It’s safe to say that the older Kia Niro didn’t have the boldest appearance among small crossovers, electrified or not. The new one has a lot more spice after being redesigned from the ground up, both inside and out. It’s one of those rare occasions when the next generation of a vehicle looks nothing like its predecessor.
Of course, that’s not always a good thing as some would rather have car manufacturers play it safe than give their cars a drastic overhaul. Depending on which side you’re on, the Niro 2023 will be a love / hate affair as this type of exterior design is unlikely to leave you indifferent. It echoes other bold Kia models launched recently, including the larger Sportage SUV.
If the awesome exterior looks a bit familiar, there’s a good reason for it. The clues to the 2019 HabaNiro concept are pretty obvious, from the signature LED daytime running lights to the contrasting rear pillar. The Niro HEV’s two-tone alloy rims with the “Y” spoke design also take inspiration from the showcar, as do the curved and arrow-shaped boomerang taillights.
We can’t help but notice how wide the C-pillar is, which can make exiting a parking space a bit of a pain due to poor visibility. Typical concept-to-production changes include conventional front doors instead of the flashy scissor doors installed on the HabaNiro, as well as the addition of conventional rear doors and mirrors replacing the cameras.
The interior has also been completely redesigned and looks significantly more upscale while having a similar dashboard layout to that of the new Sportage. We’re already familiar with Kia’s side-by-side displays, with the infotainment being accompanied by a few separate controls for climate settings and other functions. This is our preferred configuration having quick access to certain amenities without having to navigate the menus.
The clunky shifter on the previous Niro has been replaced with a sleeker rotary knob that frees up more space around the lower part of the center console. The new shifter is flanked by additional physical buttons for the heated and ventilated seats, the heated steering wheel, the automatic hold function and the park assist system.
Interestingly, Kia says the headliner is made from recycled wallpaper while the seats are made from Bio PU with Tencel from eucalyptus leaves. Also created with durability in mind, the door panels are painted with BTX, a type of water-based paint without isomers of benzene, toluene, and xylene.
The South Korean brand unveiled the crossover at the Seoul Mobility Show 2021, but without revealing technical specifications. We know it will be available again in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric configurations. The market launch is scheduled for next year.