Electric Kias: your ultimate guide

Published: 13 July 2020

► Kia's EV plans
► What's to come
► The current crop of hybrids and electric cars

Kia will introduce nine pure electric vehicles over the next five years, as it seeks ‘leadership’ in the race for low- and zero-emission vehicles. Two pure electric cars are on the UK market today, the compact Soul EV and e-Niro midsize crossover, the latter with a choice of battery sizes enabling a range of up to 280 miles. 

Also fresh to market are plug-in hybrid versions of the XCeed crossover (from £30,695) and Ceed Sportswagon (£29,995), with a minimum 35-mile zero-emissions range plus combustion engine back-up. 

Click here for a simple guide to all the electrified Kias

But there’s much more to come. The electrified roll-out steps up a gear next year, when Kia introduces the first EV on its purpose-built battery/electric chassis. Read on for more details on the strategy, with 400- or 800-volt electrical systems to offer different tiers of performance, recharging and price points, plus two more pure EV vehicle architectures. 

A plan to take over the (EV) world

Like all respectable James Bond villains, Kia has a plan for world domination: Plan S. The Korean car maker is ripping up its operating blueprint to compete in the new transport era of electrification, new forms of mobility (such as ride-hailing and car sharing) and Purpose-Built Vehicles (PBVs). 

The over-arching trend is electrification. Pablo Martinez Masip, Kia’s product planning director, outlined Kia’s plan and ambitions in an interview with CAR. ‘Kia will have 11 electric models by 2025: SUVs, MPVs, normal passenger cars. We plan to have a full portfolio of electric vehicles – if governments go crazy and decide to have only EVs in 2025, Kia will be ready to be full electric! 

In the first three months of this year, almost one Kia in every five sold in Europe was a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) or a pure EV. ‘When we look at emissions, people’s mindset, we believe where EVs will develop the fastest is Europe,’ says Martinez Masip. Kia vows to sell 500,000 EVs and 1million PHEVs in 2025 – with the biggest regional sales on this continent

Secret weapon 1: a dedicated EV architecture

A purpose-built Electric Vehicle platform will be key to Kia’s EV roll-out. Like Volkswagen with its dedicated ‘MEB’ architecture, the engineers have conceived a flexible rolling chassis dedicated to battery electric vehicles, which will offer superior occupant space to a platform needing to also house combustion engines. 

The platform will cover midsize and large cars (C- and D-segment), offering a variety of wheelbases, track widths and battery pack sizes. ‘A dedicated platform gives you some performance benefits, or bigger batteries inside, more freedom in terms of design, and the ability to target different consumer groups,’ says Martinez Masip. ‘What we cannot do with this platform is very small cars, A or B segment vehicles.’  

In a case of different volts for different folks, Kia can also choose whether to install 400- or 800-volt electrical systems. Kia’s punchier e-Niro musters 356-volts, Tesla currently uses 400-volt systems, but Porsche offers 800-volts on the Taycan electric sports car. The German sports car maker argues this reduces charging time, uses less cabling which saves weight and offers consistent high-performance use.  

Different volts for different folks

‘Electric vehicles by definition give you the potential to go after performance in a different way to ICEs,’ says Europe’s product planning chief. ‘I cannot give you performance figures for where we could be. But [prioritising] performance more than in the past is definitely something that’s on the cards.

‘Today you have to buy a very expensive car to get 800 volts; maybe in a Kia it’s not going to be cheap, but it’s going to be accessible – that’s what we aim to do.'

Martinez Masip is planning more cost-effective 400-volt cars, and higher performance 800-volt cars, and it’s likely both electrical systems will be offered in the same model to give a two-tier range. 

The Imagine by KIA concept gives a taste of a future electric car, but this high-riding coupe-cum-SUV is not certain to be the first car introduced on the platform in 2021. Kia may choose a more conventional bodystyle for the car, codenamed CV, and reckon on some changes from new design director Karim Habib: his philosophy will shape the look of all future EVs and combustion-engine cars.

