Canadian pricing for both the 2019 and 2020 Kia Niro EV starts at $44,995.
The top-trim 2019 SX Touring, as tested, retails for $53,995, $54,495 in 2020.
The contents are all there, but where’s the personality?
The coverage of electric vehicle unveilings is only just warming up. If you think there are plenty of EVs in the sea, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Speaking of seeing, one factor in selecting a new EV for many buyers is projecting the fact that their vehicle is electric. The Kia Niro, although all versions are electrified in one way or another, disappears in all backgrounds.
We all long to belong, be it a car club, an association, or a still rarefied group of electric vehicle owners. Most EVs on sale today are unique in one way or another. Or, in the Nissan LEAF’s case, it partially made a name for itself by being physically very different early on.
Styling now plays an extra role where not only must it identify the brand but it must convey to onlookers that the vehicle, they are examining is fully electric. It can be argued that a portion of EV buyers care not about appearances however most who do make the purchase could still be considered early-adopters and typically, they want to get the word out.
Sadly for Kia Niro owners, the only words that will be uttered are: “Where is it?”, or “Which one is it?” But frankly, this is about as far as the criticism can be taken when it comes to the Kia Niro EV. Once on board, with the exception of some bland plastic surfaces, the interior shows nicely. The big difference between the 2019 and 2020 model years is the screen which now measures 10.25 inches, over the 8-inch unit.
Ergonomics and comfort levels are beyond reproach. Storage areas are plentiful, the same goes for interior space. Front and rear occupants are treated to plenty of room and the trunk is reasonably sized with its 629-litre (18.5 cu.ft.) capacity.
Trimmed Wrong In Canada
The only other is trims, specifically in Canada. In the US, the base $39,090 EX includes heated seats and can be optionally equipped with a cold-weather package that includes a heated steering wheel, battery heater, and heat pump. In Canada, the base EX, at $44,995, comes only one way. In order to get these useful, features one has to purchase the SX Premium. Thankfully, the EX does include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a 7-inch screen (8-inch for 2020), satellite radio, keyless entry, and much more.
And this is the Kia Niro EV’s Achille’s heel. Besides styling, a subjective matter, the value proposition in Canada is flat. The fantastic Hyundai Kona EV is priced similarly to the Niro but can be spec’d with the “cold weather package” equivalent for a minor price hike. Worse, across the showroom floor, there’s the uber-cool Soul EV that includes the accessories for $2,400 less (but has the less powerful 134 horsepower motor). Truthfully, with these two options slotted within the Hyundai-Kia family of EVs, there’s no reason to select the Niro.
Still Drives Like A Fun EV
If you opt for the Niro, you will get the 150 kW or 201 horsepower Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor that also produces 291 lb.-ft. of instant torque. To it is attached a 64 kWh battery that, on a full charge, can deliver 239 miles, or 385 km of range.
The 7.2 kW onboard charger means that a full charge on a Level 1 charger (household plug) will require 59 hours. On a Level 2 charger (home charger), the Niro needs just under 10 hours. On a Level 3 100 kW DC Fast Charger, you’re looking at 54 minutes for an 80% charge. All these specs are well within the current established norms, with the possible exception of Tesla vehicles.
On the road, the Kia Niro EV rides smoothly and, as all EVs, quietly. I found that the drive modes, although they affect throttle response, are essentially useless. I left the Niro in “Normal” all week and never once desired sharper acceleration. In fact, this EV, like its cousins, is impressively quick. Torque is so plentiful that the rear end squats immediately from strong throttle inputs.
There is true guilt-free pleasure to be gained from driving an EV. The Niro is sufficiently agile thanks to decently-tuned steering and properly mannered brakes. On the subject, the regenerative braking can be adjusted via the steering-wheel-mounted paddles. If you hold the left-hand one, the Niro will come to a full stop – best be good a gauging speed and distances though.
Get A Soul Or A Hyundai Kona EV
The 2019 (and 2020) Kia Niro EV is another well-sorted EV from Kia and Hyundai. We can only surmise that internal product-planning was forced to package the trims as they did. Proof that this arrangement is detrimental to the Niro’s success is that nearly three times more Soul EVs (1,409) were sold in 2019 over Niro EVs (523) in Canada. Further support comes from the fact that 3,598 Hyundai Kona EVs were delivered in 2019.
Our opinion in this case is to follow the crowd.