Its Eyes Are Just Coming In: Kia Niro EV Concept Bows at CES

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
its eyes are just coming in kia niro ev concept bows at ces

Earlier this year, Tim tested the new Kia Niro, finding it to be a perfectly non-offensive crossover, one that goes about its business with little fuss – which, let’s be honest, is what a good slice of the buying public looks for in a new car.

At the Consumer Electronic Show in Vegas this week, Kia added to the Niro’s lineage with an all-electric version of the compact machine, saying it will offer a range of 238 miles. If that number sounds familiar, it should. It is the exact figure Chevrolet promises for the Bolt.

Created by Kia’s design studio in South Korea, the Niro EV Concept is a fully electric vehicle. Its silhouette largely mimics that of the standard Niro, save for a couple of oddly-shaped lumps on the hood above the strut towers. This may simply be a trick of color and lighting, as its non-EV brother also has styling flourishes in that same area.

Kia mentions that the Niro EV replaces the non-EV’s grille with a “smooth interactive display panel” that appears to spell out a message in the press photos. The company is light on details, but if this panel allows drivers to write a custom message in traffic, it would make for an entertaining commute. This author also thinks the wheels are fantastic. Many will disagree.

The Niro EV Concept is powered by a next-generation electric vehicle powertrain, using new production technologies earmarked for near-future EVs from Kia. Energy is provided by a high-capacity 64 kWh lithium-polymer battery pack, paired with a powerful 150 kW electric motor. The Niro EV Concept suggests a driving range of 238 miles, with zero tailpipe emissions.

As a silent electric car, Kia figures it needs to emit some sort of warning at pedestrians who may be too absorbed in their smartphone to notice an electric Niro bearing down on them. The concept’s new Active Pedestrian Warning System features a combination of front view cameras, object recognition technology and front speakers. If the system detects a pedestrian or cyclist crossing in front of the car, the speakers sound an alert targeted specifically at that person, warning them of the car’s presence.

This differs from other systems currently in operation, which emit a slightly alien warble at all times – whether its surroundings are packed with pedestrians or devoid of humans. Kia says the audible warning works in conjunction with the Niro EV Concept’s new interactive lighting system, offering users and pedestrians visual communication with vehicle as well.

Inside, we find typical show car window dressing complete with an odd two-spoke version of Kia’s corporate steering wheel. While the starship Enterprise gauge displays and gear selector probably won’t make production, the clean look of the rest of its dashboard is appealing and may point to an eventual direction of the brand’s interior design language.

Kia added to the Niro range with a PHEV version late last year, installing a battery pack that provides enough juice for a 60-horsepower electric motor to give the vehicle a gas-free driving range of 26 miles. The standard Niro deploys a 1.6-liter four-cylinder gas engine mated to an electric motor for a total system horsepower of 139, with a combined torque figure of 195 lb-ft.

The company says it will continue to expand its range of environmentally friendly cars in the coming years, planning to offer a total of 16 electrified vehicles by 2025, including a fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV) in 2020.

It is important to note the distinction of “electrified” vs “electric.” While the pure EV concept shown here is electric, the existing Niro hybrid and Niro PHEV are electrified, as they incorporate a measure of electrons in their propulsion systems. Keep that in mind when a company touts their future product plans, as many will during both CES and NAIAS this month.

[Images: Kia Motors]

Join the conversation
3 of 9 comments
  • Conundrum Conundrum on Jan 09, 2018

    Another tortured sheetmetal special, now with protruding tongues front and rear. Interior reminiscent of a bottom of the line fridge. Frankly embarrassing.

  • Iamwho2k Iamwho2k on Jan 09, 2018

    Curbs all over Seoul are just itching to put their mark on those wheels. (And it will be curbs since potholes don't exist in SK's capital.)

  • MaintenanceCosts We hear endlessly from the usual suspects about the scenarios where EVs don't work as well as gas cars. We never hear the opposite side of the coin. From an EV owner (since 2019) who has a second EV reserved, here are a few points the "I road trip 1000 miles every day" crowd won't tell you about:[list][*]When you have a convenient charging situation, EV fueling is more convenient than a gas car. There is no stopping at gas stations and you start every day with a full tank.[/*][*]Where there are no-idling rules (school pickup/dropoff, lines for ferries or services, city loading, whatever else) you can keep warm or cool to your heart's content in your EV.[/*][*]In the cold, EVs will give you heat from the second you turn them on.[/*][*]EVs don't care one bit if you use them for tons of very short trips. Their mechanicals don't need to boil off condensation. (Just tonight, I used my EV to drive six blocks, because it was 31 degrees and raining, and walking would have been unpleasant.)[/*][*]EVs don't stink and don't make you breathe carcinogens on cold start.[/*][*]EV maintenance is much less frequent and much cheaper, eliminating almost all items having to do with engine, transmission, or brakes in a gas car. In most EVs the maintenance schedule consists of battery coolant changes and tire maintenance.[/*][*]You can accelerate fast in EVs without noisily attracting the attention of the cops and every passerby on the street.[/*][/list]
  • MaintenanceCosts Still can't get a RAV4 Prime for love or money. Availability of normal hybrid RAV4s and Highlanders is only slightly better. At least around here I think Toyota could sell twice the number of vehicles that they are actually bringing in at the moment.
  • Tree Trunk Been in the market for a new Highlander Hybrid, it is sold out with order time of 6 months plus. Probably would have bit the bullet if it was not for the dealers the refuse to take an order but instead want to sell from allotment whether it fits or not and at thousands over MRSP.
  • AKHusky The expense argument is nonsense. My mach e was $42k after tax credit. Basically the same as similarly equipped edge. And it completely ignores that the best selling vehicles are Rams, F150s, and Silverados, all more expensive that a bolt, MAch e or ID4. As an owner, I'd say they are still in second car territory for most places in the country.
  • Johnster I live in a red state and I see quite a few EVs being purchased by conservative, upper-class Republicans (many of them Trump-supporters). I suspect that it is a way for them to flaunt their wealth and that, over time, the preference for EVs will trickle down to less well-off Republicans.