Kia Niro EV: A peek at our enthusiast future?

This article is less about what is, and more about what could be. I’ve been driving this Kia Niro EV for the last week and something occurred to me, it’s pretty damn quick! Most mags estimate the 0-60 time in the mid six second range with the 1/4 mile passing in the mid 15s. That counted as hot hatchback territory back in the 1990s. Could this be our electric enthusiast future? I’ll go through a bit of what the Niro EV is, and toss out my semi-educated guess at what a hotter version could be.

Kia Niro EV

Who is this… Niro?

Unlike the last Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, which was the tyrannical Nero, the Niro is a subcompact crossover from Kia. Oh, there is also a French rapper called “Niro”, this article also isn’t about him. The Niro has been on sale since the 2017 model year and sits on the Hyundai-Kia Eco-Car Platform that is shared with the Hyundai Ioniq and Hyundai Nexo. Jeff drove the Niro when it came out, and the regular Niro isn’t radically different than it was when it came out. 

The Niro takes up space in both the SUV/crossover section and the Hybrid/Electric section as you can get one in petrol, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric EV format.

It was designed by Peter Schreyer, who once served me (and others) way too many mixed drinks at a bar in Detroit. That’s a long story, but suffice to say, he’s a cool dude and knows his shit when it comes to design. Hyundai-Kia stole him from Audi and he has set about making just about every car in their lineups look good, except for the Soul. Just kidding. The Niro sits mid-pack on the crossover side, starting at just under $25,000. In case you can’t be bothered to look back up at the graphic above, the EV has a base price of $38,500.

I should say, the as-tested Niro EV of our loaner was nowhere near $38,500. The MSRP on our car was $47,155 including freight and handling. That ain’t cheap, the Chevy Bolt is quite a bit cheaper, with an entry-level model starting at about a grand less than the base Niro EV, and the Premier trim at just under $42,000. Even the long-range Model 3 is cheaper at $41,690. However, Kia is known for providing insane value for money. So, let’s see what sort of EV you get for that kind of money at Kia.

Kia Niro EV

How’s the value for money?

Kia is one of my current favorite automakers when it comes to window sticker value. I just drove the new Seltos and was amazed at all the stuff they crammed in there for under $30,000. So is the near-$50K Niro EV EX Premium worth it? Well, it’s definitely got a lot of standard stuff. Here, let me take absolutely no effort and ctrl-c / ctrl-v the list (or command c, command v for my fellow Mac users):

