My friend Melissa loves her Kia Niro hybrid. She had been driving a mid-size crossover, but decided to down-size and up-MPG her ride. In just a few weeks, she’s become addicted to the car’s roomy interior, modern aesthetic, and frugal 51/46-MPG city/highway. But, I hate to tell her she doesn’t have the coolest Niro. Hers still burns a little gas. Mine does not. Check the 2019 Kia Niro EV.
Understated Crossover Wrapper
I kind of feel like an EV should have an avant-garde look, but I suspect most drivers do not. So, Kia wrapped its technological wonder in a compact crossover wrapper that, except for the styled solid panel with a little door where the grille should be, would blend into any carpark. Being an EV, it wears low rolling resistance tires on 17-inch alloys, but it presents as a crisply styled compact crossover.
It’s much the same inside, though the fully electric Niro is a little flashier than my friend’s hybrid. The dashboard has bright displays for energy usage, charge status, and speed. Everything is optimized for electrical efficiency, but our car came bearing automatic climate control, power sunroof, wireless phone charger, and mood lighting. Harman Kardon audio tickles the ears and is easily connected to devices via Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth compatibility. Scan the control pod atop the deep center console to control the heated/ventilated front seats and heated steering wheel. Pop open the hatch and throw down the 60/40 split rear seats to toss in gear.
That small door on the nose indicates this Niro does not burn gasoline. Its Lithium Ion Polymer battery pack enables a free roaming 239 miles between meals. The integrated 480v fast charging system adds 100 miles in 30 minutes or 80 percent battery capacity in 75 minutes (commercial charger only). Without a fast charger, you’ll wait days for a complete “fill up”. While my friend’s Nivo goes forth with 104 horsepower, the EV nearly doubles it to 201 horsepower. All in, it’s rated 123/102-MPGe.
Smooth Whooshing Acceleration
Even better, the car’s electric motors provide the kind of whooshing acceleration that will make you want to toss your undies and giggle exuberantly. Press the start button, circle back to the console to turn the biggest knob to “D”, and whir away. Another button lets you configure drive modes for Eco, Normal, Sport, and Eco+ that adjust regenerative braking, climate control effectiveness, and even speed limits. Paddles behind the steering wheel enact re-gen braking. Keeping battery weight low in the chassis improves handling, but low resistance tires are not for track days. Safety is enhanced with lane keep assist, blind spot detection, adaptive cruise, and lane following assist systems.
I like electric cars that announce their coolness with flashy designs, but there is something to be said for a car like the Niro EV that only whispers its coolness. It looks handsome, is easy to use, dashes through traffic like a scalded ghost, and can travel far between fast charges. It’s nice, but not cheap. A base Niro hybrid rolls out for just $23,490, but the Niro EV starts at $38,500, rising to $47,155 as tested. At that price, competitors include the Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model 3, Nissan Leaf, and upcoming Ford Mach E.
2019 Kia Nivo EV
- Five-passenger, fwd, Crossover
- Powertrain: Li-ion Polymer batteries/motors
- Output: 201hp, 291 lb.-ft.
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 17”/17” alloy
- Brakes f/r: regen disc/disc
- Must-have features: Efficiency, Utility
- Driving range: 239 miles
- 0-60 mph: 7.8s
- Economy: 123/102 mpg-e city/hwy
- Assembly: Hwasung, Korea
- Base/as-tested price: $38,500/47,155