Playing it safe. Getting an electric vehicle (EV) still feels like a leap of faith for most buyers, so the 2020 Kia Niro EV works hard to make everyone comfortable. Aside from the alternative power source, it plays things right down the middle.
This starts with the body, which is your typical compact crossover. The standout feature is the grille, or lack thereof. The nose is covered with a dimpled panel, which covers the charging port and betrays the car’s eco-friendly mission. Otherwise, the Niro EV looks exactly like its hybrid and plug-in hybrid siblings.
Inside, a twist-dial shifter and reconfigured center console are the only differences. In many ways, that’s a good thing. Kia fans and crossover shoppers will feel right at home here.
Best in a straight line. The Niro EV carries more than 1,008 pounds of batteries, which are put to good use producing 201 horsepower and 291 pound-feet of torque. That’s quite a lot for a vehicle this size, and it’s all available from a standstill, making the Niro EV perky off the line. Power is plentiful for around-town driving, and it doesn’t falter during highway passing maneuvers.
Unfortunately, the suspension doesn’t match the power. Then again, we can hardly blame it – the Niro EV is more than 700 pounds heavier than a standard Niro hybrid. It doesn’t feel nearly as agile as many small crossovers, and it’s easily unsettled on a curvy backroad.
All the same, most buyers won’t be buying the Niro EV for its agility. They’ll buy it for efficiency, where it excels. According to the EPA, the Niro EV gets 239 miles of range, which is more than enough for many drivers, and achieves 112 miles per gallon of gasoline equivalent (MPGe) combined.
Practical, not premium. All those batteries take up space, but the Niro EV still feels comfortable inside. The second row loses a little head room and leg room, but still compares well to competitors like the Mazda CX-3. More good news: the Niro EV loses less than a single cubic foot of cargo capacity to its hybrid siblings, checking in with 18.5 cubic feet of cargo space.
The front seat is unchanged, but that’s not all good news. It’s spacious enough in the front row, but the bench-like seats lack thigh support and may be cramped for taller drivers.
Interior materials are durable but fall short of luxury. There’s plenty of plastic, and the design does little to charm. Road noise is average for an EV. None of these would be sins for an ordinary Niro, but with a price tag starting past $40,000 before incentives, the Niro EV draws stiffer competition.
Features galore. To atone for its price tag, the Niro EV offers an impressive range of standard features. Even base models come with an 8-inch infotainment system, smartphone compatibility, wireless charging, and advanced safety features like adaptive cruise control.
This entry-level trim may be harder to find, and most Niro EVs on dealer lots are likely to be in Premium trim. We wouldn’t be mad about the upgrade: the Premium comes with leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a premium audio system, and a generous 10.3-inch infotainment system.
All those features come in handy because the Niro EV’s competition includes the Tesla Model 3, Hyundai Kona Electric, and Nissan LEAF. All three are polished packages, but Kia keeps things close by providing value.
Final thoughts. The 2020 Kia Niro EV may not make an electrified future look exciting, but at least it makes it palatable. Savvy packaging and a strong powertrain make the Niro EV likable, although it could use an extra helping of refinement – and a diet.
There are certainly more glamorous choices for those looking to go green, such as a Tesla or a hybrid Lexus. But for buyers who prioritize functionality over flash, the Niro EV is a good option.
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