by a 64-kWh battery pack, the electric motor in the Niro EV Concept cranks out 201 horsepower

With Hyundai and Kia sharing most underpinnings and drivetrains, I was pretty sure that the Niro EV would hit the market with the same electric powertrain as the Hyundai Ioniq. However, the concept car show at CES suggests that Kia developed its very own eletric motor and battery stack. And based on the specs, which are pretty down to earth, there’s a big change that the production model will get the same drivetrain.

Powered by a 64-kWh battery pack, the electric motor in the Niro EV Concept cranks out 150 kW, which converts to 201 horsepower. The Hyundai Ioniq Electric uses a 28-kWh battery and delivers 118 horsepower, so Niro EV is a big improvement in this department.

The Niro EV Concept is good for an impressive 238 miles per charge

Sure, Kia could opt to decrease output for the production model, but it should be more powerful than its Hyundai-badged sibling. It’s also possible that Kia offers two different versions, one with 201 horsepower and an entry-level variant with no more than 150 horses.

A bigger battery also means better range. While the Ioniq Electric returns a solid 155 miles on a single charge, the Niro EV Concept is good for a more impressive 238 miles. Should the production model get the same battery, the Niro EV will be on par with the Chevrolet Bolt EV a slightly superior to the entry-level Tesla Model 3, which is supposed to return about 220 miles.

Pricing

2019 Kia Niro EV Spyshots Exterior
- image 742866
Could be AWD with two or four electric motors

The Niro Hybrid currently tips the pricing scale at $23,240 for an entry-level model. Meanwhile, the range-topping Touring trim level is currently going for around $31,900. With that in mind, you can expect the EV to start out at no less than $30,000 because, for lack of a better reason, it’s an EV. It’s naturally more expensive to have such a large battery, and it’s possible that there’s an extra motor in there as well. With various trim levels eventually coming to the surface, the Niro EV could command anywhere between $30,000 and $40,000 in range-topping form. Seems like a lot for a subcompact crossover, but it’s an EV, and that’s the way the market trends right now for prices on these things – even the little ones.

Competitors

At this point, there isn’t really anything on the market for the Niro EV to compete with, so you could even start hoping for Kia to be the first to put its subcompact SUV on the market – it’s certainly coming soon, right? All told, there’s nothing for it to compete with now, but there are a bunch of models on their way, and the Niro EV will find itself fight among some pretty serious models that are all hoping to reign supreme in what will be an epic EV showdown. So let’s take a quick look at all of the upcoming competitors.

Hyundai Ioniq Electric

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric Exterior
- image 738015

The Ioniq Electric is one of the very few electric crossovers that’s already available. Much like the Niro, it shares styling cues with a hybrid version, sporting a full panel for a grille and minor changes here and there. And it’s quite appealing to look at too. The cabin is fresh and modern, and includes a seven-inch instrument cluster display, a big infotainment screen in the center stack, and tech like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, wireless inductive charging, and TomTom navigation. The electric motor draws juice from a 28-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery and generates 118 horsepower and 217 pound-feet of torque. Far from impressive compared to other electric vehicles on the market, but the 155-mile range is pretty good. Charging the battery to 80 percent only takes 24 minutes using a 100-kW fast charger, and an integrated in-cable control box (ICCB) allows the vehicle to charge using a standard 120-volt wall socket. Pricing for the Ioniq Electric starts from $29,500 before incentives.

Read our full review of the Hyundai Ioniq Electric.

Jaguar I-Pace

2019 Jaguar I-Pace Spyshots Exterior
- image 722486

The Jaguar I-Pace will likely fall a little a little higher on the pricing scale than the Niro EV since it is a premium vehicle and all, but it should be one of the first compact models to actually hit the market – most likely around the same time as the Niro or 2019 at the latest. It’s got more of a car look to it than the official “crossover” or “SUV” look but to each their own in that regard. It should sit in the same general size niche and should be able to cover about 300 miles on a single charge. Naturally, the materials and fit and finish will probably be a little more upscale, but Kia is slowly becoming a luxury brand itself – think about the Kia Stinger… — so I wouldn’t be so quick to say it won’t be able to hold its own against the Jag.

Read our full speculative review on the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace.

Mercedes Electric EV – Mercedes EQ

2020 Mercedes-Benz All-Electric SUV Exterior Computer Renderings and Photoshop
- image 697079

Mercedes’ first electric SUV is expected to debut for the 2020 model year, so Kia will probably beat it out of the gate, but what will be unique about this SUV is that it will be quite powerful in comparison. If the SUV is, indeed, based on the Mercedes EQ Concept, it should have some 400 horsepower on tap and be good for a range of about 300 miles. The Niro EV will keep up in range, no doubt, but that power on the other hand? I’m quite doubtful, but a man can still hope, right? In the end, the Mercedes EQ SUV in production form should come in at around $40,000 in base form which will be a little more expensive than the entry-level Niro EV but still with the realm of competition.

Read our full speculative review on the 2020 Mercedes Electric SUV.

Tesla Model Y

2020 Tesla Model Y Computer Renderings and Photoshop Exterior Exclusive Renderings
- image 722132

It’s a shame but I almost wrote up this whole article without thinking about Tesla once, but as I came to the end, I decided I might as well throw it a bone considering it’s having a pretty rough year. The brand has been hit with various lawsuits for harassment, racism, discrimination, etc., and it posted a serious loss for the last quarter. Then you add in the fact that production of the Model 3 has become about as troublesome as trying to get through a dry county in Georgia without getting caught with that booze in your trunk. Either way, at some point Tesla will be debuting a smaller version of the Model X that will aptly be called Model Y, and effectively complete the SEXY lineup. It should fall in line with the Model 3 so expect to see a rather bland interior with a single screen for all pertinent driving information (no instrument cluster, either,) and it will likely be the least-attractive model of any that we’ve discussed in this speculative review. With that Said, the Model Y will likely come in at around $40,000 to $45,000 before tax incentives, which may be something to pay attention to considering President Trump is thinking of taking those away.

Read our full speculative review on the 2020 Tesla Model Y.

Conclusion

2019 Kia Niro EV Spyshots Exterior
- image 742867
Rear end will see a revised lower fascia and new badges

So, at this point, the only question you should really have about the Niro EV is when it’s going to hit dealers. Well, unfortunately, I can’t tell you that as it’s still a bit too early. But, when you consider the fact that there isn’t a lot left for Kia to do outside of extensive testing of the drivetrain, it could happen in the very near future. It’s supposed to take shape and make its debut in 2018, so if it happens in the first quarter, we could very well see this thing rolling into dealers, pigtail hanging, by mid-July and go on sale as a 2019 model. This could, as a matter of fact, happen before most of the other competitors make it to market, but we’ll just have to wait and see. For now, that’s all there is to the story, but stay tuned for future updates and let us know what you think about the Niro EV in the comments section below.

  • Leave it
    • * Competition could be tough
    • * Could be a little too expensive
    • * Competition may have more grunt for the $
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