What Car? says...
If you've ever felt pressure to live up to a high-achieving parent, you'll understand the situation the Kia Niro EV is in. You see, it's the direct replacement for the Kia e-Niro, which was the first electric car to win the overall What Car? Car of the Year award.
What made the e-Niro so good? Well, along with its cousin – the Hyundai Kona Electric – it was the first electric car to democratise a 250+ mile range between charges. Yes, various Tesla models could go even further, but not by much – and the e-Niro cost a fraction of the money to buy.
That was a few years ago, though, and since then we’ve seen an explosion of respectably priced electric SUVs that offer an even longer range as well as faster charging. In short, the Kia Niro EV has a much tougher time impressing potential buyers than its predecessor.
The Niro EV’s main rivals include the larger Skoda Enyaq, the slightly smaller Peugeot e-2008 and the Smart #1. If you’re willing to sit a bit closer to the road, the Cupra Born and VW ID 3 might be on your shortlist, too.
Keep scrolling and we'll tell you how the Kia Niro EV squares up against the competition in all the important areas, including practicality, performance, range and charging.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
With many electric cars, you have to choose the size of the battery, how much performance you want and whether you’d prefer two or four-wheel drive. No such head-scratching is needed with the Kia Niro EV: all versions have a 201bhp electric motor driving the front wheels, fed by a 64.8kWh (usable capacity) battery.
Acceleration is surprisingly sprightly, and the Niro EV pulls well when you put your foot down at low speeds, sprinting from 0-60mph in 7.2 seconds in our tests. That’s a fair bit quicker than an Enyaq and much faster than an e-2008.
In fact, the Niro EV is powerful enough that its front wheels can struggle for traction if you’re too aggressive with the accelerator pedal, and it gets worse if the road is wet. Generally, though, it's smooth and easy to drive.
You can adjust the level of regenerative braking to suit your tastes (by pulling paddles behind the steering wheel). The most extreme setting kills speed so quickly when you lift off the accelerator pedal that you don't need to use the brake pedal very often. When you do use the brakes, you’ll find them less grabby and more predictable than in many electric cars.
Ride comfort has clearly been prioritised over sporty handling, and many buyers will consider that perfectly appropriate. The relatively soft suspension means that, at faster speeds, you float along with just some gentle side-to-side sway. The Niro EV deals with beaten up urban backstreets pretty well, proving slightly more settled than the Smart #1.
It’s also more composed and confidence-inspiring than either of those rivals along winding country roads. Calling it ‘fun’ would be a stretch (it's no patch on the lower-riding Cupra Born), but by electric SUV standards it grips well and its accurate steering allows you to position the car where you want it.
Pulling away from a standstill, you hear a slight whine from the Niro EV’s electric motor – more than in the Enyaq – but it’s much quieter than a petrol or diesel engine buzzing away under the bonnet. There's a fair amount of road noise, though, so the Niro EV isn't as hushed as some rivals, including the #1, at a motorway cruise.
Officially, the Niro EV can cover 285 miles between charges, but you probably won't get that far in real life. In our real-world range test, a 4 trim model managed 253 miles.
Strengths Good to drive; impressive range; decent performance
Weaknesses Quite a lot of road noise
The interior layout, fit and finish
The Kia Niro EV's interior takes its inspiration from the larger Kia EV6. That’s largely a good thing, because it means the design looks smart and modern, and the materials used feel relatively upmarket. It’s certainly plusher inside than the BYD Atto 3 and the VW ID.3.
That’s despite parts of the seats being made from recycled plastic while the headlining is constructed from recycled wallpaper. Meanwhile, the insides of the doors have a water-based rather than solvent-based finish to create a smaller impact on the environment. Appropriate for an electric car, we reckon. For an even more upmarket interior check out the rival Smart #1.
By SUV standards, you sit fairly close to the road although still noticeably higher than in a traditional family hatchback. The driving position is tough to fault in other respects, with plenty of steering wheel and seat adjustment. You get a powered driver’s seat in ‘3’ and ‘4’ models, along with adjustable lumbar support.
You won’t have many issues seeing out of the front of the Niro EV or diagonally at junctions and roundabouts. However, over-the-should visibility isn’t great; the contrast-colour rear pillar means there’s no glass on the side of the car behind the rear window, which leaves a big blindspot. All versions get a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, though, with front sensors standard on all but entry-level ‘2’ trim.
Go for entry-level ‘2’ trim and you’ll get a 8.0in touchscreen to control the infotainment system, which grows to 10.25in on the more expensive trim levels. By touchscreen standards, it’s fairly easy to use and responds quickly enough when you press it.
