2019 Kia Niro EV
2019 Kia Niro EV Review By Auto Critic Steve Hammes
As car propulsion evolves from gas engine to electric motor there are steps in between to bring customers along. And one of the recent trends employed by automakers is to build one car and offer it 3 ways – and that’s the Kia Niro – hybrid, plug-in hybrid and completing the trifecta – all-electric.
When you ask someone if they’re considering an electric vehicle for their next car purchase more often than not you’ll get the most common EV lament: they can’t get me where I want to go – also referred to as range anxiety. And up until recently, that’s been a legitimate concern for many but the tide is changing. Take this Niro EV – with an EPA listed total range of 239 miles on a full charge it can easily handle most daily driving duties, and as for me, I’m getting way more than that. For some perspective, the Kia Soul – also available as an EV by the way – can travel about 430 miles between fill-ups. So it’s not all the way there but the gap is closing.
During these near perfect EV weather conditions the Niro has been showing nearly 300 miles on a full charge, a number that should significantly reduce range anxiety and the included EV tools display a map of how far you can go and where the next charging station exists.
And this is quite helpful – you can see exactly how far the Niro can go before needing to find a charging station. And though they’re not nearly as ubiquitous as gas stations and you can’t fill-up nearly as quickly, more and more plugs are being installed every day and they’re usually free of charge. Smartphone apps even allow you to see if the station is available or being used. So vacation travel is in play – but it’ll require a little more advance planning.
How long does it take to recharge a completely depleted Niro battery? Well it depends on your source of electricity. Plug it into your garage outlet and it’ll take 2 1/2 days. So you’ll need a level 2 charger installed like the ones you most often see in public and that takes around 9 hours so overnight for most people. And then at those costlier, rarer fast chargers around and hour to an hour and half.
No more gas stations. No more oil changes. But perhaps best of all is the way the Niro drives. Once you go electric it’s hard to go back. Why? Because the way it moves is far superior to the traditional car highlighted by 2 major EV attributes: the instantaneous acceleration and the quietness. They’re addicting and after driving this Kia for a week I’m already missing them. Of course, there are some really fast cars out there and a sweet sounding engine is a visceral must-have for sports cars, but you’ll be shocked at how quickly the Niro steps off and passes other cars in a nearly silent show of defiance – it’s an awesome sensation that’s exclusive to cars with electric motors and this Kia takes it to the next level. In sport mode it’s stealthy quick. Zero to 60mph takes about 7.5 seconds but it’s the initial burst of power that gives it major kick.
Now this is an electric car I could live with. Sure, it’s not pretty, but it’s functional, well equipped, quiet and oh so much fun to drive. The best part of an EV is that immediate torque production which makes the Niro feel like a sports car at every stab of the pedal. Its effortless acceleration is addicting. And then with the heavy regenerative braking you can practically drive this car with just one pedal. Release and the car slows quickly. And the range is impressive.
It’s futuristic driving and I love it…aim high when steering and get to know the accelerator pedal and you can drive this car with just your right foot. Paddles on the steering wheel also permit you to grab more regenerative braking to feed the big battery. It adds to the overwhelmingly positive user experience which Kia has nailed – from the easy access step in height, to the perfect seating position, to the expertly intuitive electronics – this is a brilliant job that’ll quickly pull you into the EV world.
201 horsepower but more importantly the 291 pound-feet of torque produced by the 64kWh battery located under the floor is more than enough to satisfy. But the Niro EV is more than just that. It’s spacious, cargo friendly and well-conceived. From the simple dial shifter to the neat swing out cupholders, everything feels just right. And this top trim EX Premium is chock full of uplevel convenience and safety features. The only missteps that come to mind are the lack of footroom for rear seat passengers and the non-LED foglights. Well, and the other is that I don’t love the design but some this week told me they did so to each their own.
Fully loaded, the Niro EV stickers for $46,045 and that includes adaptive cruise control with stop and go, premium audio and navigation, wireless phone charger, heated seats and steering wheel, ventilated front seats, leather, power folding mirrors and much more. And with a fully independent suspension and some top tier Michelin tires, it drives with verve and sophistication even on the highway. After the $7,500 EV tax credit, the cost of this one comes down to $38,545. Compare that with the cost of other EVs of this size and range – of which there are very few – and you’ll quickly see that it’s one of the least expensive ways to get into a truly usable, very enjoyable EV.