    • 10-Way Driver’s Seat Adjustment, w/ 2-Way Power Lumbar Support
    • Front Driver and Passenger’s Seat Back Pockets
    • Harman Kardon® Premium Surround Sound w/ Clari-Fi™, 8 Speakers, and Integrated Subwoofer
    • Heated Front Seats
    • Leather Seat Trim
    • Mood Lighting
    • Power Sunroof
    • Stainless-Steel Door Scuff Plate Trim
    • UVO link w/ 8-inch Touch-Screen Display, Voice-Command Navigation System
    • Ventilated Front Seats
    • Wireless Phone Charger
    • 17-inch Alloy Wheels
    • 3-Point Seat Belts for All Seating Positions
    • 4-Wheel Disc Brakes w/ Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
    • 60/40 Split Folding Rear Seat w/ Adjustable Rear Headrests
    • Aerodynamic Front Grille w/ Charge Port
    • Android Auto™
    • Apple CarPlay®
    • Auto Light Control
    • Auto Windshield Defog
    • Automatic Temperature Control w/ Driver Only Mode
    • Black Fender and Rocker Rail Cladding
    • Black High-Gloss Interior Accents.
    • Blind Spot Collision Warning (BCW)
    • Blue Accents
    • Bluetooth® Wireless Technology Hands-Free Connectivity
    • Body Color Door Handles
    • Body-Color Power Outside Mirrors
    • Brake Assist System (BAS)
    • Charge Port – AC and DC Fast Charge (DCFC)
    • Charge Port Nozzle Lock
    • Charge Status Indicator
    • Charging Cable (120 V)
    • Day/Night Rearview Mirror
    • Drive Mode Select
    • Driver Attention Warning (DAW)
    • Driver’s Side Knee Airbag
    • Dual Front Advanced Airbags
    • Dual Front Cup Holders
    • Dual Front Seat-Mounted Side Airbags
    • Dual Illuminated Visor Vanity Mirrors
    • Dual Map Lights
    • Electronic Brake-Force Distribution (EBD)
    • Electronic Parking Brake (EPB)
    • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
    • Folding Rear Center Armrest with Cup Holders
    • Forward Collision Avoidance Assist (FCA)
    • Forward Collision Warning (FCW)
    • Front 12 V Power Outlet
    • Front Center Console w/Armrest and Storage
    • Front Door Bottle Holders
    • Front Fog Lights
    • Front Seat Belt Pretensioners
    • Front and Rear Crumple Zones
    • Full-Length Side Curtain Airbags
    • Heated Outside Mirrors
    • Heated Rear Glass w/ Timer
    • Height-Adjustable Front Seat Belt Anchors
    • High Line Tire-Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
    • High Voltage PTC Heater
    • Hill Start Assist Control (HAC)
    • Illuminated Door Handle Pockets
    • Industry-leading Kia 10-year/100,000-mile warranty program
    • Interior Lighting w/ Delay
    • LED Daytime Running Lights
    • LED Positioning Lights
    • Lane Change Assist (LCA)
    • Lane Departure Warning (LDW)
    • Lane Following Assist (LFA)
    • Lane Keeping Assist (LKA)
    • Leather-Wrapped Steering Wheel
    • Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH)
    • Mirror-Mounted LED Turn-Signal Indicators
    • Overhead Sunglasses Holder
    • Power Door Locks
    • Power Windows w/ Driver & Front Passenger One-Touch Auto-Up/Down
    • Power-Folding Outside Mirrors
    • Privacy Glass
    • Projector Beam Headlights
    • Rear Child-Safety Door Locks
    • Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning (RCCW)
    • Rear Spoiler
    • Rear USB Power Outlet
    • Rear Vents
    • Rear Wiper
    • Rear-Camera Display w/ Dynamic Guidelines
    • Regenerative Braking w/ Steering Wheel Mounted Paddles
    • Roof Rails
    • Rotary Shifter Dial
    • Satin Chrome Inside Door Handles
    • Side-Impact Door Beams
    • Size
    • Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go (SCC w/ S&G)
    • Smart Key w/ Push-Button Start and Immobilizer
    • Smart Welcome
    • Solar Control Glass
    • Sound-Absorbing Front Windshield
    • Steering-Wheel-Mounted Audio and Hands-Free Phone Buttons
    • Supervision Meter Cluster with 7.0-inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) LCD Trip Computer
    • Tilt and Telescopic Steering Column
    • Tire Mobility Kit
    • Traction Control System (TCS)
    • Two Front USB Power Outlets
    • USB Input Jack
    • Variable Intermittent Windshield Wipers
    • Vehicle Stability Management (VSM)

Pretty ridiculous for a subcompact crossover, plus this car has the Cold Weather Package 2.0 (which is way better than the original I hear..) for $1,080, the EX Premium Launch Edition package for $1,000 and some other odds and ends like cargo mats, upgraded floor mats, and a cargo net to round out the $47K MSRP.

Kia Niro EV

What’s it like to drive?

As I said, it feels pretty damn quick. Anyone who hasn’t driven an all-electric car is missing out on the frenetic acceleration experience. It’s so linear and immediate that it warps your brain. Mash the throttle off the line and it just goes. And oddly enough, it did actually feel quicker in sport mode, which is a rarity these days.

