CleanTechnica spent time behind the wheel of the Kia Niro EV for two days in Santa Cruz, California. I walked away feeling that, finally, we have no more excuses to not own an electric vehicle (EV).
Carmakers must really feel the heat when it comes to EVs lately. Kia started working on its Niro concept in 2014. Today, it has a hybrid version and, for those on the fence about going electric, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). It also has a pure EV, which is what most of our readers care to learn more about. The key number speaks for itself — 240 miles of range. But beyond the range, this crossover is far more fun to drive than its internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts. So, what reasons can you find to buy a new gasoline car these days?
(Editor’s note: Well, there’s still one reason: The Kia Niro FE has a starting MSRP of $23,490, the Kia Niro LX $23,900, the Kia Niro EX $26,400, the Kia Niro S Touring $28,800, the Kia Niro Touring $32,250, and the Kia Niro EV’s price is likely to start around $37,000. With the $7,500 — if you can use it — that could be brought down to under $30,000, but that’s still considerably more than the lower priced trims. Many buyers simply can’t add $30,000+ to their budget for a people mover. It’s a shame, though, since electric vehicles can cut operational costs a great deal and save people in the long term, and it would be most beneficial to help the less wealthy get those savings. On the other hand, you can now get wicked good deals on used electric cars. So, there are ways to go electric on a budget, too — just not yet with 250+ miles of electric range.)
When I met Steve Kosowski, Kia’s Long Range Strategy & Planning Manager, it was obvious Kia is betting a lot on the Niro EV. Both he and Garrett Ono, Kia Product Strategy and Regulatory Compliance Manager, are very enthusiastic about the car, its future, and the role it plays at the company. Rightfully so — the Kia Niro EV is a winner according to the many journalists gathered to test drive the car. Notably, it was also a finalist in the 2019 CleanTechnica Car of the Year competition. The voters ended up giving the gold medal to the Hyundai Kona EV, but the Niro EV got the silver.
Stay tuned for an interview with both Garrett and Steve, as well as a longer test drive.
The Niro EV test drive was unique to me. After test driving EVs for 11 years, this was one of those rare times when range and charging weren’t on my mind. The first time it happened was also with a Kia, the Soul EV. The second time was with the Hyundai Kona EV, which shares the same platform as the Kia Soul EV. Stay tuned for more on that.
With 240 miles of range, the Kia Niro EV has enough range for a two-day stint. But the best features are the standardized wireless phone charging, auto-regen, anti-creep forward, and a few other things available across the Kia Niro lineup.
According to Steven Kosowski:
“Niro EV is a milestone vehicle for Kia and the Industry. It is the first mainstream EV crossover with real usable range — 239-miles — in a desirable design/style with a useful package, at an affordable price.”
Steve also talks about the fast pace of development at Kia:
“From Oct 2014 (first Soul EV launch) to Jan 2019, a little less than four years, the range has advanced from 93 miles to 239 miles (2.6×), and the battery energy density increased by +25%, while battery weight increased only 1.6x (640 lb to 1008 lb). Truly remarkable advancements in a short timeframe, and they align quite well with market/customer needs globally.”
Long trips in a Niro EV would be comfortable. The adaptive cruise control with the adaptive auto-regen means you drive the car with the steering wheel only. The lane keeping feature keeps the Niro EV well in its lane, but don’t take your hands off the steering wheel — it will remind you by beeping and, eventually, stopping. Can we call it autonomous level 2.5?
Kia Niro EV, Final Thoughts
A decade of EV progression is leaving gas/diesel technology in the dust. It also makes the idea of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles difficult to grasp for daily commuting. Kia does a great job at presenting a compelling lineup of “alternative energy” vehicles and has no qualms putting its EVs center stage at auto shows. The official price for the Niro EV will be revealed next week, but I’m told it will be similar to other EVs with its range and capacity.
The final conclusion: the Kia Niro EV is a clear winner.