2019 Kia Niro EV First Drive: The New Affordable Long-Range Leader


Kia overtakes Chevy and Hyundai for EV range, space, and comfort at an affordable price.

After a full day of driving the 2019 Kia Niro EV through California’s Monterey Bay region, the all-electric crossover’s real-world range appears to be about 250 miles. The Niro EV’s official E.P.A. range is 239 miles, but 260 miles was indicated on the dash as we left the hipster Hotel Paradox in Santa Cruz.

After the day’s journey of 155.7 miles, the Niro’s range estimator showed 93 miles’ worth of miles remaining and an efficiency of 3.8 miles per kilowatt-hour. The dashboard indicated that 38 percent of the battery’s capacity remained. We drove in a mix of driving modes and styles – from easy city cruising to pedal-to-the floor passing. Based on our drive as well as multiple conversations with other writers on the trip and anecdotes from Kia engineers, the Niro EV can easily beat the E.P.A. estimate by at least 10 miles.

2019 Kia Niro EV (Photos: Bradley Berman)

Like the Hyundai Kona, the Kia Niro EV provides four levels of regenerative braking. Using steering-wheel-mounted paddles, the level can be set from Level 0 to Level 3. Kia told me that each step up adds about .05 g of regen force. Tugging on the left steering-wheel paddle three times, Kia said, puts the Niro’s regen braking level to about 0.25 g.

Depending on the road’s incline and other factors, Level 3 regen can bring the car to a complete stop after a long coast. But for a useful, no-pedal stop – similar to the BMW i3 or the Chevy Bolt in L – you also need to pull and hold the left paddle. Kia’s Garrett Ono, manager of product strategy and regulatory compliance, called it a “hold to stop” function.

Fortunately, it was straightforward to configure each of the three driving modes (Normal, Sport, and Eco) to a persistent preferred level of regen. By choosing Level 3 of “Coast Energy Regeneration” in the Normal mode, the highest available regen level becomes the default. In this way, when you start the car on your next trip, it’s already configured to have a high level of regen (about 0.25 g).

EV purists might not consider this level a true one-pedal set up because throughout the day – even at Level 3 – I still needed to pull and hold the left paddle to bring the car to a stop.

When commencing a trip, the Kia Niro EV creeps to about 4 miles per hour without touching the accelerator pedal. However, after bringing the car to a stop with heavy regen, the Niro EV doesn’t creep forward when you let go of the pedal.

All told, the driving experience would be entirely accessible to electric-car newbies. “We developed the Niro as an everyday car. It’s unobtrusive,” said Ono. “We carried that over into the EV version.”

Passenger Comfort

I’m an everyday Chevy Bolt driver and the fully loaded, upper trim version of the Niro EV – the version that we drove – felt like a step up in quality. The Niro’s fit, finish, and seat comfort was nicer than what’s found in the Bolt. I appreciated the availability of a sunroof.

Yes, Kia uses abundant plastic, but the design of those hard materials was pleasant to the touch. The leather stitching matches the treatment in luxury vehicles. The cabin design and creature comforts were at least one notch better than the Bolt – and two or more notches improved from the latest Nissan LEAF.

The Niro’s most significant advantage over competing long-range, affordable EVs is its length and profile. At our stop near the Monterey Aquarium, we parked the Niro EV behind a Kona. This picture shows the difference between the two models.

The Hyundai Kona (left) is 164.6 inches. The Niro (right) is 172.2 inches.

I also made a side-by-side comparison of the hatch cargo between the Niro EV and the Bolt, and the Kia is the clear winner.

The 64-kWh battery pack is spread out low beneath most of the passenger cabin. Compared to Niro’s two hybrid versions, this results in a loss of headroom and legroom that Ono estimated at 1.5 inches. The high floor also robs the back seat of some thigh support.

On the Road

The Niro EV uses a 200-horsepower motor mounted to the front axle. Given its extra size, the Niro EV is not as fast off the line as the Bolt or Kona. Even when punching the Niro EV’s accelerator, you are not tossed back in your seat. The launch starts modestly until it reaches about 15 miles per hour – and only then does the torque kick in with alacrity.

Even in Sport mode, there’s a lot of play in the accelerator pedal in the first inch or two. You can also press the pedal all the way to the floor without the motor responding accordingly. The Kia Niro EV is more than capable in both city and highway maneuvers, but the throttle is mapped more for comfort and efficiency than rapid electric performance.

The pedestrian warning sound, a futuristic whirring tone, gets louder as you transition from a slow creep to around 10 miles per hour. It is louder than competing EV models, even encroaching into the cabin. In keeping with the Kia value-oriented brand, the Niro EV is not the quietest electric car on the market. Of course, it beats any combustion car regarding low decibels. But when accelerating from about 40 to 55 miles per hour, there’s a high pitch that resembles a muted jet engine. I prefer absolute quiet, but my driving partner liked the Kia’s high-tech whine.

The feel of the steering wheel was an excellent midway point between comfortable and sporty. While the steering gets slightly tighter in Sport mode, it is not separately controllable. Like all aspects of the Niro electric crossover, the road manners felt highly competent. There’s a sense of weight and stiffness from the big, low-slung battery pack but the car doesn’t feel ponderous or uneasy over bumps.

