Any new car’s a good car when it’s 70 degrees, the roads are dry and the sky’s as blue as your windshield washer fluid. But I had my test electric Kia Niro for 7 days and for 6 of those days, mother nature sprinkled snow all over us.
It made for a great test as cold makes electric cars’ batteries drain more quickly, and it provided me an opportunity to see how the car does in the white stuff and the steep hills surrounding my residence/office.
Available since 2018, the Niro one of those environmentally friendly cars that carries no brag-branding. (Good.) It’s also an SUV, but the peanut-sized kind that will offend no one. This is a “get you where you’re going” ride and there’s nothing wrong with that, though I spent an entire week in it and still couldn’t find it in parking lots amongst cousins Honda and brothers Hyundai, and the snow helped not at all. The Niro’s defining physical characteristic is its distinctive front divots. We can’t all be Teslas.
It’s classified as a compact SUV, but where it differs from what we expect from SUVs is that most SUVs and crossovers provide A) Extra ground clearance and B) all-wheel-drive capability for either bad weather or limited off-roading. The Niro offers neither, meaning I slipped and slid up and down my snowy hills, never in danger but also not gripping the road as one might in an all-wheel drive.
The Niro’s big claim to fame is its outstanding mileage. Since that’s the main point of electrics aside from the fact that they don’t belch smoke into the sky, it’s a great selling point. It delivers the equivalent of 112 MPG city/highway combined, with a range somewhere in the neighborhood of 239 miles.
That’s good news for anyone who wants to go somewhere other than work, the supermarket, the gym or the club. For this year there are also some incremental changes such as an 8-inch standard touch screen, an increase of a full inch from last year. An optional 10.25-inch touch screen and driver drowsiness monitoring is available.
When it’s charging time, you can connect to the Niro’s (standard) fast charger port, which reportedly delivers approximately 100 miles of driving range in around 30 minutes. That’s music to anyone’s ears as the one sticking point for many consumers regarding electrics is they take too long to charge. In your garage or other space offering a 220-volt socket, you can fill up completely in around 9 and ½ hours. Someday the industry will bang that down to 5 minutes – the average time it takes to gas up a regular car (maybe, hopefully) but for now, “Them’s the conditions that prevails.”
Its motor provides 201 horsepower and 291 lb-ft of torque. Regenerative braking is adjustable – from perceptible to quite aggressive. I didn’t touch the mechanism as I didn’t go anywhere more than 25 miles away. Snow, you know. I just thought “I’ll charge later.”
Which brings me to another good thing about the Niro, and electrics in general. I was far more conscious of the dozens of little ways one can save precious energy. Since there’s no roar, there’s no reason for a blast-off – you just waste electricity. I likened it to the dimmer switch in my living room. I turn the light on with the twist of a knob to where I need it to be, instead of blasting the room with light at startup for the thrill of it.
And isn’t the point of all energy conservation? To be more aware of everything you touch that produces light, heat, speed? One gets to be an electricity miser. Nothing wrong with that.
How does the Niro measure up to other electrics currently on the market in a similar price range? Very well, thank you. The Niro offers more motor power than Nissa’s Leaf plus, more room in the rear than Hyundai’s Kona, and more extensive driver assists than the Chevy Bolt.
Speaking of driver assists, the Niro excels in its modernity overall. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration come with, and adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot detection, front collision mitigation and lane departure warning are all on deck. There’s also plenty of interior passenger and storage room, with 18.5 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats. Fold down the seats and it extends to 53 cubic feet, more than enough space for a set of drums, a load of lumber or a trip to the dump. The interior is spacious and comfy and there’s plenty of room for the big and tall.
The Kia Niro EV is a five-passenger battery electric vehicle available in two trim levels, beginning with the EX. The EX Premium, my tester, adds upscale accoutrements like leather upholstery and a premium audio system. A 64-kWh lithium battery and an electric motor comes with both trims. A Combined Charging System (CCS) DC fast charger and a 7.2-kW Level 2 charger are both included.
If you live in an area where winters can be harsh, a battery heater and heat pump help you get a bigger bang for your electric buck.
The electic car revolution roars on (figuratively) despite the internal combustion vehicle continuing to dominate sales worldwide. This year, we’ll see Ford’s Mustang Mach-E, Mini’s Electric Hardtop, Volvo’s Polestar2 and others make their American debuts.
But check out the 2020 Niro which, at $44,000 base price or $47,155 loaded for my premium tester, isn’t cheap. But also have a look at the 2019 or 2018 models which are more or less the same vehicles but which may be discounted.