What a difference that four years make. That's the timeframe from the first Kia electric I reviewed (Soul EV) to the model seen here, the 2019 Niro EV. So much has changed in terms of battery technology and overall range that I could see myself having an electric vehicle as a primary mode of transport. There are some still some issues that make me think twice, but they are getting smaller.
Kia avoided the trend of going crazy with the Niro EV’s design. Little touches such as blue accent trim, 17-inch alloy wheels, and closed-front grille hiding the charging port help the EV stand apart from other Niro models. Changes inside are even smaller with a new center console featuring a dial control for the drive selector. This move is very smart as many buyers really don’t want their vehicle to shout “LOOK AT ME” when driving.
The electric powertrain in the Niro EV packs quite the punch - 201 horsepower and 291 pound-feet of torque. This is up 62 and 92 respectively from the Niro Hybrid I drove a few years back. Providing the electricity is a 64 kWh Lithium-Ion Polymer Battery that provides an estimated range of 239 miles.
Kia says the Niro EV will hit 60 mph in under eight seconds. But I found it to be slightly quicker thanks to all of the torque being available instantly. Merging onto a freeway is where the electric powertrain does lose steam - blame a hefty curb weight of 3,854 pounds.
I saw a maximum range of 208 to 210 miles throughout my week. This was due to cold temperatures ranging from low 30s to high 40s. But I was able to do a forty-mile round-trip commute for most of the week without having any range anxiety issues.
Charging anxiety is a different story. If you have been reading my electric and plug-in hybrid reviews, then you’ll know that I only have access to 120V charging at home. Plugging the Niro EV after my day job meant waiting over sixteen hours for a full charge. This caused me to not want to venture out far unless I had some important errands to run as it would mean a longer time for a recharge. If I had completely depleted the battery, I would be waiting over two days for the battery to recharge. If you have a 240V charger, that time drops to 9.5 hours for a full-recharge.
Finding a quick charger has gotten easier in the past year or two, but it is still a hit and miss affair. There are no quick chargers near where I live (unless I have a Tesla). It's slightly better further south where I work as there some around the area. But that introduces its own set of problems such setting aside the time to charge up the vehicle to finding if one works. I should note that I didn’t get the chance to try quick charging with the Niro EV during my week.
Handling is slightly better in the Niro EV thanks to the additional weight of the battery pack which reduces body roll. Steering is very light when turning, but will surprise you with how quick and accurate it deals with changes in direction. Ride quality is a little bit firm with some bumps and imperfections making their way inside.
Where the Niro EV shines is noise isolation. During my work commute, I was surprised by how little wind and road noise came inside.
The major downside to the Niro EV is its limited availability. At the time of this writing, Kia is only selling the Niro EV is twelve states - most of them having Zero Emission Vehicle (or ZEV) programs that require automakers to sell a certain amount of electric vehicles in their lineups. Nothing is stopping you from purchasing a Niro EV in one of the states that it is available, but I’m wondering how many people will do that.
Pricing for the Niro EV begins at $38,500 for the base EX model. I had the EX Premium at $44,000 which adds such goodies as an eight-inch touchscreen, premium audio system, heated and ventilated front seats; sunroof. Add in a $1,000 Launch Edition package (LED headlights, front parking sensors, and auto-dimming rear-view mirror), and my as-tested price came to $45,995. Expensive bit of kit, but the Niro EV does come with a long list of standard features including heated outside mirrors with power folding; seven-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and push-button start. Plus, the Niro EV qualifies for the full $7,500 federal tax credit which may sway some buyers when it comes time to do their taxes.
The Kia Niro EV is the first electric vehicle that I could see myself living with. It drives for the most part as a normal vehicle and offers enough range for most people. The big item you need to be aware of is charging. If you decide to purchase, be sure to get a 240V charger and check to see if there are any sort of fast chargers in your area. It may mean the difference between worry-free and a large amount of anxiety.
Disclaimer: Kia Provided the Niro EV, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Model: Niro EV
Trim: EX Premium
Engine: 356V Permanent Magnet Synchronous Electric Motor
Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Lithium Ion Polymer Battery Pack
Horsepower @ RPM: 201 @ 3,800 - 8,000
Torque @ RPM: 291 @ 0 - 3,600
Estimated Range: 239 Miles
Curb Weight: 3,854 lbs
Location of Manufacture:
Base Price: $44,000
As Tested Price: $46,045 (Includes $1,045.00 Destination Charge)
Launch Edition - $1,000.00