2023 Kia Niro EV Wave Review

A Niro you'll finally notice


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Original and attractive new styling, premium and sporty interior, roomy for adults, solid efficiency, amazing set of standard features.
Negatives: Slow-ish for an EV, no all-wheel drive, tech could be more responsive, controls for climate/media can be distracting to use.
Bottom Line: We really enjoyed the Niro's styling, comfort, and deep set of standard features. It's a competent and efficient driver, and it should suit small families remarkably well.
The new Niro EV is a fresh new candidate having just been redesigned for the 2023 model year. Hardly anyone noticed the first attempt at the Kia Niro. It was good but undramatic. All of that has changed with the new 2023 Kia Niro in EV and hybrid forms. It's not even evolutionary, really. The new design is bold, attractive, and very original. Two-tone panels, distinct styling in front and rear fascias, fresh lighting elements, and a beautiful interior set it apart from its old self and competitors. The Niro EV delivers 253 miles of all-electric range and can charge from 10 to 80 percent in a mere 45 minutes with DC fast charging. We drove the upscale Wave model for a week, and here are our full impressions.
 

Driving Experience

7

 

Despite the extra power, the Niro EV feels more tepid than we expected and needed 6.7 seconds to reach 60 mph. Floor the accelerator in Eco mode and the Niro EV veritably crawls, which is probably good for saving range but is far from satisfying. The Normal and Sport driving modes make the Niro EV feel more alive and in our testing, the Niro EV edged out the Chevy Bolt EUV slightly at the quarter-mile drag strip. Luckily, the Niro EV's steering feels natural, but the cornering grip is measurably lower than some rivals.

Ride Quality: The Niro EV Wave is a comfortable ride that nicely bridges the gap between firm and soft. It had no problem overcoming bumps and gaps.

Acceleration: It takes 6.7 seconds to reach 60 mph, which isn't slow for a car but this is an EV. Many competitors are quicker, but at least it beats out the VW ID.4 by nearly a second.

Braking: The regen brakes feel soft, and there's definitely a lack of feel. We didn't have trouble bringing it to a stop, at least. The system has four settings that range in various efforts from normal coasting all the way to full one-pedal driving.

Steering: There's very mild effort in the steering process, but it's pretty much devoid of feedback. Responsiveness is good, and it's on center at highway speeds.

Handling: There's definitely some noticeable body roll, but there's not much oversteering going on, which helps matters.

Technology

8

 

Kia's in-car technology is very good visually thanks to twin 10.3-inch screens composed of a digital instrument cluster and matching infotainment touchscreen. The Wave adds a V2L power generator with a 120-volt outlet in the rear seat and an adapter for the charge port, as well as the nifty Smart Park feature and a great head-up display. The upscale Wave also comes standard with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but wireless charging and the premium Harman/Kardon stereo are optional. There's also a standard Digital Key 2.0 and voice-command Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Infotainment System: The touchscreen is well-sized and looks good. Menus are easy to read and navigate, but the responsiveness leaves something to be desired.

Controls: The physical control are very good, including the rotary shifter and the steering wheel controls. The panel with climate controls and media/nav are switchable and very original. The lean panel keeps the center stack open, but switching them is distracting, and they're not different enough from each other in appearance, so it takes a few seconds to decipher what you're using.

Styling

8.9

 

The first-generation Niro was pretty anonymous. There was nothing ugly about it, but it was boring to look at. The 2023 changes all that with some radical but very attractive styling elements, most notably the contrasting aero blades on the C-pillar that mimic the original Audi R8's. The interior, likewise, is edgy and attractive. Kia did a wonderful job making the Niro truly noticeable and handsome without making it look weird.

Front: The Niro has gone from a slightly bulbous convex front end to a more attractive concave front fascia with matching black textured upper and lower faux grilles, flanked by stacked headlights. It's a unique look that's improved over the last one.

Rear: The back end of the Niro is on the plain side, but the simplicity is appreciated in a world of overdone designs. The high points are the vertical taillights and the aero vents that provide high-speed stability and also happen to look great.

