Auto123 puts the Kia Niro EV to the long-term test. Today, part 17.
The end of our long-term test of the 2020 Kia Niro EV is approaching. You'll get two conclusions. One written by the bosses of the site you're currently visiting and hopefully enjoying. And a second one written by me, very much not a boss, but someone who has spent a lot of time with this Korean-made electric vehicle.
But first, I wanted to understand what made the 2020, 2021 and 2022 models different. After all, since dealerships of all brands are currently struggling mightily to get stock to fill up their lots, and even more so when it comes to EVs (a phenomenon that has made used vehicles more popular (and more expensive) than ever, by the way), it makes sense that "my" 2020 model, with its low mileage for a two-year-old car, might represent a world-class bargain when assigned for resale.
But if you had a 2020, 2021 or 2022 Niro side by side, which year should you favour?
Even more importantly, just a month ago, Kia used the occasion of the New York Auto Show to unveil the next-gen 2023 Niro. Hard not to include it in our little comparison game – and that’s just what I’ll do a bit farther down.
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Spot the differences
You might as well know it right off, the differences between the 2020, 2021 and 2022 Niro EV models are minimal. To identify them, you have to play a bit of Spot the Differences: pay attention and you may discover the changes.
They are mainly aesthetic.
Recall that the Niro was first revealed in 2016 as a 2017 model, and all editions offered since then in North America have been part of what is known as the first generation. And here’s what was so special about this Niro: from the start, Kia had the brilliant idea of offering three distinct versions of the model: hybrid, plug-in hybrid and 100-percent electric (starting in 2018).
There’s no better way to lure consumers into the world of electric mobility, if you ask me. Want to drive “green” but have a limited budget? There’s the hybrid. Want more electric power day-to-day from your car but aren’t ready to trust it won’t leave you stranded between Vancouver and Whistler? There’s the plug-in hybrid. Want to thumb your nose at the oil companies? Go EV!
Carbon copy… of itself and of the Kona
From the start, the Niro EV has used the same 201-hp electric motor (similar to the Hyundai Kona EV), the same 64 kWh lithium-ion battery and the same 7.2 kW on-board charger, and delivered the same 385 km range.
The hybrid versions got cosmetic tweaks in 2020, which were inspired by the look of the EV version.
Otherwise, the two biggest changes during these years touched on the Kia logo outside and the display screen inside.
That new logo, in place on 2022 models onwards, symbolizes Kia's ambition to embrace the future with modernity in spades, starting with the electric drivetrain. It also celebrates the shift from the “Power to Surprise” slogan to “Movement that Inspires”.
As for the centre screen, Kia felt compelled to change the display along the way, in the name of progress. You can update the software yourself, but the distribution of information on the 10.25-inch screen has changed along the way. Now, reading the comments left on online forums, many Niro owners miss the older display that allowed them to view up to three pieces of information at once (say, energy, radio and road map). Having driven the 2022 Niro EV a few days ago, I agree with them.
In any case, as you can see, nothing really dramatic changed in the Niro universe. That is, until the 2023 model year comes along...
First, the look
The 2023 Niro EV marks the beginning of the true second generation of the model on our continent.
And it doesn’t take a long study of the exterior to notice the change. The cabin is also noticeably updated. What’s not so different? What comes under the hood.
In New York, Kia kept the specs details locked away. We'll have the full picture of the new model (including pricing) as we get closer to the commercial launch date this coming fall.
Do you remember the feature that zig-zagged the rear part of the Audi R8? The 2023 Niro takes up that same idea. And whether it's the same colour as the body or distinct, this rear section is not just an aesthetic whim, as it contributes to the vehicle’s excellent aerodynamic coefficient of 0.29.
As a bonus, there's also trim above the wheel arches and on the bottom of the doors, in black or steel grey for the EV model.
In short, it's impossible to visually confuse the Niro 2023 with its predecessors.
Its dimensions, moreover, have all gained a few millimetres.
The interior has also benefited from the renewal effort. As part of the modernization initiative, the dash goes from featuring one 10.25-inch touchscreen to carrying two, this in the service of keeping with the current trend to eliminate as many buttons as possible from the dashboard (even if it means taking three times as long to adjust the A/C...).
The cabin is dressed in environmentally friendly materials. For example, the ceiling light is lined with recycled tapestries. The seat covers incorporate eucalyptus leaves.
Add those same slimmed-down seats to the 2023 Niro EV’s increased dimensions and you end up with more cargo space, which was already excellent.
That leaves the heart of the machine: its engine.
Baby step ...
Unchanged power (201 hp) and a minimal increase in battery capacity (0.8 kWh) very slightly improves both 0-100 km/h acceleration time (not exactly our favourite pastime when driving an EV) and range, which Kia says is now 407 km.
On the other hand, since the on-board charger goes from 7.2 to 11 kW, users will benefit from faster charging times (7 hours instead of 9 with a Level 2 station).
This is just a short overview of the 2023 Niro. Check out my colleague Vincent Aubé’s more detailed (and more erudite) report on the model’s big reveal in New York in April.
The thing to remember and ask yourself is: do I chase after a used Niro EV, probably not an easy find, or do I reserve a second-generation 2023 edition without delay, and then sit back patiently waiting for its delivery?
If I'm not in a hurry and I'm excited about the 2023 Niro EV's new exterior look, I'll be patient. But if I were offered a 2020, 2021 or 2022 Niro EV right now, I would jump at the chance!
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 1: The carmaker, the reviewer and the (young) enthusiast
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 2: Electric cars, a new idea with a long history
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 3: Let’s look a little more closely at this here Niro EV, shall we?
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 4: Getting a charge out of charging
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 5: Many kilometres, many questions
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 6: When the computer decides things, without consulting us
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 7: Off to Join the Electric Circuit
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 8: The Benediction
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 9: Beating the Cold
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 10: Let’s Talk Maintenance
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 11: Questions… and Answers
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 12: All About Nozzles
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 13: Station to Station
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 14: The Cost of Charging
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 15: How to Pick Your Home Charging Station (1 of 2)
See also: Kia Niro EV Long-Term Review, Part 16: How to Pick Your Home Charging Station (2 of 2)