In the race toward tomorrow, what begins as the exclusive domain of the elite inevitably trickles down into the mangy paws of the masses. Electric cars are a case in point. Just a decade ago, an electric car was a pricey novelty. Today, a host of fully electric but otherwise ordinary cars can be purchased for less than forty grand. The 2019 Kia Niro EV typifies this new breed of mainstream electrification.
It looks just as inconspicuous as any gas-powered crossover and is just as pragmatic as one; the only thing it gives up to its fuel-quaffing competitors is the ability to go from empty to full in five minutes. That the Niro EV can be so normal yet emit zero emissions is a testament to the legitimacy of electric cars and a sure sign of things to come.
What's New for 2019
The Niro itself first shipped in 2017, but the Niro EV is an all-new variant for the 2019 model year.
Choosing Your Kia Niro EV
As the EV represents just one flavor of the Niro – a crossover which also offers a full helping of conventionally-powered trim levels – there's not much left to choice when it comes to trims and options. Choosing between the EX or EX Premium is about all the liberty you're allotted.
Either way, the Kia Niro EV gets its juice from a 64 kWh battery that drives a 201-horsepower electric motor. Total range from this setup is EPA-estimated at 239 miles. Drain the battery completely, and, using the included fast-charging equipment, 100 miles of range can be gained back in 30 minutes. Have the patience to wait 75 minutes, and 80 percent of the battery's capacity will be restored. With a 240-volt outlet (Level 2) and a 7.2 kWh charger, a full charge from empty takes about 9.5 hours.
The hefty battery pack is located under the floor to both lower the center of gravity and mitigate any disruption of interior space. From a packaging perspective, it was a successful ploy, as there's no odd bumps or lumps in the floor or cargo area to give away the lithium ion hiding underneath. If it weren't for the sound emitted under acceleration, which Kia describes as a "fantastic techy whirring noise … that evokes speedy sci-fi craft," it would be easy to assume this was just another gas-powered Niro.
Four drive modes allow for four distinct driving experiences. There's Eco, Normal, Sport, and Eco Plus, with each selection adjusting the level of regenerative braking and climate control settings to deliver a specified mix of efficiency and performance. Regenerative braking can be further adjusted via paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel.
The Niro EV can be spotted from a distance by its exclusive aesthetic touches. There's a closed-off grille (with no engine to cool there's no need for open slats), reshaped rocker panels, revised front and rear bumpers, and EV-specific 17-inch wheels.
Befitting a product that lies upon the leading edge of progress, the Niro EV includes all the usual active safety technologies. These include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and a driver attention monitor.
In-car technology is also not lacking. A 7-inch color touchscreen takes up the best real estate in the center stack, offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, SiriusXM, and voice recognition. Six speakers take care of piping the audio into the cabin. A telematics system notifies drivers of battery life and charging status and can also compute scheduled charging, suggest points of interest, pre-condition the climate control, and notify 911 if the alarm is triggered or the airbags deploy.
The 2019 Kia Niro EV represents yet another option in the budding class of mainstream electric cars. It also represents the third EV from Hyundai/Kia, the other two being the Hyundai Kona Electric and the Kia Soul EV. All three share the same powertrain and a similar footprint. If the Niro EV intrigues you, be sure to consider the Kona Electric and Soul EV as well. The Kona Electric offers more range than the Niro EV and another trim level to choose from, while the Soul EV will have the same range Niro EV but more character than either it or the Kona Electric.
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