We’re all pretty familiar with makers like Tesla and RIVIAN, showcases of what EV vehicles can do. And while they are great vehicles, they are expensive. If you want to own the hearts and minds of regular folks, you’ll need something more affordable.
Enter the Kia Niro EV. The Niro has been one Kia’s most popular crossovers for a while now, and being offered in Hybrid and plug-in Hybrid versions, it’s a showcase for advanced power tech. But is the full-on EV model the one to make you give up your need for gasoline? Let’s take a look.
Modern and Fresh
The Niro has been around for a while, and the styling has aged quite well. In fact, the only change visual for the ’22 is updating the KIA script logo on all the badging. We like the new stylized letters – they give off an upscale vibe.
The big tell that you’re driving the EV model comes at the front, where the traditional Tiger Nose grille is filled in, except for the little swing-out door to plug in the charger. LED headlamps and cool arrow-style LED running lights and fogs give off a cool signature vibe, while Blue EV accents give an added touch of exclusivity. We also liked the body-color mirrors with LED indicators. The mirrors also fold in when you lock up – nice touch.
The profile is typical small crossover, 5-door hatch. The design is clean, with such notable goodies like heavily tinted side windows (heating and cooling an EV can really up battery range) roof rails, and sporty-looking 17-inch alloy wheels.
The rear echoes the front with the cool arrow-design in the lower fascia, while a rear window spoiler and LED taillights keeps things crisp and sporty. We especially liked the Snow White Pearl paint on our tester. A bright and friendly color for a car delivering a bright and friendly future.
Kia Komfort Kabin
Inside, the NIRO is a sweet blend of crossover comfort and EV high tech. The tech catches your eye first, with a handsome 7-inch, digital gauge cluster that serves up an interesting blend of modern graphics that also remind of traditional gauges. We like it – you get the info, but it’s not trying to confuse you with an overly gimmicky display.
Our tester was a Premium model, and that gives you a massive 10.25-touchscreen with navigation. It’s plenty big, without going to a Tesla-like tablet, which helps keep things friendly. The Kia UVO info-tainment system remains one of the best, with easy setup and use. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and wireless charging make it easy to hook things up the way you like.
Being an EV, there are certain screens that become more important to you, and with that large display, when you’re looking for that nearest charging station, a quick and easy read is really appreciated! And the Harman Kardon premium audio system sounds sweet, too.
OK, it’s kind of goofy, but we still love the “Sounds of Nature” display that gives you soothing ambient sounds, a nice image, and your choice of Lively Forest, Calm Sea Waves, Rainy Day, Open-air Café, and Warm Fireplace. If they ever figure out a way to pipe in the scents through the ventilation system, we’ll never leave the vehicle!
Outside of the tech, you also have loads of nice luxury features to keep you comfy, including heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel and dual zone climate control. The front seats are firm and comfortable, and the rear seats are adult friendly – as long as they are under 5’10”, as the battery pack raises the seat cushions a bit.
Folding the rear seats makes for plenty of luggage space, and the Niro strikes us as one of the right-sized vehicles that gives good amounts of space but keeps a friendly footprint for parking and getting around.
Driving the Niro EV is the best part. Power comes from a 201-horsepower electric motor, slurping juice from a 64-kWh battery. The EPA estimated range is 239 miles, which makes the Niro competitive in its class.
What makes the Niro EV stand out is how it drives. Like most EV’s, the power is instantaneous, so you jump off the line with a nice push in the back, and the little Kia glides up to speed quickly and quietly. Put it in Sport mode, and it’s easy to spin the front tires with too much of a leadfoot. Fun.
Also fun, you can dial up your choice of regenerative braking (which takes the energy from braking and feeds it back into the battery to enhance range) and do “one-pedal” driving. As you let up on the accelerator, the regenerative braking feels like you’re putting on the brake pedal. You just use one pedal to get around, which is fun and less tiring in traffic.
The Niro also has an impressively smooth and quiet ride which makes the commute easy. The handy size also makes it simple to zip around town and traffic, with steering that’s light and direct if a little numb in feel. Brake feel was excellent, which can be glitchy on other EVs, as they switch between traditional hydraulic and EV-friendly regenerative modes.
When it comes time to charge, the Niro is easy. You can use a 120 or 240-volt connection so there’s always a place to charge. Figure about 9 hours to get a full charge on 240V. Perfect for overnight in the garage. On the road, DC fast charging can produce about 80% percent battery in an hour. Great for the office or at the shopping mall.
The NIRO EV also comes loaded with a safety tech ensemble Kia calls DriveWise. The list is a leading-edge who’s who – Standard Forward Collision Avoidance and Assist with Pedestrian and Cyclist feature, Blind Spot and Rear Cross Traffic Warning, Lane Keep and Following Assist, Smart Cruise control with Stop and Go, Navigation-based Cruise control that adjusts for curves on your route (cool!), Driver Attention Warning and more.
How Much to Charge Ahead in a Niro EV?
Choices are simple here too. The Niro EV EX model starts at $39,990, and is well equipped with the DriveWise safety system, heated seats, Apple CarPlay, and Android auto and more. Our tester was the whole-enchilada EX Premium, which starts at $44,650, and includes power sunroof, climate-controlled front seats, SynTex seat materials, LED interior lights, Cargo cover, parking distance warning and more.
Our tester also had the optional Cold Weather Package ($1,100) which includes a battery heater, heated steering wheel, and super-efficient Heat Pump for the interior. Throw in a bumper applique ($75), Carpeted Floor Mats ($165), Destination ($1,175) and we rang the bell at $47,155. Keep in mind though, that you get some excellent rebates from the government for driving an EV – $7,500 federal, plus we’d also get a $750 kickback here in California for our Niro.
Competitors would include the sibling Hyundai Kona Electric a bit less at $43,685, and with a bit more range, but the Niro is quicker and quieter. The VW ID.4 is a stylish choice at $46,455. We love the looks, and it is roomier/plusher inside, however the Niro is more fun to drive. We also like the Nissan LEAF, especially the punchy $44,495 PlUS model. Worth a test drive if you’re in the market.
Stylish, affordable, fun to drive, the 2022 Kia Niro EV could be your perfect first EV!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.