First-generation Kia Niro EV continues as zero-emission taxi special for home Korean market

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As a redesigned, second-generation 2023 Niro lineup ramps up for a fall arrival at U.S. dealerships, Kia isn’t just discontinuing the first-generation Niro EV. 

Instead, the much-loved first-gen Niro EV, which would likely have been Green Car Reports’ Best Car To Buy had it been more widely available from the start, is seeing a (new) second life as a taxi model—called the Niro Plus.

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To arrive at the Niro Plus, Kia says that it stretched the length of the Niro EV by 10 mm (0.4 in) and its height by 80 mm (3.1 in), with “slimmed-down structures” plus thinner seats and door trims that altogether help expand passenger space. 

Kia hasn’t noted anything different about the Niro EV’s specs, so it’s likely the Plus continues with a single permanent-magnet motor at the front wheels, making 201 hp and 291 lb-ft of torque. A 64-kwh battery pack delivers an EPA-rated 239 miles, although in lower-speed driving it will do better than that. 

Niro Plus versions also get a new All-in-One display that puts taxi functions right on the screen as part of infotainment displays.

Kia Niro Plus - purpose-built electric taxi

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Kia Niro Plus – purpose-built electric taxi

The Plus isn’t going too no-frills with the package, as it’s not just expected to be for round-the-clock urban cab duty. Kia expects some of them to essentially fill a need as executive cars that will be used for the commute during the week and then retreats or getaways on the weekend. 

Kia says that the Niro Plus is the brand’s first “purpose-built vehicle” (PBV) for mobility services—in this case, fleets or taxi operators in Kia’s native South Korea. 

The Niro Plus precedes a dedicated PBV from Kia due in 2025 that Kia says “will be similar in size to a mid-sized vehicle, with inherent scalability.” It follows the Ray Van, a “single-seater van” positioned for small cargo-delivery services—and yes, related to the Kia Ray EV, an electric kei-car-like offering for Kia’s home market. 

Kia Niro Plus - purpose-built electric taxi

Kia Niro Plus – purpose-built electric taxi

Although the Plus is intended for Korea, Kia does note that it will also be available in “select overseas markets.” And we will soon be seeing even more “purpose-built” EVs for taxi duty—Arrival’s EV designed for Uber duty, for instance. 

Does a Niro EV-based taxi or ride-hailing car make sense in a lot of the globe’s urban environments? We think so.

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