When the Kia Niro was first introduced, it was one of the more affordable hybrid vehicles on the market. Then a year later, Kia introduced the Niro EV that was setting its sights on the Chevy Bolt. Now in 2023, the Kia Niro EV enters its second generation with fresh looks, more technology, and more electric driving range.
Motor – The electric motor that is powering the 2023 Kia Niro EV sends its power to the front wheels only. Although this car looks like a small crossover SUV, it’s only available with FWD. The motor produces 201 hp and 188 lb-ft of torque (150 kW & 255 Nm). That is the same amount of horsepower as the previous generation model but the nearly 300 lb-ft of torque of the old car has been significantly reigned it. Despite the lower torque number, this car still feels pretty quick off the line thanks to the instant torque. 0-100 km/h is average at just over 7 seconds but this car gives you the “pinned to the back of the seat” feeling. The power tapers off after approximately 110 km/h which is normal for electric vehicles of this type.
Furthermore, if you mash your foot on the accelerator pedal as you exit a corner, the instant torque from the motor will try to spin up the inside front wheel. Traction control will cut back power but if you have it off, that wheel will start to produce smoke as it spins in fury.
Battery & Charging – The 64.8 kWh battery has enough power to supply the car for up to 407 km (253 miles) of electric driving range. This is under the most ideal conditions. During my time with the car, there was still some snow on the ground here in Vancouver. So the trip computer was estimating approximately 395 km (245 miles) of range with a fully charged battery. That number dropped by another 30 or so km if I turned on the climate control.
Unfortunately this battery pack is not supported by an 800 Volt architecture so charging the Kia Niro EV takes a bit longer than its bigger brother, the Kia EV6. From a 7kW level 2 charger, Kia estimates that the charging time will be around 9 hours from 0% to 100%. If you have an 11kW level 2 charger, that time drops to about 6 hours. From a 100kW DC fast charger, Kia estimates the charge from 10% to 80% to be completed in 45 minutes. You could try a 350 kW charger but the time only improves by 2 minutes. That’s not a typo. Kia estimates that for the same 10-80% charge at a 350kW charger will be completed in 43 minutes. Not much difference between the 100kW and 350 kW chargers.
Braking – Like many other EVs, the 2023 Niro EV has multiple regenerative braking modes to choose from. There are levels Zero to Max with zero providing no regen baking while max will slow the car down to a stop if you hold onto the left steering wheel paddle. There is i-pedal which is a one pedal drive mode and it provides a smooth operation. Finally there’s auto regen braking which automatically adjusts the amount of regen braking based on factors such as the vehicle speed and if there’s another vehicle ahead of yours among many other factors.
Personally, I liked to use the i-pedal mode. However, it didn’t always work as intended. What I mean by that is if the car was fully charged (or close to it), it would display a message on the instrument cluster notifying me that the battery was fully charged and that regenerative braking was not available. Once that message popped up, the car acted as though it was on level 0 or 1 of regen braking which meant hardly any and it didn’t really slow down. Obviously I had to use the physical brakes to slow the car down and I could only re-use the i-pedal (or the stronger regen braking modes) once the battery had been depleted by a significant amount; approximately 8 – 12%. In other EVs that I’ve driven, the one-pedal mode still works regardless of the battery state of charge. But not in this Kia Niro EV. Just something for you to be aware of.
Handling – The Kia Niro EV was designed as a city vehicle and it’s in that environment that it shines the most. The steering is light for easy maneuverability but it firms up when you find yourself on a highway. The suspension is tuned to absorb the bumps and potholes of city streets rather than providing outright grip. You’ll have an easy time zipping through traffic in the Niro EV but it won’t feel as zippy on a twisting canyon or forest road.
Ride Comfort – The ride of the 2023 Kia Niro EV is firm but comfortable. As mentioned earlier, the suspension absorbs the bumps in the road quite well. However, you’ll feel the smallest road crack or pebble that the tires may drive over.
The front seats are shaped well to hold you in and provide a fair amount of comfort. Both front seats are power operated with lumbar support on this Limited trim. The rear seats, however, are a bit flat and a bit firmer than the front seats.
Interior Space – This 2nd generation Kia Niro is a bit bigger than the previous generation. What this means is more space for the occupants. As is the norm, the driver and the front passenger have the most amount of space with plenty of legroom and plenty of headroom even with the optional sunroof. In the back seats, space is a bit tighter than the front but still more than the previous generation. Legroom has improved by almost an inch however for someone of my height at 6’4”, it still feels tight behind my driving position. Headroom has also been improved by half an inch but the seat bottom is higher up than the front which means headspace can feel a bit tight for taller individuals.
In the trunk, the Kia Niro EV has the same cargo volume as the Niro Hybrid. 645 L (22.8 cu-ft) with the rear seats up and 1,804 L (63.7 cu-ft) with the rear seats folded. It’s the Niro PHEV that has less volume with 549 L & 1,546 L (19.4 cu-ft & 54.6 cu-ft) respectively. The EV also has a little compartment under the hood that is big enough to hold the charging cable.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – This being an electric vehicle, it is generally quieter than the gasoline powered versions. Tire noise is the most evident sound that intrudes into the cabin but it’s not overly loud. This particular demo vehicle came equipped with winter tires which are generally louder than all-season tires.
