Kia is a remarkable brand, one that has successfully managed to shake off its cheap car image and is now looking to move into more premium territory with its offerings. It is also a global leader when it comes to electrification, with some of the world’s best electric vehicles in its lineup, and it all started with the Kia Niro EV (also known as the e-Niro), its first proper long-range BEV.
It wasn’t Kia’s first EV, though, it came second after the first electric Soul, but it was a much more well rounded proposition. What made it especially impressive was its relatively large battery pack with a usable capacity of 64 kWh that allowed it to travel up to 239 miles (384 km) on one charge, according to the EPA. The WLTP test cycle is a bit more generous, with maximum range estimation of 427 km (265 miles).
Those are really good numbers for a small crossover, especially one that was not designed as an electric vehicle from the ground up. In all the electric vehicle comparative range tests it took part in around the time of its launch, it was always the runner up to a Tesla, and this made buyers perceive it as a fairly long range EV, which it really is.
And this also had an immediate on Kia’s electric vehicle sales which started to climb after 2019. Now the Niro EV is almost three years old, but it still makes a lot of sense to a lot of people, and this is reflected in its sales figures - 206 percent up year-over-year, with 8,717 units sold just in the US.
In Europe, we get the exact same vehicle, only it’s called the e-Niro in the brochures - the exterior badging is exactly the same as in the US as it just says Niro on the back and it has the same blue accents that help you know you’re looking at the EV. For the last three years I had read about its blend of qualities and lovable nature, but I had never driven one, until last week...
Crossovers are not my cup of tea and in order for a crossover to rate highly in my book, it needs to not compromise too much on driving dynamics and fun. And believe it or not, the electric Niro is remarkably fun to drive and with just over 200 horsepower, as well as its instant torque - this is what impressed me first. I even drove it quickly on some twists and turns and it put a very unexpected smile on my face.
Then when I started to drive it more sensibly and looked around the interior, it really felt like a great place to spend time. No, it doesn’t feel premium, but materials and assembly are top notch, and in my fully specced tester, the fact that the electric driver’s seat moves out of its position when you stop the vehicle, then moves back to your driving position when you get back in certainly adds a whiff of luxury to the experience.
My tester had done over 12,500 miles (20,000 km), but with around 93 percent in the battery, it still showed a range of 212 miles (342 km) in winter, with temperatures close to freezing. In warmer temperatures and a full charge to 100 percent, it can probably still achieve its claimed range, so battery degradation in this press fleet vehicle that has been used and abused seemed minimal.
Overall, the Niro EV really impressed me, primarily in areas that I did not expect to be impressed in, like driving dynamics, acceleration, comfort and tech. What is really remarkable about it, though, is that Kia managed to turn a small hybrid crossover into one of the market’s best EVs that is better than some comparable vehicles that were built on special EV platforms. Check out my video review to see a more detailed breakdown of my impressions - are you excited for the all-new electric Niro that’s right around the corner?