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2023 Kia Niro EV Review: The Quiet Metamorphosis

2023 Kia Niro EV | Photo: V.Aubé
  • EPA Category: Subcompact SUV
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    Vincent Aubé
    Can the Niro avoid playing second fiddle to the EV6?
    2023 Kia Niro EV - Profile
    2023 Kia Niro EV - Profile | Photo: V.Aubé

    •    Auto123 reviews the 2023 Kia Niro EV.

    •    The design is more dynamic for this second-generation vehicle.

    •    The interior is more welcoming as well.

    •    Performance is about the same as the outgoing model.

    These days, it's increasingly difficult for a carmaker to stand out from the crowd. The choice of vehicles - and even categories - has never been greater, while global warming is even pushing some consumers to accelerate the electric shift. 

    In fact, this alternative energy is giving car designers many new possibilities when it comes to designing the next model. This is the case with the Kia EV6, a crossover that looks like nothing else on the road. 

    On the other hand, one could almost say that the first generation Kia Niro was designed to be less of a shocker, so that the driver who wants to be inconspicuous will find something to like. 

    Which brings us to this Kia Niro version 2.0, unveiled just a few months ago and already on sale in Canada. While it's clear that the form and function of this urban crossover - still available in three flavours (hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric) - are the same as the previous version, the new model's dress is trying to come out of its shell. The Kia Niro has gone from being an anonymous vehicle to something else, in short, a sort of quiet metamorphosis.    

    2023 Kia Niro EV - Wheel
    2023 Kia Niro EV - Wheel | Photo: V.Aubé

    The exterior
    The least we can say is that the Niro no longer intends to play second fiddle to the brand's authentic EVs (Kia EV6, and the Kia EV9 expected later this year) with this more assertive exterior design. 

    At the front, for example, we find the usual "nose of the title" grille, although the resemblance with those of the past is increasingly minimal. The headlights have been repositioned lower, while the thin silver bar that delineates the hood acts a bit like a light bar, albeit an optical illusion. The new headlights are definitely more utilitarian than the previous generation's with their angular design. 

    Oh yes, the charging port has also been moved to the center of the nose. Further down, this black grill contrasts with the white and silver bodywork, the designers having grafted these panels that extend to the rear doors. 

    2023 Kia Niro EV - Three-quarters rear
    2023 Kia Niro EV - Three-quarters rear | Photo: V.Aubé

    The rear end is also quite far from last year's model, especially with those side "blades" that follow the "boomerang" shape of the taillights now mounted higher on the C-pillars, on either side of the rear window. The tailgate is therefore entirely devoid of position lights. And as is the case on many of the brand's vehicles, the turn signals and reverse lights are housed lower in the bumper. 

    Also worth mentioning is this little detail from the designers, who thought of incorporating passages for air circulation on the sides of the vehicle, under those famous side blades. By the way, did anyone think of the Audi R8 when they saw the new Niro?

    Generally speaking, the new Kia Niro is nicer and more practical, without changing its size much - note that the Niro is only slightly larger than its predecessor.

    Strong points

    • Very nice front end 
    • Improved build quality

    Weak points

    • The design of the side blades
    • Position of the rear turn signals
    2023 Kia Niro EV - Logo
    2023 Kia Niro EV - Logo | Photo: V.Aubé

    The powertrain
    The redesigned Kia Niro isn't totally new under the hood. The crossover retains its front two-wheel drive and even its 150 kW (or 201 horsepower) electric motor powered by a 64.8 kWh battery. For comparison, the "old" Niro delivered the same power and the battery was a 64 kWh unit. Optimal torque, meanwhile, is limited to 188 lb-ft. 

    Sure, the harshest of critics will find fault with the Niro's performance potential, but its primary mission is not to break speed records, but to play the role of an everyday vehicle. And with its compact car size, the Kia Niro doesn't need to be a powerhouse to appeal to its audience. 

    As for charging capacity, it's similar to that of the outgoing model, with an estimated time of about 45 minutes to bring the battery charge from 10 to 80 percent, and that's at a Level 3 charging station. While the numbers for what's under the hood are very similar, the range has jumped a bit, according to figures listed by RnC (Natural Resources Canada). The new model is officially capable of driving 407 km (compared to 385 km in the old version).  

    2023 Kia Niro EV - Interior
    2023 Kia Niro EV - Interior | Photo: V.Aubé

    The interior
    The new Niro already stands out on the outside with its new, more vibrant look, but what about the inside, where occupants must find a way to be comfortable anyway? Let's start with that all-new dashboard, with the Niro switching to "two screens in one panel" mode. Like all recent models of the brand, by the way. 