Adjusting the interior temperature is easy thanks to physical dials on the dashboard, although there's a slightly fiddly touch-sensitive panel between them for other air-conditioning settings.
Strengths Smart interior; good forwards visibility; easy-to-use dashboard
Weaknesses No adjustable lumbar support on 2 trim; over-the-shoulder visibility isn't great
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The Kia Niro EV is a fine choice for families because there’s plenty of space throughout. In fact, even two six-footers sitting up front won’t struggle for head or leg room, while there’s enough interior width to ensure they don't rub shoulders.
It’s much the same story in the rear. Tall people sitting in the outer seats will enjoy more space than in an e-2008, and won’t find their knees cramped against the front seats or their heads grazing the roof lining. The larger Enyaq provides a bit more head and leg room for exceptionally tall folk, though.
You can’t adjust the angle of the rear seat backrests like you can in the larger EV6, although you can fold the seatbacks down (in a 60/40) split) when you need extra boot space.
You won’t need to do that very often, though, because the Niro EV’s boot is surprisingly big, swallowing seven carry-on suitcases in our tests. Interestingly, there’s more luggage space than in a hybrid or plug-in hybrid Kia Niro and a short family holiday will prove no problem at all.
The Niro EV also has a tiny storage compartment under its bonnet, so overall it's a far better load-lugger than the Smart #1. However, again, the Enyaq beats it here with an even bigger boot.
All trim levels come with a height-adjustable boot floor, although there's no ski-hatch like there is in the #1.
Strengths Impressive rear head and leg room; big boot; height-adjustable boot floor is standard
Weaknesses No ski hatch; foot space for rear passengers could be better
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Kia Niro EV is priced roughly in line with the larger Enyaq, so it's a bit more expensive than the Atto 3 and #1. That's true whether you're paying cash or are looking at monthly payments on a PCP finance deal.
The entry-level 2 model isn't exactly dripping with creature comforts, either; you get all of the basics, including dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and adaptive cruise control, but have make do with a smaller (8.0in) infotainment screen and miss out on heated seats.
To get things such as heated seats and wireless phone-charging, you'll need to go for 3 trim – but even then you'll have to pay a fair bit extra if you want a heat pump for more efficient warming of the interior in cooler temperatures.
You don't even get a heat pump as standard with range-topping 4 trim, although you get lots of luxuries, including a sunroof, an electric tailgate, heated and ventilated seats in the front, heated seats in the rear and a heated steering wheel.
We’d avoid 4 because it costs almost as much as an entry-level Kia EV6 – a larger electric car that can travel further on a charge than the Niro EV and charge up much faster.
There’s plenty of safety kit on all versions – including automatic emergency braking (AEB) that senses cars, bikes and pedestrians, although the 2 model misses out on blind-spot monitoring. When Euro NCAP tested the Niro EV for safety in 2022, it was awarded five stars out of five.
The Niro EV was too new to feature in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey but Kia as a brand claimed eighth place (out of the 32 car makers included) in the overall league table, beating Peugeot and Skoda.
On top of that, to give you extra peace of mind, Kia offers a generous seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty. That’s more than you’ll get from almost every other manufacturer, although Toyota offers 10 years if you get your car serviced at an official dealer annually.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the Niro EV is how long it takes to charge up. It can accept a maximum of only 72kW of charging power, meaning a 10-80% top-up takes at least 43 mins – and that’s in ideal conditions.
For context, a 10-80% charge in the #1 can theoretically take as little as 27min, and even the Skoda Enyaq 80, which has a much larger battery, can cover off a 10-80% charge in less than half an hour.
A full 0-100% charge from a 7kW home wallbox in the Niro EV takes around 10hr 30min.
Buying and owning overview
Strengths Long warranty; entry-level 2 trim gets all the essentials
Weaknesses Many rivals are cheaper and better equipped; heat pump costs extra
The Niro EV can officially do 285 miles between charges. You won't get that far in real-world driving, though – a range of 250 miles in the summer is more realistic.
That'll be down to Kia's pricing strategy. However, we do agree that some rivals – including the Smart #1 – offer better value for money.
The Niro EV is quite pricey for a small electric SUV so it's best to stick with entry-level 2 trim.
|RRP price range
|£29,190 - £42,325
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|petrol parallel phev, hybrid, electric
|MPG range across all versions
|282.5 - 64.2
|Available doors options
|7 years / 100000 miles
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£74 / £1,742
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£147 / £3,485