Is the Kia Ray EV City Car Something We Could Use Here—or Even Want?

2024 kia ray ev
Is the Kia Ray EV Something We Could Use Here?Kia
  • Kia reveals next-gen Ray subcompact, which will be available in South Korea with the option of a battery electric drivetrain.

  • The Ray EV will be powered by a 35.2-kWh LFP battery, producing just under 100 hp, and offering a range of 130 miles.

  • Produced just for the South Korean domestic market, the Ray EV is set to go on sale with a starting price below $21,000.

The Kia EV6 may be making waves stateside, with its combination of avant-garde styling, everyday practicality, and affordable price. But it's by no means the smallest or most affordable EV that the automaker has in its lineup.

A few days ago Kia took the wraps off the next-generation Ray EV, slated to be sold only in South Korea, offering an early look at a redesigned nameplate that first arrived in 2011.

A city car

The first-gen Ray model was available both as a gas-engine city car and as a battery-electric model, with Kia keeping it exclusively in its home market, aimed at the South Korean equivalent of a small city vehicle developed for tax purposes, called gyeongcha.


The redesigned Ray EV will offer a 35.2-kWh battery of the LFP variety, powering a single electric motor good for 86 hp and 108 lb-ft of torque.

While these aren't particularly exciting performance numbers, the numbers buyers should find exciting are a range of 130 miles and a starting price just around $20,600.

Among other things, it will offer a longer range and a lower starting price than the Mini Cooper SE Electric does at the moment, while featuring a marginally larger battery.

But the Ray EV won't be as minimalist as it may appear at first blush. The model will offer modern safety and driver assist systems, while offering seating for four and some luggage.

A hole in the market

This particular EV category has been vacant since the departure of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV from the lineup, even though a couple of recent but larger contestants continue to offer ranges just above the 100-mile mark: the aforementioned Mini Cooper SE Electric and the Mazda MX-30. Neither is particularly cheap, and the latter is already leaving after recording an embarrassingly low number of sales.

The concept of a sub-Chevy Bolt-sized electric city car, as they exist in Europe and Asia, may not have seemed like a particularly fruitful segment even when the Mitsubishi i-MiEV was on sale stateside.

But given the eye-wateringly high prices of cars, especially ones that bill themselves as affordable EVs, a return of the modest-range city car now seems far more appealing than it did a short four years ago.

To be clear, Kia has no plans to bring the Ray EV here—the model is still just for the South Korean domestic market. But we can't help but think that such a segment could still see demand stateside, if executed properly.

We also can't help but note that just as it was leaving the US market, Smart made a sharp turn to electrification and now has compact and attractive EVs in its lineup. Had it stayed in North America just a little longer, things might have turned out differently, especially given the dearth of small but capable EVs at the moment.

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Smart, of course, positioned itself as a premium brand, and was priced accordingly. But its current lineup is a reminder of what could have been on sale here today.

The good news, if any, is that some small EVs are on the way to the US, including the Fiat 500e that will help fill this much needed niche. But the overall trend is certainly toward larger crossovers, and the streets won't be overrun by inexpensive, small EVs anytime soon.

Can a city electric car like the Ray EV do well stateside, or is this category too narrow for automakers to address at the moment? Let us know what you think in the comments below.