Kia is taking aim at electric vehicles like the Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf, and Tesla Model 3 with its Niro EV Concept, an electric-powered compact making its global debut this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Kia says the Niro EV is powered by a “next-generation powertrain,” a 150-kW electric motor and a 64-kWh lithium-polymer battery that Kia says will deliver up to 238 miles of driving range.

This represents a significant step up from the Hyundai Ioniq Electric, which shares a platform with the Niro EV, its corporate cousin. The Ioniq Electric has a 28-kWh battery pack that provides an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 124 miles of driving range.

By comparison, the Chevrolet Bolt delivered 250 miles of total driving range during CR’s recent road test of the car, and the redesigned Nissan Leaf is said to get about 150 miles of range. (Read our 2018 Nissan Leaf first drive.)  

Stay on top of all the tech news with CR’s guide to CES 2018.

The Kia Niro EV concept at CES.

Kia also used its CES appearance to announce its intention to offer 16 electrified vehicles, including five full-electric ones, for sale by 2025. It remains to be seen whether all of these will be sold in the U.S.

The Niro EV features Kia’s Active Pedestrian Warning System, which employs front-facing cameras, object-recognition technology, and even external speakers, all to help keep pedestrians or bicyclists from being hit. For example, if a pedestrian suddenly crossed in front of the Niro EV, the vehicle would blast a series of audible warnings and visual alerts to grab the attention of the pedestrian. That’s because the electric nature of the Niro EV makes it almost silent, and that could surprise pedestrians or bicyclists who aren’t paying attention.

Interior of the Kia Niro EV concept at CES.

The Niro EV’s cabin relies heavily on voice- and facial-recognition technology, co-developed with Amazon Web Services, along with touch and gesture commands for its infotainment system and ventilation controls. A perforated leather section at the base of the steering wheel allows a driver to ‘swipe’ between songs, to adjust volume levels, or to quickly change temperature settings.

Look for the production version of the Niro EV to join Kia’s lineup toward the end of this year. Pricing has not been released, though the EV is likely to land around $35,000 before federal tax incentives.

We found Kia’s current Niro hybrid, which comes powered by a 139-hp, four-cylinder engine and an electric drive motor, to have good overall fuel economy and a versatile cargo hold. The ride can feel choppy at times, however, and rivals such as the Toyota Prius offer more than the 43-mpg average we experienced in a mix of city and highway driving.

Read the complete Kia Niro road test.

Rear of the Kia Niro EV concept at CES.

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