    On the other hand, the shape of this imposing digital piece is unique to the Niro, a proof that it is not mandatory to always incorporate the same screen in this very spot of a model. It must be said that it follows the upper line delimited by the dashboard. 

    And it goes further, because the door panels climb very high to extend the dashboard. The visual effect is quite successful, but those who appreciate a door equipped with a horizontal armrest will be disappointed. 

    Specifications sheet of 2023 Kia Niro EV Premium FWD

    Specifications sheet of 2023 Kia Niro EV Premium+ FWD

    Specifications sheet of 2023 Kia Niro EV Limited FWD

    Specifications sheet of 2023 Kia Niro EV Limited Snow white Pearl

    2023 Kia Niro EV - Dual-function row of tactile buttons
    2023 Kia Niro EV - Dual-function row of tactile buttons | Photo: V.Aubé

    Further down, under the central ventilation nozzles, the designers bring back the dual-function touch panel. This solution is elegant, but it forces the driver to take his eyes off the road to find the right control, especially for those two knobs installed at each end. In fact, during my week-long test drive, there were a few times when I thought I was adjusting the volume of the audio system, while I was raising the temperature of the air conditioning. 

    Fortunately, Kia has kept a few traditional buttons, on the steering wheel and on the center console where the big knob operates the gearbox. There is another smaller knob for choosing driving modes, for example. 

    For the rest, the Kia Niro is quite faithful to last year's model. There's enough room in the first row for two adults to travel in comfort, while in the back, the available leg and headroom for passengers is also satisfactory for a compact vehicle. Finally, the trunk is very similar to that of the previous model.

    Strong points

    • The techy look and feel of the dashboard
    • Still some traditional buttons

    Weak points

    • Those dual-function touch buttons
    • Lots of applications to get used to
    2023 Kia Niro EV - Exterior design
    2023 Kia Niro EV - Exterior design | Photo: V.Aubé

    The drive
    It's not complicated, the Kia Niro EV 2023's behavior is very similar to the outgoing model. That's normal, you might say, since the mechanical components are identical, as are the crossover's very similar dimensions.

    Those who are looking for a vehicle with a sporty temperament are not in the right place here. The Niro is very comfortable in the city where one-pedal driving - a true one-pedal drive that allows full stops without using the brake pedal - is appreciated, but it's not afraid of the highways either. The steering is light and the suspension is calibrated for comfort above all else.

    The Niro may not be as fun to drive as the EV6, but it's a more affordable option ($44,595) than the more accessible EV6. 

    Very comfortable, the electric crossover can drive 407 km when ideal conditions are met. The winter weather had its effect though. Indeed, the possible distance displayed on the screen behind the steering wheel was more like 300 km. It must be said that the temperature did not drop to extreme levels during those few days in February, despite a nice snowfall. 

    Strong points

    • Easy to drive
    • Overall comfort

    Weak points

    • Reduced range in winter
    • Less sporty than the EV6
    2023 Kia Niro EV - Rear light
    2023 Kia Niro EV - Rear light | Photo: V.Aubé

    The final word
    This Kia Niro 2.0, despite appearances, does not change much. The behavior is very similar to the old one, while the size is the same. True, the design is more distinctive and the interior is more modern, but the essence is the same. The 2023 Kia Niro EV is one of the nice options in the still affordable electric vehicle category, especially with the two government rebates available for purchase.

    Here are a few of your questions about the 2023 Kia Niro :

    What is the range of the 2023 Kia Niro EV?
    407 km, but this possible range is less in winter.

    Can the Niro be the primary vehicle for a young family?
    Unless you have quadruplets, yes. The SUV offers decent interior volume, despite its compact size.
     
    The competition

    Chevrolet Bolt EV / EUV
    Hyundai Kona EV
    Kia Soul EV 
    Mazda MX-30
    Nissan LEAF

    EVALUATION

    78%
    Performance
    7/10
    Deign
    7/10
    Interior space
    8/10
    Technology and safety
    8/10
    Energy efficiency
    9/10
    Value
    9/10
    2023 Kia Niro EV - Front
    2023 Kia Niro EV - Front | Photo: D.Boshouwers
    Vincent Aubé
    Vincent Aubé
    Automotive expert
    • Over 17 years' experience as an automotive journalist
    • More than 60 test drives in the past year
    • Participation in over 200 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists