If you want to see how quickly the electric car landscape has changed in recent years, take a look at the redesigned 2023 Kia Niro EV.
When the first-generation Niro EV launched for the 2019 model year (after the Niro hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants), that was a big deal. The Niro was Kia’s first electric vehicle not based on a conventional petrol model, and the first aimed at high sales volumes.
The second-generation 2023 Niro EV offers more tech, more space and more outgoing styling than its predecessor, but it’s still in the Kia EV6’s shadow. Once Kia’s main EV attraction, the Niro is being refocused on a more affordable option to take on the likes of the Chevrolet Bolt EV/Bolt EUV, Volkswagen ID.4 and Nissan Leaf.
Kia plans to offer the Niro EV in trim levels named Wind and Wave, but hasn’t released pricing for either. Note that the previous generation 2022 Niro EV started at $41,245; the new model might see a price increase due to its updates. And because it’s assembled in South Korea, the 2023 Niro EV won’t qualify for the revamped federal electric vehicle tax credit, Kia confirmed.
Design and interior
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Like the previous generation, the Niro is part of a three-pronged range that also includes the Niro Hybrid and the Niro PHEV (plug-in hybrid models). All three retain the big wagon form of the first-generation Niro, but with much bolder styling.
Where the previous Niro was a tasteless mix of car and SUV styling cues, the 2023 Niro is the result of the same fearless design department that produced the EV6 and the Kia Sportage 2023. The traditional automotive “face” has been revamped with a visor-like element, a protruding grille and hexagonal lighting elements. Contrast trim panels break up the profile view and conceal “Air Blade” elements around the taillights which Kia says reduce aerodynamic drag.
Kia has used sustainable materials to further reduce the environmental impact of the Niro EV.
Kia has also gotten creative with the interior design, opting for lots of curved surfaces that blend together to create a nice visual flow between the dashboard and door panels. Dashboard displays are also well integrated, so it doesn’t look like the designers simply nailed iPads to the dash like in some other cars. Kia also claims the interior is 100% vegan and uses sustainable materials like recycled wallpaper (in the headliner) and eucalyptus leaves (in the seats) to further reduce the environmental impact of the Niro EV.
The redesigned Niro EV is 2.5 inches longer than the previous generation model and its wheelbase has increased by 0.8 inches to 107.1 inches in total. This results in a fairly compact vehicle with generous interior space for its size. The Kia has more headroom and legroom in both rows than a Chevrolet Bolt EUV or Nissan Leaf, but less than the VW ID.4. Likewise, the Niro EV’s 22.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up and 63.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down beats the Chevy and Nissan, but trails the VW.
Technology, infotainment and driver assistance
The standard infotainment system includes a 10.25-inch touchscreen and a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster in the same enclosure to create the appearance of one continuous screen. Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard (Kia doesn’t offer wireless versions with this touchscreen), as well as wireless phone charging. The complement of USB ports includes a USB-C port and two USB-A ports for the front seats, as well as a pair of seatback-mounted USB-A ports for the rear passengers.
The lack of Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto is inconvenient, but the front USB ports and phone tray are at least well placed for hookup. The infotainment system itself was also easy to use, with a quick-response touchscreen and responsive menu layouts. .
Safety features include forward collision warning (with pedestrian detection), automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, driver attention monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, warning Safety Exit Monitor and Rear Occupant Alert standard equipment, plus Blind-Spot Collision Avoidance for pulling out of parallel parking spaces.
The infotainment system was easy to use, with a responsive touchscreen and responsive layout.
Adaptive cruise control is also standard, with stop-and-go functionality and navigation-based curve prediction, which Honda and Toyota’s standard systems lack. Kia’s Highway Driving Assist II system, which adds automated lane centering for highway driving, is also available and has a self-learning feature that adapts the system’s responses to your driving style, Kia claims. .
With its ability to control acceleration, braking and steering while requiring drivers to keep their hands on the wheel, Highway Driving Assist II roughly matches the capability of the ProPilot Assist system available on the Nissan Leaf and travel assistance available on the VW ID.4. system. But the Chevy Bolt EUV can be equipped with Super Cruise, which allows hands-free driving on designated stretches of freeway (this system is not available on the Bolt EV, however).