There’s no frunk in the Niro EV. The platform was designed to accommodate conventional hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains so the “engine” cabin has space that might have been put to better use in a purpose-built EV. “There is some compromise when you don’t go with a dedicated EV platform,” admitted Ono.

I asked (again) if Kia was planning to design and produce a ground-up, purpose-built EV in the future – to take full advantage of the powertrain and packaging benefits of an electric powertrain. “There’s plenty of potential for that,” Ono responded. That could be a couple of years in the future.

In the meantime, my Bolt’s lease is up in about a year. After today’s drive, the Kia Niro EV is the frontrunner to become my next electric car. Now, it’s a matter of waiting to see exactly how the all-electric Kia is priced.

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182 Comments on "2019 Kia Niro EV First Drive: The New Affordable Long-Range Leader"

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Nice! Here is hoping that it is priced close to the Bolt and not too high. I hope they add a little more torque/quickness to the vehicle in the years to come.
Pricing and availability will be crucial, I could see Kia failing on both. Hope not though.

Availability more than price. If what Elon said yesterday is true, Model Y will be available within the year and they’ll probably produce 1-2 thousand per month and ramp up very quick. By then, if Kia is still producing compliance car numbers, this car will not be able to compete.

You should put your deposit down for their “$35,000” model Y, then. Lol.

I am guessing Standard Range Model Y will be probably $40,000-45,000 and who knows when it will be available… but price doesn’t really matter in the beginning. Regardless, in Feb 2020, Niro will sell 200 cars a month. Model Y will sell 2,000.

Model Y will be $50k starting I’ll bet you

Will- Model Y will start around 45K with Dual Motors…

Hopefully in the US, the DM Tesla Model Y will not be over $50K with PUP.

Reality and present says the Kona and soon Niro are cars you can buy. Model Y it’s still far. But even if we guess into the future you should use the model 3 price today as reference and the Y will be more expensive for sure, so probably north of $50k. In 1 or 2 years Kona, Niro and others can become cheaper too.
It’s true that many are not very interested in selling EVs, but when real money can be make out of them you can be sure Kia and all will try everything to sell their EVs against competition.

Are you suggesting Tesla is making fake money?

Good point. Tesla is raking in the cash now. I’m sure it’s not lost on big auto but they are caught between a battery and an ICE engine.

No, he’s suggesting Tesla isn’t making much money.

…which is of course entirely wrong; Tesla is making a very healthy gross profit margin. It gets very tiresome seeing Tesla detractors and pravduh dispensers describing Tesla’s corporate strategy of investing most of its profits in growing the company as “losing” money.

Tesla is now making a comfortable profit, but still the Tesla bashers try to find some way to continue beating that dead horse.

Oh, look at you Mr. Moneybags! Price matters a whole lot to most people, even in the beginning.

If thats the case, Tesla would not have sold 140,000 model 3’s last year. A lot of people made compromises last year and spent more than they can afford.

And it appears that the demand in the u.s. is actually softening

After the credit is cut in half and in Jan…why is that surprising to you?

It’s not surprising but the fact that Tesla is focusing on mid and high price range model 3 production for markets outside the U S. suggests that demand for higher priced Model 3’s is softening in the States . Which is the exact opposite of what Tesla fans have been saying when anyone raised the possibility that once the giant backlog of orders were fulfilled it would slow. That was decried as FUD and supposedly demand would grow exponentially.

Yeah, demand for automobiles softens a lot in January and February. It’s almost like that’s a predictable trend, every year… 🙄

Or the backlog of orders is getting filled and demand for $60k sedans isn’t growing exponentially nationwide. The story I heard was once a model 3 is brought home all the neighbors will get one , pretty soon a million or 2 a year out the door…..

Actually, I don’t think what you’re saying is true.

A lot of people make good money, especially here in CA. Unfortunately, a lot more people don’t. There are enough of the former to easily account for Tesla’s sales (they don’t really have to sacrifice to do it), but the abundance of the latter means that an EV future cannot be built on $50K automobiles alone.

For a truly green revolution to happen we need cars in the $15K and $20K price range. It seems a lot of people touting Tesla’s success lose sight of that. It’s not going to work for every manufacturer to just copy Tesla’s focus on the $40-$50K market.

For the EV revolution to triumph, we need lots of EVs to be made, so the costs for manufacturing will come down. That economy of scale is going to be achieved in the price range of $30k+ cars.

Profitable $15k and $20k EVs will be the result of cost reductions achieved in more expensive cars, and won’t happen in first-world countries until economy of scale brings down the prices in a higher price segment.

You’re trying to put the cart before the horse.

Y is to be a high volume affordable suv, so the entry price will be less than or equal to the entry $35k Model 3 that it’s based on. Remember, Model X is just $3k more than Model S, and the X has the expensive winged rear doors that has to cost more than $3k in production costs.

Also noting that Elon is expecting Y sales to be 50 to 100% more than Model 3 sales, and what is keeping Model 3 sales down is affordability. As as we know, high volume is the key to EV affordability and the Y will need to sell in China in high volume as well, which demands affordable EVs.

