Test Drive Notes Library
- Better as an EV. The Niro is one of those cars that is much better as a fully electric vehicle than it is as a gasoline-electric hybrid (which is also available). When you get the fully electrified Niro, you get a larger battery with a lower center of gravity for better handling, no engine noise or vibration, great acceleration, and a more solid, substantial driving feel. This may be our current favorite EV, as it feels more substantial and nicer inside, overall, than the Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf.
- Range, range, range. The newest Niro EV gets 263 miles on a single charge. That’s enough to allow lots of people to forget about charging for days on end. Of course, it’s so easy to just plug in at night in your driveway and top it up, that, why not do that? But having this much battery range pretty much eliminates day to day range anxiety. Of course, if you’re taking a long road trip, it’s still iffier than getting gas. But you can always rent a dinosaur-fueled car if you’re driving 300 miles each way to visit your mother-in-law (or, better yet, use the EV as an excuse to bail). And the other 360 days a year, you’ll have more range than you need.
- Pretty comfortable. The Niro is a small car. So don’t expect a Lincoln Navigator ride. But given its size, it’s really pretty comfortable. Certainly, it’s easy to live with every day. The front seats, in particular, felt good to us. The interior feels airy. There are lots of comfort and convenience features on the EX Premium version, including heated and cooled leather seats, a heated steering wheel, and a sunroof. And it’s notably quiet inside, which makes it feel more luxurious than its gasoline-electric counterpart.
- Safety comes standard. Good for Kia. Even the base model Niro comes with the stuff you need. Forward Collision Warning, Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and Rear Cross Traffic Warning. Even adaptive cruise control is standard. That’s unusual. Also good for Kia: Their standard 5-year, 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.
- Good visibility up front. The Niro puts you in an upright seating position, more like an SUV than a car. Combined with a nice big windshield and large side windows, it’s pretty easy to see around you. Out back it’s more typical for cars these days to have a big honkin' C-pillar that blocks your rear three-quarter view. There’s a camera for parking, of course.
- Good ergonomics. The Niro feels modern, and the controls are easy to figure out and operate. The infotainment system is fairly intuitive.
- Practical. Leaving aside the fact that you’ll never have to walk into a gas station again (unless you need to use the bathroom or have an urgent need for a bag of Bugles), the Niro is versatile and practical. It has five doors, fold-down rear seats, and an easily accessible cargo area in the back, with no intrusion from the battery. Families, people with dogs and bikes, and estate sale vultures will all be able to make this electric car work for them.
- Options for the great, frozen North. Kia has a couple of stand-alone options for those who live in frozen climes, where EV performance suffers. There’s a heat pump that helps warm the car on cold days with warm air from around the battery and motors. That preserves battery life. And there’s an optional battery warmer that heats the battery to optimum temperature while it’s charging, so it charges faster, and maximizes range in colder weather.
Test Drive Notes Library
- Gets pricey. While the base Niro EV is about $38,500 before state and federal rebates, the base price of our EX Premium is $44,000. Add in the cold weather package, the heated steering wheel and other niceties, and we’re just over $47,000. With incentives (currently $7,500 from the feds until Kia sells 200,000 EVs), it’ll be cheaper, but that’s getting up there.
- Hard-to-see blind spot warning. We hope they standardize this some day, and we hope the models they use are Subarus and Volvos. Both of those cars have nice, large, bright yellow warning lights near the side view mirrors that come on when someone is coming up beside you. Kia has fairly faint, little lights built into the side view mirror glass. You can see if you make a point of checking before changing lanes. But warning lights should get your attention. You shouldn’t have to look for them.
- Long charge time. To get 263 miles per charge, you need a big battery. And the bigger the battery, the longer it takes to charge all the way up, especially with an old fashioned 110V outlet. If you top up every night, you should be fine. But if you like to let your battery run down for the week, and then charge it up, you might want to consider getting a dedicated, higher capacity, Level 2 charger for your home. It’ll cost you some hundreds of bucks, but it’ll more than double your charging speed. Otherwise, if you take a long trip one evening and run the battery down, and need to leave first thing in the morning for another long trip, you might not have a full charge to start out with.
- No AWD. We haven’t tested the Niro in the snow, so we can’t tell you how it’ll do. But all wheel drive is not an option on the Niro.
- Low bench in back. While there’s adequate room for back seat passengers, the seat bottom is pretty hard. But that’s where the kids sit, so who cares?
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