It’s been barely two years since the Kia Niro EV has been on sale in our country, and lo and behold, the automaker has already given it an update this year. However, it’s a very subtle update that only slightly changes a vehicle that didn’t have many flaws before. In my case, it’s good to be back behind the wheel of this electric companion; after all, it was in a Niro EV that I completed my epic journey to Manic 5 in the winter.
In addition to competing with two other Hyundai/Kia models – the Soul EV and Kona Electric – the Niro EV competes primarily with the Chevrolet Bolt EV, Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model 3 SR+ and MINI Cooper SE.
Design-wise, it’s pretty much the same vehicle except for the headlights and taillights, which have been slightly redesigned. There are also new wheels, but overall, our test model is pretty much the same as the one we used on our trip to the dam.
It’s important to note that the update was applied for the 2020 model year. For 2021, nothing changes for this model.
The starting price for a Kia Niro EV EX is $46,905. Disappointingly, at this price, you still don’t get the sunroof or heated seats or steering wheel. Since these options cannot be added separately, you have to upgrade to the SX Touring model, which sells for a rather ridiculous $56,405.
Luckily, the Niro EV is eligible for provincial and federal rebates for electric vehicles, which reduces its final bill by $13,000. But even after rebates, this model isn’t cheap.
Life on board
It is especially in the passenger compartment that we notice the novelties. The dashboard inherits a new design, now incorporating glossy black that stretches left to right, for better or for worse. This technique is mainly used to embed the new multimedia interface with 10.3-inch screen, offered as standard in the entire range.
Kia also took the opportunity to review the positioning of the system’s physical controls. They are now located under the air vents which have also been repositioned horizontally rather than vertically. Some subtle additional details, such as the materials used and redesigned ambient lighting are also among the novelties. The quality of the assembly and the finish remains excellent.
To come back to the new multimedia interface, let’s say that it is even more user-friendly than the old one by its improved response speed and its added functions, not to mention the possibility of displaying a lot of information at the same time on the home menu. .
There is also a new “Climate” mode that activates an automatic defrost when you start the vehicle, even remotely. In addition, the system now allows the configuration of a user profile which can be associated with personalized settings. In addition, an option to extend the duration of the rear view camera display has been added.
When it comes to passenger and luggage space, the Niro lives up to its crossover promises. It is a surprisingly spacious little family vehicle, both front and rear. There are a host of pleasant storage compartments, including the huge center console that can be configured as you want.
With the rear seatbacks lowered to the floor, the Niro EV can accommodate up to 1,543 liters of cargo, making it a more versatile vehicle than a Nissan LEAF (849 liters) and a Hyundai Kona (1,296 liters), but still less roomy than a Chevrolet Bolt EV (1,602 liters) or a Kia Soul EV (1,758 liters).
On the technical side, nothing changes. The Niro EV still uses a 64-kilowatt-hour battery that allows the electric motor to develop 201 horsepower and produce 291 pound-feet of torque. Maximum range, under ideal conditions, is rated by the EPA at 385 kilometers.
However, during our test drive, mild conditions allowed the on-board computer to display no less than 430 kilometers, a very realistic figure since, on two occasions, we covered distances of 418 and 421 kilometers. In winter, in extreme conditions, which we experienced at the Manic 5 power plant, the highest range we recorded in the Niro EV was 271 kilometers.
This vehicle is still only available in front-wheel drive. While it does well in winter conditions when fitted with good winter tires, it would have been interesting to see Kia offer a dual-motor version, much like Tesla has done in recent years.
According to our observations, the Niro EV is currently limited to a charging speed of 77 kilowatts in a fast charging station. It’s important to note, however, that at the time of writing, only a few of the Electric Circuit’s public charging stations have charging power of up to 100 kilowatts. Most of them are limited to 50 kilowatts.
Behind the wheel
The Kia Niro EV is a surprisingly fun crossover to drive, partly because of the instant torque provided by its electric drivetrain, but also because of its remarkable handling due to the centered weight of the batteries.
I do complain that the front tires squeal far too easily under acceleration, which suggests that an all-wheel drive system would indeed make the experience more enjoyable, especially on a snowy surface.
But the level of refinement is impressive, and even though this vehicle is expensive to buy, the level of quality is remarkable when compared to a Japanese or American product of equal price. Acceleration is strong, but the regenerative braking system is equally effective with its three resistance modes.
It is also possible to set the system to Auto mode, allowing it to modulate energy recovery without having to worry about it. It’s a particularly handy gizmo when you’re on cruise control, and it’s effectively smart. It’s also possible to hold the left-hand selector lever to activate the most aggressive mode manually, like what the Chevrolet Bolt EV offers.
But while it’s well put together, the Niro EV is still based on a vehicle normally retailing in a much lower price range. As a result, the quality of its interior and the comfort of its seats are nowhere near the level of vehicles in this price range, especially when compared to combustion engine models.
However, these minor drawbacks do not detract from the overall rating of the product, because, overall, the Kia Niro EV is an electric vehicle that does almost everything right, demonstrating, once again, how South Korean brands are innovating at breakneck speed.
Due to its high range, extraordinary cold weather performance, degree of versatility, reliability that has been good so far, and overall quality of execution, the Kia Niro EV is an electric vehicle that we have no problem recommending, as long as you are aware that the bill may be high, even after discounts are applied.