Looking at the Niro EV, it’s a retrofit of old school design with new technology added. Like a smart phone stuffed in side a bulky, heavy old school rotary phone, or a laptop that looks like a typewriter. Kia seems to have the technology part down, but the packaging is still a design problem for them.

I disagree. Most Tesla fans criticize other car makers for making their cars look purposely weird in order to show that they are electric, the Kia looks just like any other day today crossover which is probably a good thing for sales. the fact of the matter is other than people who are EV fans and therefore seek out Tesla probably most regular people who are going to their local dealer looking for their next car aren’t on the specifically asked for an EV.

I like the Niro size and looks ok, but it could have been better all around if the platform was all EV, instead of shared with PHEV/ICE like the Kona. Tesla, GM, Nissan, and now VW all agree that’s the best way going forward for BEV production. It could have better aerodynamics etc.

Having said that, it’s great that the Niro and Kona are being produced at volumes greater than compliance EV requirements!

I agree that It doesn’t hurt to look a little more like a normal vehicle. I personally don’t love the look of Leaf because they tried too hard to make it look different. But model 3 looks are better and has better aerodynamics too. Best of both worlds.

Seems premature to brag about the Niro when the price hasn’t yet been announced. From the review elsewhere on InsideEVs today, I think Kia will have a winner if it is produced and priced for high sales volume. But that’s a big “if”, and I won’t be at all surprised if the Niro turns out to be just another low-volume compliance car.

Move over Bolt, here comes the Niro to fall into the same low – volume hole.
If priced over the 3s and Ys, or anything close, guess what we’ll buy

Where can I get a $35k Model 3?

“Y is to be a high volume affordable suv, so the entry price will be less than or equal to the entry $35k Model 3 that it’s based on.”

Please find a dictionary and look up the definition of what you have just described. Now try to not laugh yourself to death. And also try to convince yourself that you are of a at least a relatively average intelligence. Good luck with that ! 😲😂😆

Eventually they’ll run out of peop6who want to pay the Tesla premium.

Why? Can you get the Tesla premium from someone else?

I don’t know can you? The Tesla premium is the cost of the battery. Tesla build quality and refinement is maybe on par with a Honda Accord at two to three times the price though. Anyone who knows anything about the subject knows that the battery is the most expensive part of the car, it is easier to hide the cost of the battery in a more expensive car then in a $25,000 car. By coming out as an all electric car company with a CEO that apparently a lot of people have a man crush on Tesla could get away with selling all electric cars at that higher price but other car companies didn’t go all in because you couldn’t make a profit selling a million $25,000 BEV’s. Even if a higher-end company like Mercedes went all electric I doubt they would sell as well as Tesla because classic Mercedes fans might not also be electric car fans and vice versa, there are many EV fans who aren’t traditional “car guys/people” and many aren’t interested in buying a vehicle from a so-called legacy auto maker.

The cost Tesla pays for a 100 kWh pack is no more than $15,000 assembled, probably less. Tesla probably pays $10,000 for the 75 kWh M3 pack.

Tesla bashers have been predicting that since 2012, if not before.

How is that working out for the Tesla bashers, hmmm?
😆 😆 😆

you are correct they will be selling 12 million cars at an average sale price of $75,000 any day now right around the time the average person has their salary doubled….😂😂😂🤣

Ha ha ha! I would love the Model Y, but don’t think it will be price comparable and to this Kia Niro and available widely in the US before 2022. You can lease this Niro now and save your pennies for the Y…I just might do that. I’m currently enjoying the 2017 Soul EV…everything except the limited range.

Or $35k Tesla Pickup 😂😂😂😂

Right, because all time and price estimates were spot on from Elon.

Elon’s timelines are always running years late, yet Tesla stays years ahead of everyone else! 😉

No tax credits for Model Y vs full tax credit for Kia

And that doesn’t mean beans to those who dont pay that much in income tax to start with. so that’s is one more point why the lower middle class is not going to buy one, until they get those prices down to a reasonable point.

It still matters for leasing. Your tax liability doesn’t matter in that case as the leasing company claims the credit and passes it on to the lease customer.

I doubt many lower middle class folks are looking at $35K cars anyway.

Although some leasing companies may pass the credit or part of the credit along to lessees, it is very rare. Generally, they keep the credit and offer little to no discount to the customer.

Definitely not rare… and i got that and then some more $ on top on both my ev leases so far.

This is definitely not true in my experience. It’s passed along on the vast majority of leases from what I saw when last looking at EVs. GM may not have passed the whole thing along with the Bolt, but they passed on at least part of it. Passing the credit through is why you can get some truly outrageous deals on unwanted (usually low range EVs).

The fact is, there isn’t much demand currently for EVs at full retail price–they still cost too much. Without the credit rolled in, few EVs would even sell (even with it, you can argue that in percentage terms few EVs sell anyway).

“Generally, they [leasing companies] keep the credit and offer little to no discount to the customer.”

You might want to look into that subject, Steven. I’ve certainly read elsewhere that passing the savings along is pretty commonplace.

I don’t know that seems to be almost the average price of a new car these days.