I didn’t get much time testing it on a twisty road, but off the line, the Niro has minimal torque steer. When I took off from a light with no hands on the wheel it stayed fairly straight, only pulling a little to the right. The lane correction software took over and moved me back towards the middle of the lane. All this was done on a non-closed course, but there was almost no one on the road. Obviously.

The last EV quirk was being able to come to an almost complete stop without touching the brake. I found myself wondering if the brake lights were actually coming on? In talking to other EV drivers, I hear that you definitely get used to it after a little bit. Oh, and my wife was driving behind me at one point while we were moving, so I did find out that the brake lights do come on when you release the throttle. Probably looked like a real asshole driving along jamming on my brakes all the time when I thought I was coasting.

It’s pretty practical too, the hatchback layout swallowed up a bunch of our stuff. Which is great, because moving right now in this environment is more awful than normal.

Kia Niro EV
The only other oddity of EV life is charging. The Niro looks like it has something sticking out of its nose while in charge mode. I didn’t put a ton of miles on it, but charging overnight via a normal household outlet gave it plenty of juice to get around town the next day. Overall one of the best things about the Niro EV is that it feels like a regular car.
Kia Niro EV

How can we go faster?

The Niro EV represents a great example of what could be. We have some fast Teslas, and now a Porsche, that has already demonstrated that EVs don’t have to be slow, silent, and boring. Behold, my creation! The Kia Niro N Plug-in EV!
Stay with me here, the Niro is already quick, but let’s make it even quicker! Kia says the Niro has 201 horsepower and 291 lb-ft (@ 0 rpm!!!) from its 150kW Electric Motor. I postulate (in my non-engineer brain) that adding speed will decrease range. Makes sense, right? The current Niro EV range is around 239 miles. I wonder if the average enthusiast would be OK with less range for more speed? I think I would. All of these numbers will ideally improve as battery and motor tech improves, and costs will decrease.

 

The tricky part could be handling. My baseline for this update is, unsurprisingly, the Hyundai Veloster N. We’ve driven it here at Hooniverse, it’s a good time. So, if we are going to parts-bin some go-fast goodies onto the Niro, that’s a great place to start. Our enemy will be weight, as the EV tech in the Niro adds around 400 pounds and has a curb weight of just over 3900 pounds. In the grand scheme of performance cars, that’s not terrible. However, the N version of the Veloster weighs just 3,036 lbs!

 

Luckily, the weight sits low in the EV platform which should help overall handling dynamics. Some lowering springs, performance-oriented shocks, and a more aggressive wheel and tire combo would definitely make a huge difference. Might as well toss in some Brembo’s from the Stinger GT, right? This isn’t real, why not! You get my point, the elements of the Niro that make it less fun are interchangeable with those that could ramp up the fun factor.

 

Oh, and I have no clue if the “N” badging would crossover from Hyundai to Kia. I just thought it looked cool. Aesthetic changes are minimal, red trim replaces the goofy aqua-colored bits, a tasteful rear spoiler came from the Veloster N. Amazing what a difference it makes, and I have to imagine it would be a hoot to drive. The bigger question would be price, The Veloster starts at just $27,600 for the N trim, so if we remove some of the luxury bits from this tester we would not only reduce cost but also weight. I have to imagine that a $40,000 Kia Niro N EV would be doable. Sure it’s FWD, but so is the Veloster N.

 

I think I’m onto something, let me know in the comments if I’m off or just spec it out how you would do it.

Bonus Pics

Kia Niro EV

Pre COVID remnants of department stores past. Now parking for the local Toyota dealer.

Kia Niro EV

Kia Niro EV
Kia Niro EV
Kia Niro EV Kia Niro EV
Kia Niro EV

Disclaimer: Kia provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review. All images copyright William Byrd/Hooniverse 2020.

By |2020-04-28T17:08:37-07:00April 28th, 2020|Kia Reviews|6 Comments

About the Author:

William Byrd
Writing great stories about cars! @WilliamByrdUSA