Other EVs from two partnerships

Traditionally Kia has been a strongly vertically integrated company, even producing its own transmissions in-house. But it is collaborating with two partners to broaden its electrified vehicle offering, in addition to the 11 electric cars coming by 2025.

One is Canoo, a Los Angeles start-up led by Ulrich Kranz, one of the key architects of BMW’s pioneering i3 electric car. Hyundai and Kia plan to use Canoo’s low-cost but highly flexible skateboard platform (pictured above) for small EVs and purpose-built vehicles, such as passenger shuttles or mobile food trucks and health clinics, with bespoke, specialised interiors.

The second collaboration is with UK start-up Arrival, which is developing electric-powered commercial vehicles and buses. ‘This gives us the opportunity to have bigger vehicles, which can be tall and boxy and accommodate many things inside, used for cargo or passengers,’ says Martinz Masip.  

And hybrids for those resisting the pure EV charge

While much of the talk is about electric vehicles, Kia plans hybrid electrification of nearly all its passenger cars. The Sportage diesel has mild-hybrid electrification, with more extensive use of engine stop/start and the ability to recuperate energy making it the most fuel-efficient and lowest carbon emitting model in the SUV’s range. 

The facelifted Rio will offer a mild-hybrid version of the 1.0-litre petrol engine, good for a double-digit fuel economy improvement. And the all-new Sorento, Kia’s flagship SUV, will be available with two hybrids. The first is what Toyota marketers would call a ‘self-charging’ hybrid, with an electric motor and small battery to take the strain off the combustion engine. But there’s no significant electric range from this seven-seat SUV due in the autumn – for that you need a plug-in hybrid with its bigger, mains-charged battery pack, which the Sorento will also offer from early 2021.

Electrified Kias: your handy guide

Kia Soul EV


Short but spacious crossover thanks to its high roof, the Soul EV uses Kia’s 64kWh battery pack and mixes zero emissions with 7.6secs 0-60mph acceleration

  • Priced from: £34,295 (including £3000 subsidy)
  • Electric range: up to 280 miles
  • CO2: 0g/km
  • 7kW wallbox charge time: 9hrs 35mins
  • On sale: now

Kia Niro hybrid

Entry-level Niro hybrid deploys electric assistance from a 1.56kWh battery to help the petrol engine, saving fuel and reducing emissions. No ability to plug it in

  • Priced from: £24,900 
  • Electric range: none
  • CO2: 110g/km
  • MPG: 58.9
  • 7kW wallbox charging time: not a plug-in
  • On sale: now 

Kia Niro plug-in hybrid

See above, but 8.9kWh battery pack can be mains-charged to give 36-mile pure EV range and superior economy, and slightly punchier performance.

  • Priced from: £30,265
  • Electric range: 36 miles
  • CO2: 31g/km
  • MPG: 202
  • 7kW wallbox charging time: 2hrs 15mins
  • On sale: now 

Kia e-Niro 2

The pure electric daddy of the range, comes with two battery packs: the bigger, 64kWh model offers 282 miles of range and takes almost 10hrs to charge

  • 39kWh version priced from: £29,595 (including £3000 subsidy)
  • Electric range: 180 miles
  • CO2: 0g/km
  • 7kW wallbox charge time: 6hrs 10mins
  • On sale: now

Kia XCeed plug-in hybrid


Same powertrain as the Niro PHEV, but wrapped in a more swoopy bodystyle

  • Priced from: £30,695 
  • Electric range: 36 miles
  • CO2: 32g/km
  • MPG: 202
  • 3.3kW wallbox charging time: 2hrs 15 mins
  • On sale: now

Kia Ceed Sportswagon plug-in hybrid


Ceed estate with 437-litre boot runs the familiar 139bhp petrol/electric powertrain, good for a 10.5sec 0-60mph sprint

  • Priced from: £29,995
  • Electric range: 36 miles
  • CO2: 33g/km
  • MPG: 188
  • 3.3kW wallbox charging time: 2hrs 15 mins
  • On sale: now

All our Kia reviews

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine

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