A $32K car with 8K down will cost you almost $400 a month for 60 months at 1.5% interest.

A lot of people never buy new cars at all, because they simply can’t afford to.

Because at current rates of production and availability it will take Kia/ Hyundai 743 years to exhaust their tax credits?

Sadly, yes. Lots of excitement currently about the Kia Niro EV, but if it’s just another EV made and sold in only compliance car numbers, then it’s much ado about nothing.

I doubt the model Y will compete in the same price range of the e-Niro in the foreseeable future.
If you can afford a model Y, you can consider an e-Niro as an alternative, while the other way around is unlikely. I have kind of a feeling that many people forget why someone buys let say a Forester, rather than a Q5, or a Corolla instead than a BMW 3

I could afford either – though I’m loathe to spend a bunch of money on a new car when I already have a perfectly functional ICE mode. BUT…EV…I want to support!!

That said, if the Model Y is anything like the Model 3 on the interior (and I suspect it will be) I’ll take the e-Niro. I want knobs and buttons in my vehicle, not everything on the touch screen. I will (hopefully!) be able to get those on the Niro at a much lower cost than the Tesla which misses them.

No way the Y is available in a year – IMHO They have not even officially shown a prototype — and it takes NUMEROUS of months of real world testing before it can launch.

Assuming the Model Y is like the Model 3, the Niro EV will have innovative features like actual buttons for the rear seat heater control (not having to ask the driver to change it).

I found the 3 impractical. Maybe people get used to it.

I really can’t understand why this comment was downvoated, I guess Tesla fans (some, hopefully a small share) have trouble to hear good things about anything that is not a Tesla. It’s almost pathetic…

What’s pathetic is that Big Auto has failed to make a decent EV in volumes that meet market demand. They continue to fail.

There was no market demand, until someone started making them, and either advertising and/or having customers show them off. Its there now, and is hardly being met as of yet. The run up to numbers is the only thing that will bring the not well off, to the market stalls.

Or perhaps both are pathetic.

So you haven’t figured out that it’s a religion yet?

Serial Tesla bashing certainly is a cult behavior, if that’s what you mean. It certainly isn’t a religion, because it has nothing to do with religious belief, and everything to do with greed and/or political bias.

I see some unusually high down-voting in the first comments in this discussion thread. Perhaps some Kia supporters on other forums encouraged others to come over here and down-vote any comment that doesn’t praise Kia.

And no, the excessive down-votes don’t seem to be coming from Tesla fanboys like me.

The Kia e-Niro will be more expensive than the Hyundai Kona Electric, but only by a few thousand dollars. There will be customers for every EV model.

The fact that the number of EV models that are on sale and that are available on the market is increasing every year is a very good development. This leads to more EV awareness and more EV acceptance among the general public. And ultimately to a higher marketshare for EV’s year after year.

Right on.

But this really only applies in CARB states. Many will not see these cars unless the OEMs ramp the numbers.

I wonder what it’s Stateside availability will be?

There was some new plug-in EV coming along that I read will not be stocked by dealers, and will be special order only. Was that the e-Niro, or some other coming EV?

If that’s the e-Niro, then you can forget about any significant sales volume.

I hope that people reporting on EV’s will try out the default mode – which for the Niro EV is coasting. This is going to be the most efficient – because using the kinetic energy to move the car forward is BY DEFINITION has the lowest loss of energy.

Regen is great – but only when you NEED to slow the car down. Regen loses less energy than friction brakes – but it loses energy.

Ask any ecodriver or hypermiler – and they will tell you that coasting is the best way to increase range. By coasting whenever possible, you accelerate less, and you brake less. You use less energy, and you travel farther on less energy, and you lose less energy.

Don’t get hung up on coasting – it’s easy enough to do if you never leave the land of thought experimentation. Of course you cannot harvest as much energy as you expended, but there are losses in coasting as well. Friction cannot be eliminated. Regen and one pedal driving is far better in real world conditions, where the need to slow the vehicle will make regen more efficient that coasting 99.99999% of the time.

When you have blended brakes, regen vs coasting are not mutually exclusive. Coast when brake pedal is not pressed, regen when brake pedal and/or regen paddle active gives best of both worlds.

Sounds good, but what is “blended brakes”? ( I have never driven an EV yet). Real question, not antagonistic.

Most EVs have them except for Tesla. It’s where ANY application of the brake pedal at all engages a combination of physical braking and regenerative braking. In my eGolf and my Bolt, this means that the physical brakes don’t engage until close to a stop, or only in the case of a hard/emergency braking situation.

It uses regen when very slightly pressing the brake pedal.
Pressing harder activates the friction brakes more. Therefore the best of both worlds.

On the Bolt EV, you can also combine the regen-on-demand button to increase the regen and thus, the car deceleration.

Blended brakes means that when you first press the brake pedal, the car uses regen to slow the car, then, as you push harder, the mechanical brakes are also used. So, it is “blending” regen and mechanical brakes. The upside is for small braking events, you are recapturing energy. The downside is that the brake pedal can feel unnatural.

