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Although the stylish Kia EV6 tends to grab headlines (especially its hotted-up GT variant), the automaker offers another all-electric crossover. The 2023 Kia Niro EV, now in its second generation, benefits from bold new styling inside and out, and while the electric powertrain is all but carried over from the previous generation, it’s still pretty competitive with today’s crop of entry-level EVs.
The redesigned Niro EV suffers from an above-average cost of entry and is limited to front-wheel drive, but it boasts a long list of standard features, decent charging time relative to its class, and a range that even rivals the EV6 with which it shares a showroom. Adding to its appeal is a torquey front-axle motor that adds spunk to the otherwise-familiar Niro driving experience – a surefire way to convert potential EV shoppers from hydrocarbons to electrons.
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|Quick Stats||2023 Kia Niro EV|
|Motor:||Single Permanent-Magnet Synchronous|
|Output:||201 Horsepower / 188 Pound-Feet|
|Drive Type:||Front-Wheel Drive|
Gallery: 2023 Kia Niro EV Review
- Exterior Color: Snow White Pearl
- Interior Color: Light Gray
- Wheel Size: 17 Inches
Whether or not you dig the Niro EV’s new design will depend heavily on what you think of the “aero blades” on the C-pillars. The Kia’s most polarizing design feature is reminiscent of a first-generation Audi R8, looking every bit as eye-catching here as there. The aero blades also serve a function, with air entering under the leading edge and flowing out the back to improve straight-line stability and overall wind resistance. But they also just look plain cool to my eyes, especially when combined with the headlights’ kinky new DRL signature and vertical taillights. If you don’t care for the contrast, the blades can be ordered in body color.
The Niro EV is as beveled and edgy inside as it is outside. The front door panel armrests plunge down from the angular dashboard, and materials are better than expected given the Chevrolet Bolt and Nissan Leaf competitive set. Kia even gave the Niro EV some flash via some luminous ambient light that shines through the dash fascia. The only serious flaw inside is an overabundance of shiny black plastic that’s impossible to keep clean and fingerprint-free.
- Seating Capacity: 5
- Seating Configuration: 2 / 3
- Cargo Capacity: 22.8 / 63.7 Cubic Feet
Like the Hyundai Kona Electric, the Kia Niro’s hushed cabin and impressive ride comfort make it a great place to while away a commute. All Niro EVs come standard with heated front seats, and my tester’s Preserve package included a heat pump and heated rear seats to help improve efficiency in chilly weather. As on most cars in the class, the front seats are a bit short on thigh support, but there’s a good amount of room front and rear. The wider cabin also feels less claustrophobic than the tall-and-skinny Chevy Bolt family.
The Niro’s cargo space with the seats down is also impressive, with a nearly flat-folding seat that opens up room for long, boxy cargo – the Bolt and Bolt EUV ramp up a bit in the middle. The cargo floor can also be repositioned lower for maximum space.
- Center Display: 10.3-Inch Touchscreen
- Instrument Cluster Display: 10.3 Inches
- Wireless Apple CarPlay / Android Auto: No/No
Both the base Wind trim and my top-spec Wave tester come standard with a 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster and matching infotainment touchscreen, but going for higher of the Niro’s two trims adds a useful V2L power generator with a 120-volt outlet in the rear seat and an adapter for the charge port, plus remote Smart Park assistance and a head-up display. The whole suite works pretty nicely, with two exceptions. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t available, for one – a perplexing omission given the amount of fancy tech on offer otherwise.
And secondly, the radio and climate controls both use the same set of hard buttons, with another button switching the functionality. The problem is, it’s not easy to discern which function is active without taking your eyes off the road, so you can’t just reflexively turn down the volume when Nickelback comes on, lest the auto climate start blasting you with freezing air.
- Motor: Single Permanent-Magnet Synchronous
- Output: 201 Horsepower / 188 Pound-Feet
- Battery: 64.0-Kilowatt-Hour Lithium-Ion
The Kia Niro EV shares its 64.8-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery with the Hyundai Kona Electric, and its single front electric motor makes an identical 201 horsepower. But curiously, the Kia is limited to 188 pound-feet of torque, down a healthy 102 over the Hyundai. There’s no denying the Niro feels a bit less fleet on its feet than the Kona, but it still offers great off-the-line response and reasonable freeway passing power.
No one is going to write love poetry about the way the Niro EV handles, but neither does it embarrass itself on a curvy road. What EV apologists and newcomers alike will appreciate is the adjustable regenerative braking system, which has four settings ranging from freewheel coasting to total one-pedal driving.
- Driver Assistance Level: SAE Level 2 (Hands-On)
- NHTSA Rating: Not Rated
- IIHS Rating: Not Rated
The Niro EV gets a long list of standard safety features, including automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane centering technology, blind spot monitoring, and rear parking sensors. Go for the Wave model and you’ll also get rear automatic emergency braking, active blind spot and left-turn collision prevention, and enhanced Highway Driving Assist 2. That last feature improves on the base model’s regular HDA by compensating for the behavior of surrounding traffic to place the Niro in its lane, rather than merely looking at road markings. Everything works together so well that you really shouldn’t want to disable the features.
- Efficiency: 126 City / 101 Highway / 113 Combined MPGe
- EV Range: 253 Miles
- Peak DC Charge Rate: 85 Kilowatts
With an EV range of 253 miles, the Kia Niro comes up short – albeit slightly – on the Chevrolet Bolt and Hyundai Kona Electric. However, its 85-kilowatt DC charge rate improves on its platform-mate slightly, while absolutely creaming the rest of the competitive set.
Plugged into a typical at-home Level 2 charger, the Niro EV will go from 0 to 100 percent in six hours and five minutes. Using a DC fast charger, the Kia hits 80 percent in 45 minutes.
- Base Price: $39,550 + $1,295 Destination
- Trim Base Price: $45,745
- As-Tested Price: $47,790
With a starting price of more than $40,000 with destination included, it might be hard to justify the Niro EV, especially when the mechanically similar – though less stylish – Kona Electric can be had for about 5 grand less. And all the technology and functionality of the Wave trim doesn’t come cheap, starting at $45,745. The comfort- and efficiency-improving Preserve pack is $1,300, with $395 going to the Snow White Pearl paint and another $195 to the metallic gray aero blades. Add in a set of floor mats and you’ve got a heady total of $47,790.
While that’s still less than the single-motor EV6, it’s a whole lot more than even a loaded Kona Electric or a Super Cruise–equipped Bolt EUV. Folks concerned primarily with price might find it hard to stomach the Kia, but a long list of amenities, decent public charging speeds, and a respectable overall range help soften the blow.
Niro EV Competitor Reviews
- Chevrolet Bolt: Not Rated
- Chevrolet Bolt EUV: 7.8/10
- Hyundai Kona Electric: 8.6/10
- Nissan Leaf Plus: Not Rated
2023 Kia Niro EV Wave