Auto123 puts the Kia Niro EV on long-term test. Today, part 19. As we wind down our year-long drive of the SUV, it’s Yea or Nay time.
After twelve months of driving the Kia Niro EV, our long-term test drive comes to an end. Which makes it a good time it's time to review and take stock of this year behind the wheel of this small all-electric SUV, and render our verdict. Is it Yea or Nay. This week and next, we render our verdict.
Overall, the Kia Niro is an excellent electric vehicle for small families. While it doesn't do anything exceptional in terms of appearance - in traffic, it's discreet almost to a fault - this EV drives well, it's practical and it’s relatively spacious.
Three years is not old, but...
Since its arrival in Canada in 2019, the Niro EV, which didn't have much competition at the time, has seen the space around it get more and more crowded, with several new rivals trying to shove it out of the way – including within its own lineup (hello Kia EV6). These opponents are younger, often more equipped and technologically advanced and sometimes available in four-wheel drive. Their ranges match if not overtake that of our good old Niro EV.
But the hot new numbers are currently in such short supply that you have to wait 18 to 24 months before getting your hands on one of them, if you're lucky. Even our “old” Niro EV can no longer be ordered for the 2022 model-year. You'll have to set your sights on the brand-new - and promising - 2023 Niro EV.
We hope to have more meaty things to tell you about that revised 2023 edition in the coming months. But in the meantime, we should get to the question that justified this whole exercise, that of driving the Niro EV for a full year: Is this 2019 Niro EV a worthwhile option, if you can find one, because even used ones are pretty scarce on the market right now.
Well here's our penultimate verdict - because yes, we'll have another one next week!
The Niro is simple and straightforward of use, perfect for daily driving. The shifter is well laid out and easy to operate. The infotainment system is starting to appear a bit outdated, but it’s very user-friendly and does have a touch screen, as well as a plethora of buttons that each have one single, unique function so you can better keep your eyes on the road. The menus are well laid out even if it's not the best interface out there.
Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto can be used by plugging in your phone. The SX model offers wireless charging; useful if you don't need to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Under the hood
The Niro EV is powered by a single electric motor that produces 201 hp, which is sent to the front wheels via a 1-speed direct-drive transmission. The Niro EV can clear zero to 100 km/h in 6.5 seconds, if you really try.
The Niro EV's 64.0 kWh battery capacity is on par with the rest of the segment; it’s more than that of the LEAF, equal to the Kona Electric’s and just short of the Bolt EV’s. The Niro EV's battery gives it a range of 380 km, which also is on par for this segment.
The advantage of having a vehicle for a year is that you can validate the numbers based on the seasons. In our case, the on-board computer often displayed a range of slightly more than 500 km in warmer months and about 380 km in winter. So overall, the figures announced by Kia are reasonably accurate.
In winter, we used the heater and steering wheel and seat heating on full blast, and in summer heat the air conditioning with the ventilated seats. We weren’t going to start depriving ourselves to spare charge in this EV in extreme temperatures. Comfort first! And in all these conditions, the computer continually displayed data close to reality.
What we liked during our year of driving
During the course of the year, the vehicle made the rounds of several journalists at Auto123. Also during the course of the year, we also had occasion to drive other EVs. What that meant of course is that we were able to confirm the impressive job Kia did in terms of battery capacity and range with its Niro EV, which remember dates back to 2019.
The newer 2022 or 2023 EVs we drove didn't offer much more range than the Niro EV. I don't need to remind you that three or four years is almost an eternity in the electric car business; advances come quick. But in this case, all the vehicles that compete with this Kia have pretty much the same range, while generally selling for several thousand dollars more.
We also note the vehicle’s overall solidity. After being driven by several journalists since 2020, it now has just over 20,000 km on the odometer. While it’s not common, it has happened for us to drive press vehicles with 16,000 or 17,000 km behind them, and very often the body noises and other squeaks heard inside the cabin can get pretty hard to ignore.
Our Niro EV? Not a thing! No body noise, no plastic components knocking, no wind noise, nothing! That's a pretty good sign for the future of this Kia. Maybe we should ask Kia to let us keep the car a little longer to see if at 200,000 km it will still be as quiet.
A few false notes
With a budget-priced car, it’s easy to forgive a few shortcomings, a few cut corners. But when it comes to a vehicle costing more than $55,000, let’s just say forgiveness comes a little less easily.
The front passenger seat, for example, is manual-adjustable only. How can you offer a manually adjustable passenger seat in a vehicle costing over $55,000? This kind of faux pas lowers the level of satisfaction the vehicle offers.
The same goes for the windshield wiper, which is not rain-sensitive. These are options that can be found on entry-level vehicles today, and frankly, we're not talking about options that will cost a lot to install.
Let's hope that with the 2023 version, Kia won't cut too many corners.
Despite these few shortcomings, it isn’t with twisted arm that we recommend the Niro EV to potential buyers. The SUV is well-built, comfortable and drives well. It's not particularly loaded with technology, but then that might it even more appealing to consumers who avoid vehicles with overly complex systems like the plague. It's easy to control the multimedia system and other vehicle functions, and that suits some folks fine.
We discussed this model with a friend, for the good reason that he has owned a Niro hybrid since 2019. Three years and over 60,000 miles later, he still loves it. He confirmed what we liked about this little SUV, which he finds quiet, and despite the miles it has been driven, there is little-to-no noise in the cabin.
The Niro EV is a well-built vehicle that inspires confidence. This long-term test is conclusive enough for us that we’re now doubly anxious to try out the 2023 model.
In two weeks, the final, FINAL verdict by our contributor Michel Crépault!