Many companies use blended braking in their EVs and hybrids. Tesla is one that doesn’t, preferring that the regen happens only when you lift your foot off the accelerator (“one-pedal driving”) and the brake pedal is for mechanical brakes only.

Thank you all for the input. It is now clear. I’m sure that most drivers can get used to either arrangement ( Tesla or all others).

You sound like you may be able to address a question I have on EVs. I have a dodgy right foot, so like to use the gas pedal as little as possible (it gets painful after a while). 90%+ of the time I’m using cruise control (unfortunately I don’t have adaptive cruise control) – I use the gas for quick acceleration, and the control buttons for less rapid speed adjustments.

Can I still do that if I’m driving a Tesla? Can I still do that if I’m driving a non-Tesla EV such as the Niro?

“…real world conditions, where the need to slow the vehicle will make regen more efficient that coasting 99.99999% of the time.”

No, that’s not real world conditions; that’s just the imaginary world you live in, with physics working rather different than they do in the real world.

In the real world, coasting is far more energy efficient than constantly accelerating and then using regen to slow and stop. If you weren’t using regen so heavily, then you wouldn’t need to accelerate to such high speed in the first place, in stop-and-go traffic… which is the only place that regen has an opportunity to recapture much energy. But the amount of energy recaptured is, at the very best, 35%… so no matter what you’re doing, most of the energy is lost when relying on regen.

Sure, regen should be used when it’s necessary to slow and stop the car. But more gentle, less lead-footing driving, and using coasting as much as possible when going downhill and in stop-and-go driving, is far more energy efficient than trying to maximize use of regen.

“…there are losses in coasting as well. Friction cannot be eliminated.”

True, but coasting does not introduce any extra losses. The friction losses from rolling resistance and from aero drag are present no matter what else is going on, even during regen.

Regen isn’t good for energy efficiency; it’s merely less bad than friction braking.

Cars with strong single pedal regen also have coasting. In an i3, the middle portion of the gas pedal coasts.

I cant imagine all this, until I have a chance to drive one. Too different from ICE driving.

By using the ‘go’-pedal one can add speed, maintain speed, coast, or use regeneration to slow-down. In the middle of the range there is no power being applied to the motors.

Only at the exact mid-point. From what I’ve read, tests have shown that a lot of one-pedal drivers merely think they’re coasting when they’re actually not.

Go for a drive in a motor boat. Throttle up to go faster. Hold throttle to maintain speed. Throttle back to slow down.

That’s not even remotely the same.

It’s been like this with hybrids for years. The only thing is it’s more challenging than just having the ability to coast when the pedal is not pressed. You have to balance your foot in the right position. I did this dance for years, but after experiencing the e-Golf where simply coasting is an option, I’m now a firm believer in it. It really is a better method of control.

However, I think adjustable regen levels is a good option, because everyone can tailor the experience to what they prefer.

All EVs should be designed to make true coasting easy, either with a range of motion (rather than one precise point) in the “go pedal”, or steering wheel paddles that allow infinite variation in regen all the way down to zero (which is where you get true coasting).

Maybe someday EVs will be designed that way, but currently they aren’t.

Untrue. The Bolt does not have pure coasting. There is always some regen when you let off the pedal.

Yeah, my 2017 Soul EV has a very small (zero?) sweet spot of constant speed while in the “B” mode for more regen. It’s fine around town, but is tough for highway driving.

“Cars with strong single pedal regen also have coasting.”

Only if you can find the exact point at which neither acceleration nor regen is engaged. With strong regen, that’s very difficult or impossible. EVs could be, and I’ll argue that they should be, designed so that it’s easy to find the coasting point in one-pedal driving. But so far at least, they’re not.

Been my impression that my Volt does coast, foot off and in D. But in L Regen kicks in and one has to try to find the sweet spot you speak of to coast. Bolt same but much stronger.

I agree, Neil. Coasting and gentle use of the brakes for regen will get you the best AER results. Just don’t take it to extremes if there are cars in traffic behind you. 😉
You can feather the throttle and reduce the impact of high regen settings, but it is usually more efficient to coast and then use the regen by gently braking.

Bingo. Most people don’t realize this and think more regen = more efficient. The correct way to think of it is regen is like braking. To be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Of course compared to braking with mechanical brakes it is way better, but it is still a loss of energy.

With strong regen, people often end up switching rapidly between throttle and regen which makes the drive less efficient and less smooth. Better to accelerate more gently and then not regen until you need to slow down.

Now here is someone who understands the physics involved.

Regenerative braking isn’t good for energy-efficient driving; it’s just less bad than using friction brakes.

Coasting might be the “lowest loss of energy” but it is not the best way to increase range. I don’t know how that is getting upvoted. If I go down a steep long hill, coasting will allow me to reach the bottom without having lost range, but I haven’t increased energy level in the batteries, definitively increasing the range I will have at the bottom. To do that, I need regen. Seems obvious. What am I missing?

Missing nothing. There’s a lot of semantic in the discourse.

Not to use regen in a downward hill is pure loss. Using it too much is also losing too much momentum.
Using regen properly to get energy back in the battery while maintaining a decent speed is the way to go.

