What's new with Niro for 2019?The all-electric powertrain is new to the Niro lineup, making this the very first model year of the Niro EV.
What are the Niro EV's interior and in-car technology like?The interior design is a little bit funky, with some interesting geometry and blue-green accents here and there. It's not too far-out, though, and we like the intuitive usability of the hard button controls for audio and climate control on the center stack below the central touchscreen. The plastics don't stand out as particularly cheap, the seats feel high-quality and supportive (though we had a little trouble finding a natural seating position), and the leather steering wheel feels good in hand. Amenities like heated and ventilated seats, and a heated steering wheel are available.
Kia's infotainment system is attractive and easy to use, with either a 7- or 8-inch touchscreen depending on trim. There's also a 7-inch TFT LCD display panel in the center of the digital instrument cluster, providing useful information directly in front of the driver. Bluetooth and voice recognition are standard, as are Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration. Wireless phone charging comes standard in the higher, EX Premium trim.
How big is the Niro EV?
The Niro EV fits into the subcompact crossover segment, alongside its cousin the Hyundai Kona Electric. It's 172.2 inches long, with a 106.3-inch wheelbase. That's 7.6 and 39 inches longer than the Hyundai, respectively. It's longer than the Chevy Bolt, Mazda CX-3 and Jeep Renegade, but smaller than the Honda CR-V. This should be a just-right size for many, and it means more room and highway stability while still maintaining maneuverability in tight parking lots. Its 71.1 inches wide, 61.8 inches tall, with a ground clearance of 6.1 inches.
Inside the Niro EV, there is 36.0 inches of rear legroom, which makes it comfortable for two adults. Total cargo capacity is 53.0 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down, and including the small cubby spaces revealed when you lift up the load floor. That's more than the Kona Electric (45.8 cubic feet), Nissan Leaf (30.0) and Volkswagen e-Golf (52.8) but less than the Bolt (56.6). The Niro EV offers 18.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up, which is actually smaller than the Kona Electric (19.2) on paper, but we suspect that in practice, it'll actually hold more stuff. It's also less on paper than the Nissan Leaf (23.6) and VW e-Golf (22.8) but more than the Tesla Model 3 (15 cubic feet combined between trunk and frunk) and Chevy Bolt (16.9).
The Niro EV is powered by a 150-kW permanent magnet synchronous motor driving the front wheels, good for 201 horsepower and 291 pound-feet pf torque. The car can do 0-62 miles per hour in 7.8 seconds, with the low end feeling particularly punchy. Maximum speed is 104 mph.
What's the Niro EV's performance and electric range?
The 64-kWh lithium ion battery provides an estimated 239 miles of driving on a single charge. That big battery takes a while to charge on your typical mobile charger: 59 hours on Level 1. A Level 2 charger that you can have installed in your garage shortens that to 9 hours, 35 minutes. The Niro EV is capable of charging at up to 100 kW on a DC fast charger, which will replenish the battery to 80 percent in just one short hour.
As for fuel economy, the Niro EV is rated at a miles-per-gallon equivalent (MPGe) of 123 city, 102 highway and 112 combined. You'll be saving a lot of money driving the Niro EV instead of a gas-powered car, as the EPA estimates the cost of driving 100 miles at a mere $3.92.
What's the Niro EV like to drive?It's quiet when you turn it on and begin to drive away, but offers a little bit of nice, spacey whine under hard acceleration. The 2019 Kia Niro EV offers Normal, Eco, Eco+ and Sport driving modes, and brake regen deceleration can be adjusted with the paddles on the back of the steering wheel (allows for one-pedal driving). It pulls hard from a stop, and the 291 pound-feet of instant torque will spin the front tires a bit. The 7.8-second 0-62 mph sprint feels faster than its numbers indicate, with the ample torque and linear acceleration pushing you back in your seat.
Its MacPherson front and multi-link rear suspension feels a little stiffer than that of the Kona EV, which gives it a slightly sportier feel and more connected handling. Combined with the responsive powertrain, the Niro EV feels pretty spry for an electric crossover. It's also easy to save battery by putting it in Eco mode and dialing up the regen. We haven't tested it in cold conditions yet, but we found it hard to get the range to dip below stated levels.
What more can I read about the Niro EV?Santa Cruz, Calif.: "The Niro EV doesn't seem like some stopgap vehicle while we're waiting for better EVs; it's good on its own, the kind of car you'd expect to own for a long time. And more important, it's not just some cold appliance. Like the Kona Electric and the Chevy Bolt, this new generation of long-range, relatively affordable EVs have a spark of life in them."
What features are available and what's the Niro EV's price?The Niro EV comes in two trim levels: EX and EX Premium. As of this writing, pricing hasn't been announced, but Kia has told us to expect pricing similar to that of the Hyundai Kona Electric, which starts at $37,495 including destination, before any available incentives. The Niro EV is eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax credit.
The EX comes standard with cloth and artificial leather seats, leather steering wheel, auto climate control, climate and charging scheduling functions, adaptive cruise control, seven-inch touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition, smart key with push-button start.
EX Premium adds power tilt/slide sunroof, leather seat trim, 10-way power driver seat, heated and ventilated front seats, eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, Harman Kardon sound system, wireless phone charging, rear parking distance warning. Optional equipment on EX Premium includes LED projection headlights, auto-dimming rear-view mirror with Homelink, heated steering wheel, and forward parking distance warning.
The 2019 Kia Niro EV won't be available nationwide, but will be sold in the following 12 states: California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington.
What's Niro EV's safety equipment and crash ratings?Regardless of trim, the Kia Niro EV comes standard with back-up camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep and lane following assist, forward collision warning and emergency braking, and a pedestrian detection system.
As of this writing, the Niro EV has not been crash tested by the two major third-party testing organizations, IIHS and NHTSA.