When it comes to electric cars the consumers have spoken and they want a feature rich vehicle that offers a long driving range and doesn’t look like something from the future. Kia, for its part, is satiating that demand with the new 2019 Niro EV. However Kia is certainly not helping its sales prospects by limiting the Niro EV to only 12 states.
The Niro EV is being produced in Kia‘s Hwaseong, South Korea, plant. Powering the Niro is the same motor and 356-volt 64.0-kWh lithium battery pack used by the Hyundai Kona Electric and the coming 2020 Kia Soul EV. In terms of power this means 201 horsepower and 291 lb-ft of torque. Power is plentiful, immediate and delivered smoothly. The steering is direct but it does not translate much feedback from the road. When pushed, the Niro’s suspension keeps the car planted and composed and it is fun to drive this car quickly. However the eco tires are the biggest limiting factor here , better tires might improve things like the numb steering but this would of course have an impact on range. The car is very quiet, with little wind, tire or road noise coming into the cabin. At low speeds, the car emits a futuristic whirring sound that’s required to help alert pedestrians, this fades away above 20 mph.
When it comes to range the Niro EV has an estimated 239 miles before you’ll need to recharge. That’s more than enough for most daily driving tasks and the occasional weekend trip. And when it’s time to charge, you can hook up to the Niro’s standard fast-charger port to add about 100 miles’ worth of driving range in about 30 minutes (or go from 0% to 80% in 75 minutes). This is more than both the Nissan Leaf and the Bolt EV, even though Chevrolet charges extra for the feature. Otherwise, if you’re at home and plugged into a 220-volt wall socket, the Niro’s onboard charger can fill up the battery in about 9.5 hours.
One handy feature once you get used to it is when it is time to slow down, you can adjust the amount of regenerative braking, from minimal to aggressive, to let the car send some of the braking energy back to the battery. Like the regular Niro, which is a gasoline-electric hybrid, the Niro EV has SUV-like styling. All-wheel drive isn’t part of the package, but you do get 18.5 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats, if you do need more, you can fold down the rear seats for 53 cubic feet. The interior is roomy and suitable for tall passengers, and the seats are plush enough for all the miles the Niro can travel on a charge.
The Niro EV is offered in two feature-rich trim levels: EX ($39,495) and EX Premium ($44,995). Standard content includes passive entry with push-button start, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, automatic climate control (single zone), and a host of driver aids such as adaptive cruise control, lane-centering steering assist, and blind-spot warning. The Premium trim we tested adds LED head- and taillights, a sunroof, leather front seats that are heated and ventilated, an 8.0-inch center touchscreen rather than a 7.0-inch unit, and Harman/Kardon stereo.
Because both Niros come well-equipped, there aren’t many option packages for them. You can get a Launch package ($1,000) that includes an auto-dimming rear view mirror with HomeLink buttons, LED headlights, a heated steering wheel, a cargo cover, and both front and rear parking sensors. Cars sold in cold-climate areas can come with a battery heater and a heat pump ($1,080) this was on our test vehicle but I do not think this is a must for Southern California.
The Niro is a well-done car that happens to be electric — and Kia sends it home with an EV System Warranty of 10 years or 100,000 miles. When it does come to an EV other cars do provide similar ranges, the Chevrolet Bolt and the Hyundai Kona EV come to mind, as does the Nissan Leaf Plus. However the Niro has a roomier rear seat than the Kona, more power than the Leaf Plus, and better active driver assists than the Bolt. It is certainly worth checking out if you are in the market for an electric vehicle.