I think what you are missing is that no matter what you lose range. You only gain range when you plug back in. If you go down a hill, you never recover enough energy to go back up that hill again, it doesn’t matter what you do.

In general, coasting has the *least wasted energy*. So when possible, it is preferable. Reasons why you don’t want to coast:

1) There is a stop. (Ex: You can’t coast through a red stoplight or a stop sign.)
2) Road feature that cannot be safely navigated at full coasting speed. (Ex: A hill with a sharp turn at the bottom).
3) Excessive speed. (Ex: You can’t go 60 mph down a hill in a residential neighborhood, even if it’s clear all the way down.)
4) Traffic. (Ex: You can’t coast into the back of the car in front of you. However, you should when possible try to match speed with the flow of traffic and minimize unnecessary acceleration and deceleration.)

In those cases, that is where regen comes into play, since it allows you to recover some of the energy that would otherwise be lost using the friction brakes.

+5; this comment deserves a lot more than the one single up-vote I can give it!

It greatly depends on how steep the slope is. If you’re driving down a mountain, then of course you should use regen as much as needed, which may be heavy regen if it’s a steep slope. On a more gentle slope, coasting may carry you the farthest distance without having to accelerate… which will be the most energy-efficient method of travel, despite what some claim. Most of the discussion here is about whether regen or coasting is more energy-efficient when driving on level ground. Regen has achieved a sort of magical, mystical power in the minds of EV advocates who don’t have a thorough understanding of the physics involved. The most energy-efficient driving on level ground is driving at a slow steady speed, ~25-30 MPH. Of course, in real-world driving, nobody drives that way. But trying to drive at a steady speed as much as possible, avoiding jackrabbit starts and avoiding heavy braking (even if that’s regenerative braking) as much as possible, will yield more efficient driving… which means greater EV range. If you’re using heavy regen a lot, that also means (when driving on level ground) that you’re also using the accelerator a lot… which means you’re wasting a… Read more »

I agree with you: coasting is the best. It’s also a lot easier than having to hold your for exactly right on the pedal to neither accelerate nor regen. I like what I hear about the Niro EV. It sounds like they took the best parts of GM’s regen control (the paddle) and combined it with the best part of VW’s (adjustable regen from coasting to high). It sounds like the best of all worlds currently for EVs.

Agree but sounds like it might take a while to get used to, a good system if you can, or a useless system if my wife is driving…. He he

eNiro interior & cargo space is almost as large as in the Leaf, correct?

Yes. Niro is the first affordable EV that I see as a real upgrade to the Leaf. Bolt and Kona are way too small in the trunk. Niro looks very usable.


Comparison of Kia Niro, Hyundai Kona, Nissan Leaf, and Chevrolet Bolt

Flip top the Specs tab and you’ll see that the Niro has more passenger volume, and nearly as much luggage volume. For usability, Bjørn Nyland’s banana box test says the Niro can haul more banana boxes than the Leaf.

Nothing says proof of real world verifiable useable space like “Bjørn Nyland’s banana box test”.

Bingo. Cubic feet can suck it, I now measure only in units of BNbbt.

How wonderful that Bjørn has upgraded the virtual banana scale to a real-world, usable unit of volume!
😀 😀 😀

Go Bjørn!

This is a great review. Thank you.

It sounds like the Niro wins the tape measure contest compared to the Bolt and the Kona, but what does this mean for real world hauling of peiple and stuff? Are the back seats equally comfortable? Can three car seats fit in the backseat of each? What about the front seats?

I love the Bolt, but completely agree with the assessment of its interior. Kia proves that inexpensive doesn’t have to be cheap.

Great review! I’m so glad you were able to compare it with your Bolt, which a lot of insideevs readers have experience with. It’s interesting that the Bolt’s roofline is an inch higher than the Niro. I know both companies like to call them crossovers even though neither have AWD, and it seems like Chevy gets more grief than kia, but the Bolt is even taller than the NIRO. Not sure about ground clearance for them.

Dual tail pipes. Natural gas fueled. Looks nice!

What? No more coal? You are learning fast….for a troll.

Did you ask whether the US model will have an option for a heat pump or battery heater, unlike the Kona?

Alex on Autos did a review saying that the heat pump is available on some trims.

Thanks for the heads up on the video. When he goes through the EV settings, THERE IS a setting for heating of the battery (Winter mode), so the battery heating is there! And he said available heat pump in the premium trim! Already a winner over the Kona in my book for colder climates.

What do people have against the break pedal? Why on earth would I want to grab a paddle on the steering wheel to stop? That’s utterly counterintutive to the way we drive. Just make the regen work to it’s max ability in the brake pedal.

If we really want EVs to be adopted by the masses, we need to stop demanding weird-ass features that regular folks will neither use nor want.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

Nothing. There isn’t one. 😉

People can drive it the way they drive a gasoline car.

Since most people use right-foot braking, these features _allow_ people to drive and move their foot and leg less, particularly in stop-and-go or hilly locations where there would be more switching between accelerator and brake pedals.

I live in an area of low density with undulating hills so normally drive my Volt in D. But in hillier areas or if in a place with more stop-and-go I’ll drive it more in L mode and make driving easier.