Profile: The side view is a bit busy with the contrasting trim bits around the fenders and along the base of the doors. Short overhangs keep things looking tight, and the aero blade and taillight look fantastic. The busy wheels look a bit odd, but our guess is that they're quite aerodynamic.

Cabin: The cabin is superb, and we're impressed by the modern and minimalist look that's still very premium. The frame around the screens blends nicely with the dash line, an the center console has some great lines. The two tone seats with the floating headrests match the cabin nicely. We're especially in love with the attractive two-spoke steering wheel.

Comfort

8.7

 

The comfort levels in the Niro are excellent with only minor demerits in the front seats. The materials quality is top-notch, despite the fact that many of them are recycled including eucalyptus leaves for seat material. There's ample space in front and back, and the airy atmosphere and great ergonomics contribute to a wonderful cabin.

Front Seats: Cushioning is very good, and bolstering is sufficient. We just wish the seat cushions were a bit longer.

Rear Seats: 37.4 inches of legroom is plentiful for this segment, and the seats are quite good in all three positions. Even the middle passenger can sit for long periods of time thanks to a flat seatback and a flat floor.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The sound deadening is very good, and the build quality is solid with no errant noises. Road noise and wind noise are kept at bay, as well.

Visibility: Visibility all around is very good with some minor obstructions from the C-Pillar's rake. The seating position for visibility over the hood is also very good.

Climate: The climate system works very well, and the heat pump equates to quick warmth almost immediately. The heated and ventilated front seats work very quickly, too.


Safety

7

 

The new Niro has not been crash tested yet, but it does provide an expansive set of safety features. The adaptive crusie control worked well in conjunction with Lane Keeping and Follow Assist. We found the system smooth and effective to ease the stress of traffic and reduce fatigue on long drives.

IIHS Rating: Not tested.

NHTSA Rating: Not tested.

Standard Tech: The Niro Wave comes with a slew of great safety features including Kia Drive Wise Driver Assist Technology, Enhanced Auto Emergency Braking Technology w/ Evasive Steering Assist & Junction Crossing Detection, Blind Spot Detection Technology, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping & Following Assist, Front and Rear Parking Sensors, Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist-Reverse, Remote Smart Parking Assist, Driver Attention Warning w/ Leading Vehicle Departure Alert, High Beam Assist, and Safe Exit Warning.

Optional Tech: No Monroney Provided.

Storage/Cargo

8

 

The Niro isn't the most capacious in the boot, but for a car this size, it's very good. The small frunk is helpful, but it's not especially big and cannot handle luggage or groceries. The interior small item storage is what puts the Niro over the top.

Storage Space: There are some great smalls storage choices, including a sizable front binnacle with the wireless smartphone charger, a big center compartment and armrest, long door pockets, and a large glovebox.

Cargo Room: The Niro has 22.8 cubic feet behind the second row and 63.7 cubes with the seats folded flat. It's much larger than the Mazda MX-30, and it surpasses the soon-to-be discontinued Chevy Bolt.

Fuel Economy

8.2

 

The Niro EV has an estimated range of 253 miles per charge, which is 14 miles more than the first-generation Niro's 239-mile range. The 64.8-kWh battery pack can charge from 10 to 80 percent in about 45 minutes via DC fast charging. We were able to drive in Sport mode for 197 miles on a full charge.

Observed: 102 MPGe

Distance Driven: 197 miles.

Audio

8.7

 

The premium Wave trim comes standard with a sonorous Harman Kardon Premium Audio System that's really great to listen to. It doesn't have the strongest bass, but the sound is clear and crisp. It's nice to see this in the already impressive standard feature set.



Final Thoughts

We really loved our time in the Niro EV Wave. EVs are all the rage right now, and despite the fact that the range isn't close to 300 miles, it should be more than enough for most owners. The Niro EV Wave also provides enough room for five adults with great comfort, ergonomics, and materials. It's just what an EV should be, minus the speed and handling, but most owners won't care.


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