The Niro EV is also available with the Digital Key system already seen on other Kia models and those from related brands Hyundai and Genesis. Digital Key allows drivers to use a smartphone or other device instead of the key fob, although in the Niro EV it only works with iPhones, Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy phones for the moment.
The Niro EV has more power than other Niro variants. Its single electric motor sends 201 horsepower and 188 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels, compared to 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft. of torque for the Niro Hybrid and 180 hp and 195 lb-ft. for the Niro PHEV (these versions are also front-wheel drive). A 64.8 kilowatt-hour battery delivers the juice.
Kia claims the Niro EV will do zero to 62 mph in 7.8 seconds – faster than hybrid and plug-in hybrid models, but not exactly remarkable. Contrary to the EV6, the Niro EV makes no claim to sportiness. And it was pretty quick for a regular car in real-world traffic, anyway.
The Niro EV does not claim to be sporty.
The Niro EV’s chassis also looked ordinary. The Kia didn’t go above and beyond in its ride quality, and it wasn’t much fun on twisty roads, but it didn’t have any real issues either. We think it would make a perfectly satisfying daily driver – but don’t expect anything more than that.
Like other electric cars, the Niro EV uses regenerative braking to recover energy when decelerating. Kia offers several levels of regeneration, which can be adjusted with paddles on the steering wheel, as well as an automatic mode called i-Pedal. This is supposed to choose the most efficient setting and will recall regeneration at times when coasting is deemed best. While this sounds great in theory, it can also leave the driver guessing how much regen they’ll get and whether or not they should use the brake pedal to slow the car down.
Autonomy, charging and safety
Official range and efficiency ratings for the Niro EV have yet to be released, but Kia is aiming for 253 miles. That would put the Niro in the same ballpark as the 259-mile Chevy Bolt EV and the 247-mile Bolt EUV without eclipsing the Niro. Brother Kia EV6, which exceeds 300 miles in some configurations. An optional heat pump and battery heater should help preserve range in cold weather.
The Niro EV can charge DC fast, but only at 85 kilowatts. That means it takes around 45 minutes to go from 10% to 80% charge, which isn’t great considering many EVs can do the same thing in around 20 minutes. The Niro EV charges at 11kW from a Level 2 AC source, requiring seven hours for a full recharge. That’s closer to average, at least, and the Niro EV can also power your devices thanks to the built-in vehicle-to-charge (V2L) capability, which draws power from the battery.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have not released crash test ratings for the 2023 Niro EV or its hybrid and plug-in hybrid siblings.
Like other Kias, the Niro EV has an impressive 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and a five-year or 60,000-mile limited warranty.
How DT would configure this car
There isn’t too much of a difference between the Niro EV Wind and Wave trim levels, but the higher-end Wave model has remote smart park assist and the inverter that enables V2L power output, as well as some additional convenience features like a power front passenger seat, ventilated front seats (heated front seats are standard on both models) and a memory system for seat settings. Highway Driving Assist II is also available on the Wave model, but optional at an additional cost. So if you want the most technical content, this is the one for you.
While styling is subjective, we think the Niro EV stands out visually, and Kia’s efforts to use durable interior materials are noteworthy. The Niro EV also offers decent interior space for its size and respectable range. That should make a good companion to the EV6 in Kia’s lineup, but not a world leader.
Competition from electric vehicles has grown since the first appearance of the Kia Niro EV. The The Chevy Bolt EUV is more fun to drive and is available with the more sophisticated Super Cruise hands-free driver assistance system, while the VW ID.4 offers up to 275 miles of range in some configurations and is available with all-wheel drive. The Hyundai Kona Electric offers many of the same specs as the Niro, with a range of 258 miles, although it’s unclear how long it will last. While it’s still quite a ways off, the 2024 Chevy Equinox EV’s $30,000 base price and more traditional SUV packaging could undermine the Niro EV’s value argument going forward.
So while the Niro EV is an attractive electric car, it’s not the only one. That’s great for EV buyers, but maybe not for Kia.