EVs are clearly starting to permeate the automotive landscape, but not everyone is ready to adopt. It's a mixed bag, for sure. The truly long-range EVs cost a pretty penny (mostly Tesla, Lucid Motors, and Rivian, specifically), so what about the rest of us who don't want to plunk down over 54 grand for a long-range Tesla Model Y? There's the Kia Niro EV, that's what. It's priced at $39,990 base MSRP and has a capable 239-mile range on a full charge.
The range might not blow your mind, but you should know that the Niro EV has more range than the Mazda MX-30 (100 miles), the BMW i3 (153 miles), the Nissan LEAF S Plus (226 miles), the Hyundai Ioniq Electric (170 miles), and the MINI Cooper SE Electric (110 miles). That's a big portion of its competition, which means it should be on your list for your next (or first) EV. We got to drive the Niro EV in EX Premium trim for a week. Here are the details of our tester:
- Trim Level: EX Premium
- Price: $44,650 (base MSRP); Destination: $1,175; Total: $47,080
- 150kW Electric Motor; 64kWh Lithium Ion Polymer Battery; 7.2 kW on-Board Charger
- 201 horsepower and 291 lb-ft of torque
- DC Fast Charge (480V) Port
- Best Standard Features: Adjustable Regenerative Braking via Paddle Shifters, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist- Cyclist, Blind Spot Collision Warning, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist & Lane Following Assist, Driver Attention Warning & High Beam Assist, Smart Cruise Control w/ Stop & Go, Rear Occupant Alert, 10.25" Touchscreen Navigation, Harman/Kardon Premium Audio System, Wireless Phone Charger, Rearview Camera w/ Dynamic Gridlines, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Smart Key w/ Pushbutton & Remote Start, Heated Front Seats, Automatic Climate Control, 7" Color Supervision Meter Cluster, 17" Allow Wheels, Power-Folding Heated Outside Mirrors w/ Turn Signals, Power Sunroof, SynTex Seating Material, Ventilated Front Seats, Parking Distance Warning, LED Interior Lights.
- Tester Options: Cold Weather Package ($1,100): Battery Heater, Heat Pump, Heated Steering Wheel; Carpeted Floor Mats ($155).
The Right Balance in the Styling
The Niro gets overlooked, and that's too bad. We think it's an attractive, if not head-turning, EV that fits into the automotive landscape without screaming, "look at me!" The Tiger Nose grille is, of course, a faux version because it's an EV and doesn't have the same cooling and air intake requirements. The charging door blends in seamlessly within the faux grille, and the big cat's eye headlights loo great. The blue trim that splits the foglight housing and surrounds the lower grille opening looks handsome and adds a nice earth-loving touch to the Niro EV's look.
Granted, there's a redesigned Niro on its way for 2023, and that one will be more noticeable in terms of dramatic style. But does anyone really buy an EV at this price point just to be noticed? That's Tesla territory, honestly. We actually think the current model is a great example of an EV that most buyers can seamlessly transition into without crying for attention. It's not polarizing like the current Prius PHEV, and that's why we like it so much. Unless you want some degree of notoriety as environmentally conscious or annoyingly trendy, the Kia Niro EV makes a great under-the-radar electric vehicle.
Even the Niro EV's wheels are tastefully done. These are some of the only EV wheels we've seen that effectively toe the line between functional (aerodynamic) and attractive with sort of a reverse five-spoke look that deftly does two-tone and that look big enough to be attractive. The overall execution of the Niro EV is conservative yet handsome. We actually like it quite a bit better than the newer Volkswagen ID.4, which looks a bit bloated to us.
Ample Efficiency for Just About Everyone
First things first when it comes to range. The Kia Niro EV gets 239 miles of range fully charged. That should be more than enough for most folks. Think about how much range your gas vehicle actually has. Most gas-powered vehicles have between 250 and 300 miles of range on a full tank. If you want to buy an EV, do you actually need 400+ miles of range? I drive 12.3 miles each way to work four days a week. That amounts to 98.4 miles per week, and if I add on another 50 miles worth of errands, that takes me to just shy of 150 miles. I wouldn't even have to charge the Kia Niro EV during the week.