These features give you more control over regen, without having to worry about accidentally engaging the friction brakes. You don’t have to use them if you don’t want to–the car will still drive normally–but they are useful for those who do use them.

If Tesla can produce the base Model 3 at the $35k price point, they stay in front of the pack when it comes to price anyway. The Bolt is a little higher, the Hyundai is a bit more expensive, and this Kia is also likely to be. They are different types of vehicles, no question, but the expectation as we waited for these legacy makers to introduce their EVs was that they would be cheaper than they are turning out to be. And when you add efficiency to the mix, Tesla does not require as many kWh per mile in the Model 3.

The bit about an EV only design platform is also quite telling. All the predictions that Tesla’s lead would evaporate when legacy automakers decided to enter the EV landscape are evaporating.

Bolt EV is currently discounted $6K off MSRP here in Oregon and the full federal tax rebate is available until April 2019. The Bolt will be the most attractive EV for the next several months in terms of price and availability.

The Bolt has never been the most attractive EV and never will be.

It is the most attractive in terms of price right now.

So if it is to be the most attractive EV in 2019, why wasn’t it in 2018? US sales way down.

The deep discounts have only been available for the past 2 months, and Chevy is not doing any advertising. It’s pretty exciting to be able to get a 238 mile EV for only $21K after all incentives (for Oregonians at least).

They only make a fixed number of them, so when more are sold internationally fewer are sold in the US. GM probably also wasn’t trying to hurry the tax credit phase out.

My local Oregon stealer has over 40 of them available.

That sounds like an excellent purchase.

Oregon also adds up to $5k for those with mid incomes. A great deal if you fit. I can’t.

“You can also press the pedal all the way to the floor without the motor responding accordingly. ”

This is a control problem that needs to be fixed, full stop. Pedal depression is a signal of the amount of power I want. If I flatten the pedal it means I need to go fast -now-, not after the dipstick changing lanes without signaling intersects me.

Agreed. This is a big concern that Kia should address. When I put my foot down it means I want/need full power right now. I don’t know how people drive in South Korea or California, but drivers can be very aggressive on I-95 in Maryland — a highway I’d be driving daily. Kia should apply full power when in sport or comfort mode.

Yeah but that’s not really how a gas car works either. You can put the pedal to the floor from a stop and many cars will still take some time to actually get going. I actually agree with your concerns, but I think it’s worth noting that while the pedal tells the car what you want, the car can still only provide what it’s capable of.

I’m a big fan of the Niro (Have the hybrid). A lot of people don’t like it, but I think it’s a solid quality vehicle. Wish we needed (and could afford) the EV, but that will come.

Does anyone know if this thing has active cooling? The nissan leaf plus STILL does not have active cooling. 🙁

Michael Joseph Lambie

I have a niro phev and I love it. I replaced my cmax energized with it. Cargo space is great!

All the reviews say the Niro PHEV is a dog, is that your experience?

What’s the maximum towing capacity?

No tow rating.

Maybe I missed it – recharge times w/various voltage (120/240/Level 2)?

As Engineering Explained explained, electric motors suffer from torque ripple; permanent magnet ones more than induction motors. So the software is designed to keep the power delivery just below any sense of torque ripple. Manufacturers can design this power curve. Torque ripple is much more noticeable at low motor rpm. With the Niro being a larger and heavier car than the Kona or Bolt EV, it’s likely Kia has designed the power delivery curve to be more conservative because it couldn’t compete on acceleration anyway. Jason used the difference between a Telsa Model 3 mid-range and performance to explain all this on Youtube.
We drive a Bolt EV and I wouldn’t mind a little less torque at startup; easier in winter.

1. This is an amateurish description of range. A single drive under specific conditions does not reveal “real-life range” – and certainly does not allow one to state with confidence “it’s easy to beat the EPA range by 10 miles”.

Narrow roads with slower driving improve the range, vs. fast highway driving. Pleasant temperatures improve the ranges vs. cold, and (to a lesser extent) vs. too hot requiring massive AC. Any combination of fast highway driving and suboptimal temps can make it downright impossible to meet the EPA range, let alone exceed it.

2. So… the Leaf seems to beat the Niro EV on every dimension? Hm, who wouldhave thunk considering the praise heaped on the Iatter vs. the dismissal of the former. Furthermore, I was surprised to see that seats-up cargo volume is substantially larger for Leaf (24 cuft) vs. Niro (19 cuft). It’s probably not a coincidence that this critical statistic was left out of the comparison table.

So subtract 50-100 miles for adverse conditions. At least its better than all non-Tesla EV’s out in the market. I’ll take 150 mile range EV any day. People put too much value in EV range. for 95% of us, 150 miles is plenty.

And they got full EV tax credit, definetely clever timing for introducing it to the market

Only if you qualify for the rebate — you need your tax to be high enough to take advantage.

Or lease, then buy at the end of your lease, should you so decided at that time.

On top of that with all of the improvements we’re still seeing in the EV market, as well as potential issues with battery degradation, leasing is currently the wisest option. At the end of the lease you can assess whether to buy it out, or let the car go.