Odds and Ends
Pricing – The hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants of the 2023 Kia Niro are pretty reasonably priced at around $30,000 CAD & $38,000 CAD respectively. This 2023 Kia Niro EV is quite a bit more expensive. The Premium trim (Wind in the US) starts at $44,995 CAD ($39,550 USD) with this top spec Limited trim (Wave in the US) will cost you $52,995 CAD ($44,550 USD). That is quite a lot of money for such a small vehicle. Yes, there are government incentives that will lower that price but they essentially just cover the cost of the taxes.
Gadgets – At least for the price of this Limited trim, the 2023 Kia Niro EV does come well equipped. It has heated & ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, a power sunroof, dual zone automatic climate control, a head-up display that is projected on the windshield, wireless phone charging pad, LED headlights, front & rear parking sensors, a power liftgate, and leatherette upholstery that is environmentally friendly.
There are just two minor issues I had with the gadgets. Firstly, the placement of the backup camera means that it will quickly get dirty and difficult to see out the back. Secondly, the automatic wipers have a mind of their own. It doesn’t really matter which auto sensitivity setting they’re on because they’ll go as fast as possible when there’s a light drizzle and barely turn themselves on when there’s an actual rain storm. Conventional intermittent wipers are far superior to automatic wipers. Change my mind.
And finally the infotainment system is one that is used throughout all other Kia vehicles. It is displayed on a 10.25” touchscreen, lower trims of the Kia Niro have an 8” display, with smooth and clear graphics. Apple CarPlay & Android Auto are standard across all trim levels but neither apps allow for wireless connectivity.
Interior Design – Heavy sigh… I don’t understand what Kia’s obsession is with gloss black plastics. I will admit that the trim looks great when it’s new and clean. But after a few years, it will not look like that. There will be scratches, coffee stains, fingerprints, and so on all over the panels on the center console, steering wheel, and doors. The only piece of gloss black trim that may survive, is the one that surrounds the ambient light. Of course you can clean it every week but it will still not escape scratches. As well, let’s face it, how often do you thoroughly clean your car? So I don’t understand why Kia continues to use this material for the trim because it’s not going to look good in a few years time. There are better options out there that can look just as good. /rant
Otherwise, the functionality of the interior is straightforward. The climate control s and infotainment quick access buttons are displayed on a touchscreen that switches between the two menus. There are physical knobs to either side which double as volume/radio tuning and driver/passenger temperature. There are physical buttons on the center console for the heated/ventilated seats, parking sensors, and auto hold function. Overall, all of the vehicle’s functions are well laid out.
Exterior Design – I really like the look of the front end of this 2023 Kia Niro EV. The daytime running lights have a funky design which double as the turn signals. The faux grille reminds me of the current generation Kia Soul which I think is a funky looking crossover. The EV is only available with 17” wheels but they look pretty funky.
It’s from the rear panel and backwards that the design has me looking at it with my head tilted a bit. This demo vehicle came with the grey side panel which looks great on something like the Audi R8 but I’m not so sure on this Kia Niro. That pillar does have a function as it helps channel the air towards the back for better aerodynamics. But I just think it would look better in the same colour as the rest of the body. Thankfully, it does come painted in the same body colour. Also, I think that the rear turn signals should’ve been integrated into the vertical brake lights instead of being mounted into the back bumper. Overall though, I do like the new design of the 2023 Kia Niro EV.
Safety – Every trim level of the 2023 Kia Niro EV has standard automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning with lane keep, blind spot sensors with cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, highway drive assist, and auto high beams. The only optional features that get added on this top Limited trim are front & rear parking sensors, rear parking collision avoidance, rain sensing wipers, and the advanced highway driving assist. This system allows for semi-handsfree driving on most highways and freeways and it’s smart enough to change lanes on its own. However, you have to have at least one hand on the steering wheel for the maneuver to be performed.
Warranty – The 2023 Kia Niro EV is covered by a 5 year / 100,000 km comprehensive and powertrain warranty with the battery and EV components being covered by an 8 year / 150,000 km warranty. In the United States, the comprehensive portion of the warranty is 5 years / 60,000 miles and the powertrain is 10 years / 100,000 miles. For more information on Kia Canada warranty, click here. For Kia USA warranty information, click here.
Conclusion – Overall, the 2023 Kia Niro EV is a funky looking, easy to drive, practical, and long range compact crossover electric SUV. However, I can’t in good conscience recommend this vehicle because it is too expensive.
This top spec demo vehicle costs as much as the long range Hyundai Ioniq 5. Sure, you’re losing things like a head-up display and ventilated seats for example, but you’re getting a bigger car with more range and faster charging capabilities. If you want an EV that is the size of this one, the Chevrolet Bolt EUV has it beat. The Chey has the same driving range, it’s roughly the same size, and it ends in price where this one begins.
Don’t get me wrong, this new generation Kia Niro is a great car but this EV is just too expensive when compared to other EVs on the market today. This is why I think that the 2023 Kia Niro PHEV is the sweet spot for this new generation and it’s the one I’d recommend buying.
Thank you to Kia Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Kia.ca