by Michael Butler
The year is 2022, and roads in the USA are filled with nondescript small crossover SUVs, with the Kia Niro EV being just another electric variant in an ever-expanding ocean of galvanized high-riders. It won't blow you away at first glance but get to know it a bit better, and it starts to make sense. It offers brisk performance from its 201-horsepower electric motor, the interior is well assembled, and there are tons of features as standard. We especially appreciate the inclusion of driver-assistance systems, such as lane-keep assist and smart cruise control. The Niro EV goes up against its cousin, the Hyundai Kona Electric, and the top name in electrification - Tesla and its Model Y.
After adding several comfort features last year and adding standard Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay, the 2022 Niro EV sees another bump in infotainment tech with the adoption of a new 10.25-inch display that comes standard with navigation and incorporates SiriusXM satellite radio and a Harman Kardon audio system. There are other minor changes too, like the appearance of Kia's new corporate logo on the car, a standard rear-seat alert system, and more driver-assistance features, notably highway driving assistance, vehicle-departure alert, and navigation-based adaptive cruise control.
See trim levels and configurations:
We wouldn't call the Niro EV's exterior design groundbreaking; in fact, it is rather dull. The only redeeming factor is an aggressive front end that features the front grille we so love in the Kia Stinger. The exterior sports projector-beam headlights, front fog lights, LED daytime running lights, as rear privacy glass, a rear spoiler, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The EX Premium adds a dash of class with the addition of LED tail lights and a power sunroof.
The Kia Niro EV is classified as a subcompact crossover SUV according to its dimensions. It measures 172.2 inches in length, 71.1 inches in width, and 61.8 inches in height. The wheelbase is 106.3 inches long and the crossover has a ground clearance of 6.1 inches, meaning it really shouldn't be taken off-road. It weighs in with a curb weight of 3,854 pounds, excluding any options.
The 2022 Kia Niro EV has no gasoline engine under the hood but is instead motivated by a fully electric powertrain that generates 201 hp and 291 lb-ft of torque. The lithium-ion polymer battery capacity is 180 Ah with an output of 64 kWh. These specs are nothing to scoff at, and empower the Niro EV with performance figures that are on par for the segment. Acceleration is impressive and near-silent, and this little SUV gets from 0-60 mph in a reasonable 7.8 seconds onwards to a top speed of 103 mph. Thanks to instantaneous access to all the torque from the get-go, city driving is a pleasure. Power is sent to the front wheels only via a single-speed transmission.
The gas-fed Niro feels light on its feet and eager to please, but unfortunately, the electric Niro isn't as sharp. The battery packs add around 700 pounds to the curb weight, and it can definitely be felt through the corners. The extra weight does help the Niro EV feel more planted on the highway and during heavy crosswinds, but it fails to impress on twisty roads, where body lean and understeer are a constant reminder of the extra weight being carried. We also found that low-speed driving on uneven road surfaces could overwhelm the suspension and cause a jittery ride.
Yes, the electric Kia Niro will be able to do the daily rounds without a problem, but the good news here is that it actually makes for a pretty competent long-distance cruiser as well. With a max range of 239 miles, you can go exploring the countryside within reason. The EPA rates the Niro EV's fuel economy equivalent to 123/102/112 MPGe on the city/highway/combined cycle. The 180 Ah lithium-ion polymer battery system can be charged up to 80% in only 60 minutes when using a 100-kW CCS fast charger. A full charging cycle on a normal Level 2 connection takes nine and a half hours, though. The Niro EV's battery life and gas mileage equivalent returns make it one of the most practical EVs on the road.
First off, getting in and out of the Niro EV is a pleasure, thanks to its slightly lifted ride height and wide-opening front doors. Taller adults should find no problem entering this compact crossover. Once inside, the Niro shows off a neat but basic interior, filled with soft-touch plastics and glossy finishes. The front seats offer good side support but feel hard on the rear end. These might soften with time. Other than that, you get a typical Kia set up. All the controls are where you'd expect them to be, although the center console is a bit busy for our taste. The three-spoke steering wheel hosts controls for the infotainment and cruise control settings, and a new 10.25-inch touchscreen display dominates the dashboard.
Trunk and cargo space is one of the most important factors new buyers look at when deciding on buying a new SUV. The Kia Niro is about average for its class in terms of its cargo capacity. With the rear seats in the upright position, you get access to 18.5 cubic feet. However, it seems larger than it is thanks to a lofty rear tailgate. With the seats in place, there's enough space for a large trip to the grocery store. Fold the seats down, and you get an impressive 53 cubic feet. That is 7.2 cubic feet more than the Hyundai Kona Electric provides. Small storage is decent: there are door-side bottle holders, a center console storage tray, glovebox, and a small storage nook in front of the shift knob.
When it comes to standard feature specifications, Kia's generosity is one of the main reasons we love this brand so much. The Niro EV comes packed with many standard features in both EX and EX Premium trim, with the latter only adding on a few luxuries. Standard interior equipment on the base model includes a ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a smart key with push-button start, remote start, wireless phone charging, and automatic climate control. The range-topping EX Premium adds front seat ventilation, SynTex leatherette upholstery, and adjustable interior mood lighting. What is most impressive is the long list of standard driver assistance systems. Some of the more notable features even on the base car include blind-spot collision warning, forward-collision avoidance, lane-following assist, rear cross-traffic collision warning and, from this year, a highway assistant, and navigation-based smart cruise control with curve control, stop and go, and a leading-vehicle departure alert.
