The steep and steady rise in gas prices has shoved EVs into a limelight they may not have been fully ready to occupy just yet, but here we are. While some manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the demand for range and technology, others like KIA have taken an already kind-of-OK product, and elevated it into something electrifyingly good.
When I first met the KIA Niro in 2015, it had just been launched and was a brand new model. I admit, I wasn’t overly impressed with it as a whole. The interior felt cheap, and the hybrid system was anemic at best. The ride was a little uncomfortable and I wasn’t a fan of the exterior look, either.
Maybe it had something to do with the near $2/L gas prices or maybe the Niro really has grown and matured wonderfully over the past 7-8 years, but this is most definitely a different vehicle than the one I first met at that Texas launch event.
Sparking New Interest
The easiest way to sell your EV model in any segment is: RANGE. And the Niro EV definitely has that. We were pleasantly surprised to see the Niro sporting a 385km full-battery capacity. With a range like that, you can easily do a full day of urban commuting, including highway travels, without much worry.
And one of the best parts about driving the 201-horsepower crossover is the fabulous regenerative braking. Unlike a recent EV we drove (Mazda MX-30), the Niro recoups energy beautifully while on the highway and suburban streets. Using the max regen feature on the vehicle, ensures you can gain back 5-10km of range on each drive simply by changing your driving style/technique to accommodate the feature.
Oh, and you’ll use your brake pads less, as well, which helps lower maintenance costs down the road, too.
One of our favourite drive features in the Niro EV is the driver stats on the dash. The car will let you know the percentage of time you spend driving economically, normally or aggressively. This helps change your driving style immensely and really lets you see how driving can influence a battery charge.
Now, when it comes to charging, the Niro EV does have a larger battery (64kWh) which means the lower level charging stations (and plugging it into a regular 110V outlet) is rather useless. We arrived at home with less than 50% charge and once it was plugged into a generic wall socket, the Niro announced it would “only” take 55 hours to fully charge.
Thankfully, there are quite a few Level 3 charge stations in the neighbourhood, and more are cropping up regularly. With that same level of charge, plugging into a Level3 for 45 minutes saw that jump to 89% fully charged - and it only cost $7.
Let’s imagine what the equivalent would have been for a tank of gas …
Crossover Capability & Design
Despite not having a frunk - the battery is actually there - the Niro offers up plenty of cargo space with 549 litres with the rear seats up and a massive 1,543 litres. All of that space makes the lack of a frunk absolutely unnoticeable.
Up front or in the second row, there is plenty of room and comfort. The seats are wide and we really liked the all-black interior with patterned insert on the dash.
And the overall centre stack design and functionality is possibly one of the nicest in the entire automotive industry.
The onboard entertainment system is extremely easy to use and navigate, and we absolutely adore the colour scheme that KIA uses - the lavendar/blue tones are easy on the eyes and joyful at the same time. Apple CarPlay is super easy to hook up, and the steering-wheel mounted button placement are easy to get used to, as well.
When it comes to the outside look of the Niro - that’s a bit of a hard sell for us. We were never really fans, but we understand the appeal. We appreciate the subtle teal/blue accents that set the Niro EV apart from the non-EV Niros on the road. Not every electric vehicle has to look like a spaceship *cough*Prius*cough*.
A Gift to the EV Segment
While the name Niro may mean “gift of god”, we’re not quite ready to say this vehicle has reached that status. However, it is most definitely a gift to the segment. While it might seem like a lot to cough up for a KIA ($56k), it’s perfectly placed to compete with the likes of the Ford Mach-E, Volkswagen ID.4 and even the Chevrolet Bolt EUV.