2023 Kia Niro EV
Class: Compact Crossover
Color: Snow White Pearl
Miles driven: 259
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||B|
|Power and Performance||B+|
|Fit and Finish||B|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide’s impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. “Big” rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, “Tall” rating based on 6’6″-tall male tester.|
|Engine Type||Electric motor|
|Drive Wheels||Front-wheel drive|
Battery capacity: 64.8 kWh
EPA-estimate MPGe: 133 city/101 hwy/126 combined
EPA-estimated driving range: 253 miles
Consumer Guide range estimate (ideal conditions): 253 miles
Base price: $44,450 (not including $1295 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Special paint ($590)
Price as tested: $45,355
The great: High-value electric vehicle that’s practical and fun to drive, plenty of battery range for the price
The good: Comfortable cabin with simple, easy-to-use controls, lots of premium features
The not so good: Cargo area load floor too low, erratic idle creep, foreign built–may not qualify for federal EV incentives
Added for the 2019 model year, the EV joined a green-oriented Niro lineup that already included hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants. Perhaps a little ahead of its time, the all-electric Niro EV never enjoyed compelling sales success, hurt in part by geographically limited availability. The first-generation electric Niro could only be purchased in California, Oregon, and a few other “green” states.
That’s all changed for 2023, as the entire Niro lineup receives a thorough update, and EV availability expands to all 50 states. For ’23, all Niros are treated to updated styling, and a host of new and improved safety and infotainment features. Also new is the Niro EV’s role as Kia’s entry-level electric-car offering. New for 2022, the EV6 electric compact crossover has earned awards and praise for its design and performance, but starting at almost $50,000, is out of reach for a good number of would-be EV owners. That’s where the Niro EV comes in.
Note: Production of the Kia Soul EV, a spunky and practical small electric crossover, was suspended after 2019, with plans for an updated version to return for 2021. Because of Covid and related supply-chain issues, the Soul EV never returned to U.S. showrooms.
The 2023 Niro EV is offered in entry-level Wind and better equipped Wave trim levels. Niro EV pricing starts around $42,000 including the destination charge, that’s about $8000 less than the most-affordable EV6 model. Consumer Guide recently spent time with a well-appointed Wave in Snow White Pearl.
The only Niro EV drivetrain pairs a 65-kWh battery with a single 201-horsepower electric motor. Unlike the EV6, which is offered with rear- or all-wheel drive, the Niro comes only with front-wheel drive. Per the EPA, the Niro EV will travel an estimated 253 miles on a single charge. Depending on how it’s configured, the EV6 will travel between 233 and 310 miles on a full charge.
One of the most significant differences between the Niro EV and the EV6 is charge times. While both vehicles will charge at about the same rate using level-2 home charging, the Niro accepts DC “fast charging” at an 85-kw rate, well below the EV6’s 350-kw peak charge rate. What this means is that, using a DC public-charging station, the Niro EV will go from a 10-percent charge to 80 percent in about 45 minutes.
Here’s the really good news: The Niro EV is rewarding to drive. The modern, clean-looking cabin features plenty of glass and easy sightlines out of the vehicle. The controls, like those in most Kia’s, are logically arrayed and easy to use. There’s also plenty of front-row people space.
Like most electric vehicles, power in the Niro EV comes on quickly and builds smoothly—mostly, more on that in a minute. The ‘EV is a joy to drive around town and has plenty of passing and merging power. Those looking for it will sense the mass of the battery during aggressive handling maneuvers, but for the most party the Niro EV steers and handles with a sporty attitude.
Rear-seat passenger space is generally okay, though taller folks will find knee-space limited behind other tall folks. Speaking of space, there’s plenty of useful stowage space in the Niro hatch area, and a little bit of room under the hood in the “frunk” (FRont + trUNK). Note that Consumer Guide does not fully condone use of the word frunk. And, regarding the hatch area, the load floor is well below the rear sill, complicating the load/unloading process.
One drivability issue: Low-speed driving is compromised by an odd idle-creep hitch. Just after rolling off from a stop, throttle response pauses briefly, making smooth stop-and-go driving difficult.
One disappointment was range. Though EPA rated at the aforementioned 253 miles, our full-charge estimates, per the instrument-panel readout, were much lower. Things were just getting cold here in Chicago when the Niro EV arrived, and during its visit temperatures ranged from 32-45 degrees. Chilly, but by local standards, not especially cold.
That said, our estimated fully charged range came in consistently between 220 and 223 miles, almost 15 percent off the EPA estimates. Our calculators suggest that the 220-miles estimate was pretty close to accurate, based on our use.
Note that Consumer Guide does not always have access to electric vehicles during colder weather, and that almost all EVs sufferer range reduction when temperatures drop. We are surprised, however, by the degree of the Niro’s range reduction during relatively mild weather.
It’s worth noting how much high-end equipment comes standard on the 2023 Niro EV, including: adaptive cruise control, wireless device charging, head-up display, heated steering wheel, power sunroof, smartphone digital key, power liftgate, heated and vented front seats, and upscale-looking “SynTex” leatherette seating surfaces.
There’s an awful lot to like here, and very little about the Niro EV to complain about. If the Kia EV6 is just too expensive, or if you simply can’t get ahold of one, the Niro EV may make a lot of sense. It’s a modern, refined, fresh-feeling EV that’s surprisingly affordable and very easy to live with.
2023 Kia Niro EV Gallery
(Click below for enlarged images)