Kia is on the ball with the infotainment system fitted to the 2022 Niro EV. Last year's eight-inch screen on the base model is upgraded to the same 10.25-inch touchscreen display of the EX Premium, also gaining that trim's navigation, SiriusXM satellite radio, and eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with integrated subwoofer in the process. This system sounds great when bellowing Just Like Heaven by the Cure. The system also has two front USB outlets, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, and Bluetooth streaming. From this year, it also supports wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration. It feels intuitive and easy enough for anyone to get used to in a short space of time. The images are crisp and the audio quality is decent, too.
Kia quells concerns of reliability and battery degradation by covering the Niro EV with an appealing five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, a ten-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty, and with five years, or 60,000 miles of roadside assistance. The Kia Niro has not been recalled at all in the US for 2020 or 2021 and the 2022 model has also been recall-free at the time of writing.
The NHTSA is yet to subject the Kia Niro EV to safety reviews and the IIHS has only put the structurally similar hybrid variants through their paces. In review, they found that the Niro offers superior frontal crash prevention and offered good levels of safety overall. With a ton of standard driver-assistance systems such as blind-spot assistance and front-collision warning, the Niro EV should prove to be a very safe car.
The case for the compact crossover SUV gets stronger by the day, and we both love and hate it for that. The Kia Niro EV is another great product from the Korean manufacturer. It's not the boldest thing on the road, but it does a lot of things right, not to mention the value for money you're getting here.
It doesn't look like much from the outside, apart from Kia's trademark front grille, but it has a lot going for it on the inside. Even in base specification, you get a lot for your investment. Standard features include power seats, leatherette touches, and loads of safety tech. The fact that the automaker is improving on its offering year by year, like the new wireless smartphone integration, only proves its commitment to providing the best product it can.
Apart from being one of the safest cars on the road, it is also covered by an award-winning warranty plan. The Niro EV is also a peppy performer, with 201 hp and not unimpressive acceleration times. It's charging times are par for the course, and it has a reasonable maximum range of 239 miles. At the Kia Niro's price, it's not the most exciting in comparison to many of its competitors, but it gets the job done convincingly.
Kia is famed for offering loads of value for money. The 2022 Kia Niro follows in the footsteps of other popular Kia cars, such as the Soul, which is good news for the buyer. The base EX starts off with an MSRP of $39,990. That's $5,900 more than the Hyundai Kona Electric base model but a whole $21,000 less expensive than the base Tesla Model Y, the Long Range. If you want a more premium experience, then you'll have to cough up an extra $4,660 for the EX Premium. Base prices exclude any tax, registration, and licensing fees, or Kia's $1,175 destination charge.
With prices above the $40,000 mark, you'd expect the 2022 Kia Niro EV to offer a premium experience. Unfortunately, that's not the case. The base model is neat and comes with all the gadgets you'll need, but there's lots of plastic scattered around the interior. Other than that, there is lots to like about it.The 201-hp electric motor makes it feel quick and lively, though it's far from sporty, and there are lots of standard features including a new 10.25-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, wireless phone charging, a premium audio system, and a ton of driver-assistance features. If you really want something more upscale, then the EX Premium should be your choice. It adds features such as artificial leather upholstery and climate-controlled front seats. Both have access to the same exterior colors, too. All things considered, we'd stick with the base model if we had to buy the Niro. This year's improvements to it have rendered it the default choice.
The Kona EV was also launched in 2019 and shares the same powertrain and general shape with the Kia. The exterior of the Kona EV looks arguably more futuristic, and we think it makes a bolder statement than the Kia. Standard exterior features include 17-inch alloy wheels and a power tilt-and-sliding sunroof on Limited trim. What we really like about the Kona is its impressive 258-mile range, which is far better than the Chevrolet Bolt or Nissan Leaf. It also delivers impressive performance right up to highway speeds and beyond. Add to this it's slightly more engaging driving experience, a ton of standard features and it's hard to beat. However, the cramped rear seats, long charging times, and subpar cargo capacity stop it from being a pack leader. All things considered, the Kia is the best option of the two and even if the price gap between the base trims has widened, the Kia is notably better equipped.
You don't see a new Tesla model every day, so its latest offering, the Model Y is pretty big news, but is it worth all the fuss? The subcompact Crossover SUV is based on the same platform as the Tesla Model 3 and is powered by a purely electric drivetrain that gets the Model Y from 0 to 60 mph in a supercar-like 3.5 seconds in its quickest configuration and 4.8 seconds in the Long Range. This small SUV offers way more value than its larger Model X sibling, and we love its modern and sleek exterior and interior design. In terms of performance, it blows the Kia Niro clean out the water - any comparison in this area feels like a rigged competition. Another perk worth noting is that Tesla's supercharger network is steadily growing across the country. However, we are still waiting for the arrival of a trim that will cost less, and build quality is questionable. We also find that the massive display screen can distract the driver. Other than that, it's a good piece of kit, and we'd have it over the Kia any day - if we can spare the extra $16k-odd over the flagship Niro EV.
The most popular competitors of 2022 Kia Niro EV: