2022 Kia Niro EV Review

2022 Kia Niro EV - Kia offers a sparking Niro EV


The electric vehicle future continues seeping into the mainstream in many shapes, forms and price ranges.  Those currently owning or driving an EV sing their praises.  Many current ICE (internal combustion engine) drivers have oodles of legitimate concerns and questions before flipping the switch to electromobility.  

Available EV selections continue multiplying quickly and Tesla, the best-known manufacture of EVs in the world, continues greeting new competitors including Kia’s Niro EV delivering quiet comfort and zero emissions in a popular hatchback bodystyle.

South Korean automaker Kia built the impressive front-drive Niro from scratch as an alternative-powered five-door crossover rather than shoehorning emerging technology into an on-the-shelf, existing platform.  The Niro lineup debuted to the world at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show.

The Niro name/family encompasses three distinct alternative fueled technologies.  In addition to an EV, Niro markets a conventional, self-charging gas-electric hybrid requiring no nightly plug in (similar to a first-generation Toyota Prius) arriving in the 2017 model year and a plug-in hybrid-electric version (PHEV) combining the best of emerging and conventional technologies (arriving to the public in 2018).  

The last time a Kia Niro EV came around in the press pool was back in 2019, also the year the Kia EV arrived.   This 2022 utilizes the same platform but incorporates Kia’s new cursive logo inside and out, replacing a block-style sanserif design ensconced inside an oval.  Since 2019 wireless Apple Car Plan and Android Auto charging became standard, so too a larger 10.25-inch in-dash multi-function touch screen.  In the upcoming 2023 model year, the Niro family delivers a second-generation update.  

Kia literature classifies Niro as a subcompact, although dimensions skew towards the larger end of that spectrum.  Size wise, it measures six inching longer than its kissing cousin, the Hyundai Kona EV.  Niro measures smaller than Volkswagen’s mid-size ID.4 EV crossover and Ford’s stylish Mustang Mach E EV. 

Exterior styling wise, Kia went out of its way to maintain a mainstream appearance with little fanfare to its EV underpinnings save for a diminutive, rectangular ‘Eco Electric’ badge on the lower right back hatch door and a portion of the driver’s side front grille (continuing forward with Kia’s elongated Bow-Tie design) that swings open to reveal the vehicle’s all-important plug-in port. 

The long 64-killowatt, one-thousand pound Lithium-Ion polymer battery pack is built into the chassis, powering a 201-horsepower 150 kilowatt electric motor while opening opportunities and creating challenges.  Riding positions rate a bit higher than in conventional compacts, creating good visual commands of the road ahead while head room remains surprisingly plentiful. 

Steering wheel feel and muscle memory mimic that of a traditional ICE experience.  Recharging dynamics aside, any newbie to EVs should find the driving experience a worry-free transition.  Electric vehicles benefit from instant torque, delivering quick forward motion from a standing start. A small wheelbase (distance between front and rear axles) allows for a tight turning radius welcome in suburban Chicago shopping malls.  It’s very easy to park.

Two returning EV trim levels include a well-equipped EX base model ($39,990 starting price) and EX Premium ($44,650). Both trims remain eligible for the Federal Government’s $7,500 tax credit redeemable during income tax filing time and available in all 50 states including Illinois. Early EV entries often times limited sales to coastal states. Tesla and Chevrolet EVs no longer quality for the $7,500 incentive.  

Our Premium’s bottom line ended at $47,080 with $1,175 designation charge, $1,100 cold weather package and $155 floor mats.  Premium trims add a power sunroof, LED interior red pen lighting, ventilated front seats and rear park assist. 

Both trims include an impressive array of high-tech passive and active safety nuances, including variable speed cruise control, rear-cross traffic collision warning, blind-spot collision warning and forward collision avoidance assistance. 

Fully charged, the Kia Niro EV delivers a workable 239 miles of all-electric driving.  That’s a conservative estimate as overall driving range gets a boost from regenerative braking, which creates and returns energy (and additional driving miles) to the battery by simply engaging the brake pedal. 

