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Electric Vehicles

If You Want a Small EV Box, You’re in Luck

Kia doubles down on its winning strategy with the EV3.

The Kia EV3.
Heatmap Illustration/Kia, Getty Images

Sometimes, a car’s name tells you all you need to know.

When Kia turned out its first electric vehicles in the 2010s, the models amounted to gasoline cars retrofitted for battery power. The names, like Soul EV and Niro EV, implied as much. But once the Korean automaker started to make purpose-built electrics, it adopted a very literal naming system — one that outlines its vision to dominate the electric car industry.

First came the EV6. With racy styling and impressive power numbers, EV6 was built to compete in the increasingly crowded space of two-row electric crossovers that start north of $40,000, a category that includes the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Volkswagen ID.4, and the Tesla Model Y. Next came EV9, the biggest vehicle on Kia’s numerical scale. Teased in a Super Bowl commercial and awarded World Car of the Year at the 2024 New York International Auto Show, the EV9 is one of the first three-row electric SUVs, built for the big family that wants to drive on battery power. Then came the Kia EV5. As the name suggests, this crossover (which won’t be sold in the United States for now because of sourcing complications with the Inflation Reduction Act tax credits) slots in just below the EV6 in price and size.

Now the Korean brand is filling in the smaller end of the range. Its latest reveal, announced Thursday morning, is the EV3, a boxy little crossover that will start in the $30,000s and will come to America next year or the year after (it’s going to Korea and Europe first). The offering is a key piece of the grand plan put together by Kia (and its owner, Hyundai) — and a sign that more entry-level EVs might be coming over the horizon.

Kia EV3Courtesy of Kia

To reach EV3’s more affordable price point, Kia dressed down some of the specs compared to its higher-numbered electric vehicles. Whereas EV9 is built with 800-volt capability for super-fast charging, its little brother gets a maximum of 400 volts — enough to charge up to 80% in 31 minutes, slower than the 24 minutes of the EV9.

EV3 posts 201 horsepower and 208 pound-feet of torque, with a claimed 0-60 miles per hour time of 7.5 seconds and a top speed of 105 miles per hour. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers compared to the performance-minded EVs we’ve seen from the likes of Tesla, which use the electric battery and motor’s instantaneous torque to make the car zip away from a stop light. But it’s plenty for people who just want an affordable little EV. Plus, the long-range version of EV3 is supposed to reach an impressive 372 miles of range, which blows away most current offerings, especially in that price range.

EV3 should find its way into the sub-$40,000 crossover space that’s finally starting to fill out. The Volvo EX30, which debuts soon, will also start in the mid-$30,000s. GM has finally started delivering the Chevy Equinox EV, which starts around $43,000 now (not counting tax credits) but is slated to see a base-trim $35,0000 version arrive later this year.

It’s not just about differentiating on price, either. EV3 will have about the same wheelbase as the dearly departed Chevy Bolt EUV, Road & Tracksays, and will be a little shorter than the Teslas Model 3 and Y. That’s good news for people who don’t want a giant EV and are waiting for the promised return of the Bolt or something like it.

Kia EV3 interior.Courtesy of Kia

With EV3, EV5, EV6, and EV9 revealed to the world, you don’t have to squint too hard to see how Kia might fill in the rest of the numbers on its way to selling an EV of every stripe. Rumors swirl of a cheap, subcompact Kia EV1 and EV2, which may or may not eventually come to America. EV4, already shown off as a fanciful concept car, is some kind of mad mixture of sedan, hatchback, and low crossover. EV7 may well be a three-row SUV that’s smaller and cheaper than the big EV9, positioning it to become the brand’s flagship electric crossover. EV8 looks to be a muscle car that can take the place of the petrol-powered Stinger.

Hyundai, the parent brand, has taken a slower but similar strategy. The Ioniq5 compact crossover and Ioniq6 streamlined sedan have both been EV success stories, with sales climbing while the rest of the world frets that EVs have stalled. The forthcoming Ioniq9, like the Kia EV9, will be a top-of-the-range three-row crossover, while Ioniq7 looks to be a slightly less ritzy version of the same concept.

As Heatmap’s Robinson Meyer has pointed out, this approach has been the Korean automakers’ winning strategy. While others have pulled back on EVs in the face of early struggles or only gingerly dipped their toes in the water, Hyundai and Kia are cranking out crossovers of all sizes to plant their flag in every section of the marketplace. Kia is banking on the idea that this all-in strategy will help its EV sales make the enormous leap from 44,000 cars in the first quarter, a new record for the brand, to 1.6 million in 2030, or half of the 3.1 million vehicles of any kind it sold last year.

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Andrew Moseman profile image

Andrew Moseman

Andrew Moseman has covered science, technology, and transportation for publications such as The Atlantic, Inverse, Insider, Outside, and MIT Technology Review. He was previously digital director of Popular Mechanics and now serves as online communications editor at Caltech. He is based in Los Angeles.

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