Of course, If I dial it into Sport mode, crank up the heat, fire up the heated seats, blast the audio system, run the defrost, the wipers, and charge my phone the entire time I'm driving, that range would certainly drop. But it's unlikely I would use all 239 miles of range over the course of my commute. Studies show that the highest level of satisfaction for EV owners is for those with Level 2 chargers installed at home. The Niro EV can charge from zero to 100 percent in about 9 hours using Level 2.
It costs between $800 and $2,200 to install a Level 2 charger in your home, and the Kia Niro still qualifies for the federal government's $7,500 EV tax credit, which should more than cover one. Therefore, the Kia Niro EV's 239 miles of range should, in all reality, work for most drivers. It's not a road trip car, but then what EV really is? But we get it. More is better. But you have to pay about ten grand more to get that additional range.
All The Right Interior Choices
It's gotta be tough to know how to do an EV interior. Should I be radically different or just not try to alienate everyone? Well, the good news is that the Niro nails it. Now, keep in mind that both Kia and Hyundai do interiors very well. In fact, they're some of the best-executed cabins in the industry. The Niro EV is no exception. Everything is done very well, and it's not remotely weird like the Volkswagen ID.4 we recently drove. It's not trying to be unique for the sake of it, but instead, it strives to make everything easy to use and still quite attractive.
Rather than trying to split apart from the pack of convention, the Niro EV's cabin strikes the right balance between fresh and functional: the sporty three-spoke steering wheel has thumb cutouts and some of the best audio and cruise controls, the 10.25" infotainment touchscreen melds perfectly into the smooth dashboard panel, and there are excellent physical controls instead of having everything controlled via touch. But it all works seamlessly, and operation is very easy while driving. That's what all EVs should do instead of attempting to reinvent the wheel.
The Niro EV's seats are great. Made of SynTex material that's very high quality, they don't need to be leather to look and feel great. The bolstering and cushioning are just right. The rear seats have a solid 36 inches of legroom, which is enough for a tall passenger to sit behind tall front occupants. Heat and ventilation in the front seats come standard at this trim level, and they work very well. EX Premium even comes with a heated steering wheel, which our current Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC All-Terrain does not have. What?
The center console is one of our favorite features because it does so much so well. First of all, the rotary shifter is big and in the perfect location. There's no question about how it works (again, unlike the one in the VW ID.4). The seat temp controls flank the shift knob, so they're really easy to find. The binnacle/cupholders just aft of the shifter has retractable barriers for the cups that can tuck out of the way for larger items and then deploy with the push of a button. The bottoms are grippy, so cups don't slide around inside. They're ingenious, and we think they should show up in more vehicles.
The center console also "floats", so there's a huge open storage space right in front of it and immediately under the center stack. You can put a small bag or purse there, snacks, emergency items, etc., and the sides are tall enough to keep most items from spilling over into the front footwells. It's just another way Kia makes the Niro EV truly excellent to use, despite its compact size.
In terms of cargo space, the Kia Niro EVs numbers and practical everyday utility are top-notch. You get 18.5 cubic feet behind the second row and 53 cubic feet with the 60/40 split row seats folded flat. That's on par with the spacious Volkswagen GTI hatchback and just a little bit smaller than the new Chevy Bolt EUV. It's more than enough space for daily gear and cargo, and loading and unloading on the float load floor.
There's much to love about the understated Kia Niro EV. The powertrain provides spritely acceleration, the ride is smooth and comfortable, and the 239-mile range feels just right for most people. The in-car tech is wonderful, as is the overall usability and comfort of the handsome cabin. For $47,080 including destination, you get one of the best EVs on the planet. We can't wait to see what the new Niro EV is like, but we're pretty happy with this one.