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries work most effectively in mild and warmer temperatures as compared to below zero readings (don’t we all!).  Niro EX Premium trims offer a cold-weather mode selectable from a dashboard button, better coddling the battery with a warming burst during frigid periods.  Driving habits and battery age also figure prominently into estimated electric ranges.

Large side doors (impressive for a ‘subcompact’) swing open in a welcoming wide fashion, so much so a sturdy spouse recovering from a third knee surgery and sporting a long immobilizing leg brace could maneuver in and out with relative ease. Two adults fit with optimal row-two comfort, although the lack of a vertical transmission floor hump welcomes a third in a pinch.  Limited but useful cargo room behind the second row measures in at 18.5 cubic feet. 

The emitted sound from EVs when rolling along remains eerily silent (no engine chug or idle), so much so manufacturers were encouraged to add a bit of cladder suggested by the visually impaired community, who depend upon sound cues when navigating surroundings. When backing in reverse, Niro pulsates stead low-volume beeps similar in duration to cargo vans or large trucks.  When traveling forward at speeds up to 24 miles per hour, a gentle hi-pitched hum emits delivering a futuristic audio hymn. 

A large circular electronic transmission dial between front buckets allows drivers to twist and choose from drive, neutral and reverse.  To engage Park, just push a small center button marked ‘P.’ All indicate with bright red illumination.  It’s vertically framed by assorted push buttons operating heated/cooled seats, electronic parking brake, heated steering wheel and a selection of driving modes (eco, normal sport).

The lower center dash includes an alcove for wirelessly charging Smartphones.  Directly above are three unique charging/plug ports (including a 12-volt outlet) for re-energizing portable electronics of all sorts.  The In-dash center touch screen comes with instinctive interplay and a well-marked row of push buttons below as well as old-school twist knobs for volume and radio station select.

The easily interpreted animated seven-inch instrument panel features two circular orbs flanking a center digital screen.  The left orb includes a digital countdown of estimated driving range with the outer circle visualizing ‘Charging’ and ‘Power’ cycles of the battery.  The right orb illustrates digital miles per hour and a circular-styled bar graph illustrating that same info.

The intuitively designed dashboard also gently welcomes those new to EVing with minimal information overload.  Material quality of the dash and seats skews towards entry level, although front bucket seat backs remain supportive, not overly subtle. Well-marked push buttons and dials monitor HVAC controls.

Cruise control monitors from the steering wheel’s 3 O’clock wing while secondary audio and cell phone buttons locate at 9 o’clock. Push-button electric start resides on the dashboard right of the steering column. 

Those new to EVing need familiarization with the charging process.  The best simplistic analogy may be comparison to a conventional Smartphone also relying upon a lithium battery recharges (albeit on a smaller scale with faster charge times). All EVs come with a wall socket charging cord interacting with common 120-volt household current (known as Level One). The downside concerns slow results.  Charging a spent Niro EV utilizing 120-volts takes in the neighborhood of 60 hours.

Early EV adapters during the past decade wisely invested in 240-volt Level 2 stations for homes/garages, reducing charge time to a workable nine-and-half hours.  Level 2 prices vary depending upon rebates and offers, but fall into the $600-$1,300 range.

Utilizing commercial-use DC (direct current) fast chargers provides approximately 100 miles of travel in 30 minutes or 80 percent of total battery capacity in 75 minutes. In a sense, EV charging mimics that of Smartphones in that the final 10 percent of charging happens at a slower pace.  More DC infrastructure charging station openings are planned along interstates and shopping malls during the next half decade to spur the transition.

Those without access to garages face additional charging hurdles of which the industry is well aware.  Cordless, wireless charging technology, now common with Smartphone, is in the works within the EV community, but upscaling this concept will take time (probably measured in decades). 

As with every Kia product, Niro offers an industry best 10-year 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.  In addition, Niro EV adds a 10-year/100,000-mile limited battery warranty protecting the lithium-ion battery.  
Price as tested:  $47,080

Battery: 64-KWh Lithium Ion
Electric Motor Horsepower: 201
Electric range: 239-300 miles
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Overall Length: 172.2 inches
Overall Height: 61.8 inches
Overall Width: 71.1 inches
Curb weight:  3,854 pounds
Battery warranty: 10-years/100,000 miles
Assembly: South Korea

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.