Electric vehicles are here to stay. Probably. Assuming we can build infrastructure to charge them fairly quickly. Which we might not. Still, the sheer number on the road already proves that this isn’t an automotive fad. In fact, if you follow me on the social medias, you’ll know that I just bought one! I couldn’t just call the Mustang Mach-E the best all around car I’ve ever driven and be done with it, I went a step further and put my money where my mouth was. More on #EVlife in future articles though. That’s not why we’re here today, but it does inform my opinion about the 2022 Kia Niro EV EX Premium that Kia loaned me around the same time my Mach-E arrived.
Niro EV Overview
Kia and Hyundai are starting to hit the throttle on hybrid and EV options. Currently they list half a dozen earth-soothing options, however three of those are the Niro (hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and EV), two are the Sorento (hybrid and plug-in hybrid) and one is the EV6. The all-electric Niro EV fits into a nice slot in Kia’s lineup. Starting at just under $40,000, it delivers a 239-mile EPA estimated range. That’s pretty solid, better than my standard range Mach-E delivers.
For the life of me, I can’t get Kia’s website to let me change the trim level under their “build” section (for any vehicle). I tweeted that at them and they asked me to DM them my zip code and phone number. OK Kia, I’m not single, chill. Seriously though, not sure what’s happening, haven’t heard from anyone at Kia yet.
Our tester starts at just over $44,600 and tacks on some basics like a cold weather package, floor mats and some mud flaps. All in you’re at just under $47,200 and that doesn’t include any government subsidies. Factor in the (current) $7,500 tax incentive and you’re smack dab at just below the $40,000 mark. Let’s see what’s what.
Well, it looks like “an car”. While some automakers (Kia included) are creating purpose-built EVs, this was literally a Kia Niro turned into an EV. The result is a Kia Niro with the grille opening filled in. Not much else to say, it looks like a Niro.
Inside is a similar story. It’s not all that different from a regular ole Kia Niro. The largest difference is the rotary drive select in the center, the rest of the dash looks pretty much the same. Still, I had some thoughts.
Usability is high, with good ergonomics and normal buttons that you can push. It doesn’t have stuff you use regularly hidden in a series of touchscreen menus. Dropping my youngest at school in the Mach-E requires at least 3 touchscreen pushes to activate the rear hatch so he can get his crap out. The Niro EV is just easy like Sunday morning.
The center console is pretty cool and very configurable with the ability to essentially remove the cupholders if you want to store something larger in there. However, said cupholders are set back kind of far in the vehicle. In such a small car, it means that you have to reach back too far to get to them. It also means someone’s hand is likely dangling over them while driving because of the center armrest position. Eww.
Space was pretty solid for a compact crossover…car…whatever. The 18.5 cu. ft. of cargo space was enough to fit my son’s hockey bag and 36.0 inches of rear leg room was enough for most day-to-day trips. However, both of those cargo numbers are a bit smaller than Honda’s HR-V (23.2 cu. ft.) and Toyota’s C-HR (19.1 cu. ft.).
Other criticisms were minimal. The LATCH car seat access was infuriating, which has been consistent with the last few Hyundai/Kia/Genesis cars I’ve tested. It was hard to capture in the photo below, but the seat material was packed so tightly around it, getting to it was near impossible.
The Niro EV drives like a regular car, much like it’s styling it’s not particularly noticeable that it’s an EV. It’s definitely not as quick as some other electric vehicles I have driven, but it moves. Instant torque is instant torque. It doesn’t really do one pedal driving, unless it’s there and I just couldn’t find it in the settings. In Eco+ mode I could feel a bit more braking when I let off of the accelerator (don’t call it a gas pedal). Unlike some other EVs I’ve driven (including my own), I still couldn’t get it to completely stop, even with a lot of runway.
In Eco+ mode it limits the speed to 60 mph, but the range jumped up from 197 to 207. So, if you are just puttering around town, it’s not a big deal to have the speed limited. However, on a 20 degree day, I did take offense to how the system limited HVAC systems. This happens in Eco+ and Eco, which made both settings less than feasible on a cold day.
It’s got a great little turning radius, when I found the spot above at the DC Auto Show, the Niro whipped around easily to snag it. I did notice that the low-speed hum and the reverse beeps are both a little strange. The low speed “don’t hit me bro” noise is pretty normal, but the reverse beeps are a little alien.
Charing was pretty easy. I didn’t have access to a plug directly, so I had to use the ole extension cord. It kept the Niro topped off overnight. I like that it has covers for the male and female end of the charging cord to keep gunk out. My Mach-E doesn’t have that. Also, the charging cover froze shut one morning. At first I was joking that “dang EV life sucks”, and then I remembered trying to pry my gas flap open on a cold morning. No difference.
The beauty of the Niro EV is that on the outside it looks like a car. Inside, it’s got regular buttons, a regular interface. It’s not trying too hard. There are no hard-to-use haptic feedback buttons like in the VW ID4 I drove. It reminds me of the first Honda Civic Hybrid. Instead of a purpose-built hybrid (which would be the Prius at the time), it was just a car that felt like a car, nothing out of the ordinary. The 200+ mile range (even in the cold) for the price is fantastic. If you’re looking to get into #EVlife, it’s a great option.