Brad, at the end of the article you write: “I asked (again) if Kia was planning to produce a pure EV in the future. ” This is at the end of a long review of … a pure EV produced by Kia. You need to clarify that sentence. Did you mean a second EV model? Did you mean a vehicle that was designed from the ground up to be an EV, so that (for example) it’s not wasting space under the hood? Clarify that in the article.

I had to re-read to find out that he’s talking about purpose-built in regards to efficient use of space, etc.

“The Niro’s most significant advantage over competing long-range, affordable EVs is its length and profile.”

This right here is what’s wrong with American motoring. Bigger is automatically better.

If it’s what the market prefers, then it’s “better” even if less energy-efficient. Offering dozens, scores, or even hundreds of models of tiny microcar EVs in the U.S. isn’t going to save an ounce of gasoline or reduce CO2 emissions by a single gram, if nobody ever buys them.

I would love to see the “arms race” of ever-bigger cars on American roads come to an end, but preaching at Joe or Jill Average about energy efficiency isn’t likely to get them to change what they want.

Thanks for the review. Did you happen to notice if the rear view mirror was Homelink equipped?

The profile-comparison of the Kona and Niro photo is great. Thanks!

As we saw with the Model 3 (or any EV) you really have to run it to dead empty for true range test vs. depending on computer calcs as Nyland and Sullins tests demonstrate.


I’ve test driven the Bolt and the Kona gas. Philly Car show is this weekend and I expect to see the Kona EV there. So based on Kona gas, I was surprised by how tight the backseat legroom was. Hoping that its better in the EV model, cause right now its close to a Camaro back seat for me. Bolt could easily handle 6ft people in the back.
If the Kia car gas impressive rear seat room, it could be a deal maker for me…
an extra couple thousand on a car to get a usable back seat is worth it,

Thank you for the extensive review. I have been hoping for a good compact EV-SUV to replace my wife’s 2012 Tucson compact SUV. The Niro EV is not far off however it is 4 in. lower, which means poorer visibility. Rear legroom is 2.7 in. shorter and the Tucson was already tight. The cargo volume with seats folded is 2 cu. ft. smaller. So this is a really small SUV.

As far as availability it appears Kia will not be selling the Kia Niro EV is the non-CARB states until 2020 at least. Kia NA says HQ will not allocate them more however I suspect that battery costs are too high and they are keeping production low to reduce losses on selling it.

In the end it appears to be an impressive car at an impressive price. But it is basically a sub-compact “mini” SUV. So we are little dis-appointed.

Excellent news families where the Kia and Hyundai are available will love these cars for generations. When you select your EV make sure it has twice the range of your daily commute. You need that range for AC, HEAT, and extra errands. If you can use your EV in the 20-80% LION sweet spot the batteries might last a lifetime, save those 100% charges for trips to granny’s house. Enjoy.

Thanks for the chart. It looks like Kona is actually smaller than the Bolt… LOL.

My Bolt lease is also up in just over a year. The Nero is a possible contender if one can be found. In one year’s time when the lease is up there may be even more choices. I look forward to a difficult decision.

Good overview, thanks. Two things I’d like to better understand about Kia is how different the battery pack is from the Kona and why they are putting out a Niro and a Soul at almost the same time without one being offered in awd? are these two ev’s not going to compete with each other?

A slower amp up is often designed to reduce the high initial torque of the electric motor to reduce wear of the final gear set. This might be the reason. This is a nice looking car…South Korea is serious about EVs and is jumping ahead of the others with cars people want to buy because they look like cars and not something out of a cartoon.

Pep Boys sells a remap chip that adds 20HP! or not….

Looks great! If only GM Korean Bolt stylists were as inspired to make a BEV CUV attractive.

Let me get this straight. The reviewer compared a standard Bolt to the highest-end Kia Niro? Sunroof experience and all?

Yeah, it’s not until the very end of the article that it’s mentioned we have no idea what price this will be sold at. It may be considerably higher than the Bolt EV’s MSRP.

With so many expensive EV’s being sold ICEV’s are doomed because even if people wanted to shift back they wouldn’t be able to afford it becasue they are fully hocked on the EV . Haha

This all reads very promising, but what about price? Mr. Google suggests that the price hasn’t yet been announced.

But I’m rather impressed that Kia was, according to this review, able to achieve something better than the Bolt EV even though using a multi-powertrain platform.

Now the real question is: Will they make and sell enough to satisfy demand? Or will this be just another compliance car, available in only very limited quantities and only in CARB States?

There is a lot of talk about the Niro and the Kona being Crossover vehicles but are they really? My understanding of that term is that they need to have some form of 4 wheel drive and extra ground clearance. I’m pretty sure none of the Niro models have 4 wheel drive and what exactly is the ground clearance on these vehicles and has anyone tested them in off road conditions? When reviewing a car, I’m not so interested in seat stitching and cup holders as I am curious about how they meet their own claims for the vehicle.

Frontrunner….until VW delivers the lower-priced ID line of EV’s. The Niro is pretty small when it comes to utility vehicles, and pretty frumpy looking. The grill looks like a rag stuffed into a bratty kid’s mouth…..I like the Kona’s style better. Keep ’em coming, boys. Competition is good!