Kia Niro EV Test Drive Notes From Abroad


The new best-selling EV in Korea appears to be a solid option for green car seekers.

The Kia Niro EV launched about a month ago in Korea and 976 copies were moved there in August. The new, small CUV has surpassed Hyundai’s IONIQ in Korean sales for the month. Both vehicles are highly efficient, and Kia believes this is the primary selling point. But, the Niro EV offers more practicality than Hyundai’s electric hatch.

Reporters for Korea Times recently completed a 100 km testing trip in the Niro EV and were happy to share its merits. Overall, it’s a good choice for families despite its small footprint. The car offers adult-friendly rear seats and respectable cargo volume. In addition, it comes standard with a long list of advanced safety technologies, including smart cruise control, lane keep assist, forward collision warning, and forward collision avoidance. It also comes at a very reasonable price.

The Niro EV finds its power from a 64-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. According to Korea Times, it’s rated at some 385 km per charge. It can be charged to 80-percent capacity in just under an hour via a 100 kW fast charger. In terms of efficiency, Kia says it travels 5.3 km/kWh. During this recent test drive, the reporters averaged 5.4 km/kWh over 100 km.

While the Niro EV isn’t a racer, its 206.5 horsepower rating and light weight mean it accelerates fine for most daily driving and is adequate on the freeway. The test driver recorded a 7.8-second zero-to-100 km acceleration time and also reported that the car is agile and corners well. Regenerative braking can be dialed up and down using steering-wheel-mounted paddles, which offer four different levels of regen.

Inside, the Niro EV boasts a well-laid out cockpit and user-friendly technology. While the cabin materials were said to be high-quality, surfaces are a mix of soft-touch and hard plastics, which is typical of many vehicles in the class.

Kia and Hyundai have started on the fast track to a wide palette of upcoming electric vehicle development and production. While it seems the automakers won’t be producing the cars in high volume at first, steps are surely being taken in the right direction. Kia Motors Executive Vice President Kwon Hyug-ho shared:

By 2025, Kia Motors will release five hybrid cars, five plug-in hybrid EVs, five EVs and one fuel-cell EV to consolidate its status in the eco-friendly car market.

According to Kia, 8,500 orders have already been placed for the Niro EV. The automaker has confirmed that it will be coming to the U.S. soon. However, no official timeframe has been revealed.

6 photos
Kia Niro EV

Sources: Korea Times, Yonhap News Agency

Categories: Kia

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55 Comments on "Kia Niro EV Test Drive Notes From Abroad"

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The Niro (and Kona) EV seem like nice additions to the EV market with solid internals and powertrain guts, but man, they are rather bleh on styling. They almost make the Bolt look almost sexy.
At least they’re not Toyota Mirai/Prius Fugly.

Disagree…the Bolt has nothing on the Niro. Mine looks really nice (2017).

We just bought a Bolt, and I think the Niro looks a bit better. That said, I don’t really like the looks of either of them from several angles. But I love big batteries and I cannot lie!

lol….most other brothers can’t deny…they like big batteries too.

Purely subjective, but I disagree. I’ve seen the Niro in person (the hybrid version). IMO, it’s nicer looking than my Bolt.

I think the Bolt’s biggest cosmetic problem is its unusually short nose. I understand why GM did it – a long hood isn’t needed for an electric motor. By moving the cabin forward, they gave the car much more interior space. So functionally, the Bolt makes better use of its available length. It still looks awkward.

IMO the Niro looks a little better than the Kona FWIW.

I have yet to see a Kona. Both the Niro and Kona are excellent offerings, and I’m excited to see them hit the market. It’s amazing how far EVs have come in this decade alone!

Selfishly, I will benefit from the added demand they will place on the QC networks. The same networks they use will support my Bolt, which only makes travelling with it that much easier!

I have the 2017 Niro hybrid at present and I’m still in two minds whether to get the Niro EV or the Kona for my next car!!! It was good to see Bjorn’s side by side review of the Niro & Kona as the Kona was slightly smaller than the Niro which might make it the deciding factor, I’m 1.88cm/6′ 2″ and find the Niro legroom/ride position very good and I like this car a lot.

I think I’ll have to get a test drive or sit in one to check it out for sure.

His reviews were awesome. He provides so much content and tests. I had no idea there was so much tech packed into those vehicles. I am seriously considering niro and Kona to replace my Volt.

The main problem is you will probably have to wait… a looong time. I reserved Kona in July 2017, and while the first cars in Norway were delivered in August, I’m looking at a Q2-19 estimated delivery. People I know who reserved earlier and got a September delivery estimate still haven’t got a delivery date, leading me to fear delays and that I will have to wait even longer to get mine. People ordering it now in Norway are told to expect late 2020 at the earliest. But if there’s a reservation process in the US and you make sure to be among the early ones there, you might be able to get one much sooner. Reserving doesn’t oblige you to buy and here there was no deposit either. Several (I’d guess about fifteen) people have already sold their “used” Kona here with markups of $8,000 and up to $10,000. It’s ridiculous. One car was listed at $7,500 above MSRP and was sold when I checked an hour after it had been listed. ( is completely dominating the used car market and I’ve set up an alert whenever a Kona is listed just to see how this market develops.) Niro… Read more »

I don’t think US buyers are quite that desperate, though?…

Looking at, I have to say that I prefer the Kona. The Niro looks cartoon-y whereas the Kona looks more aggressive.

I’ll agree with that, and it has the added bonus of more interior space.

I don’t know how to explain the Niro looks .. given that Kia has done such an excellent job in the aesthetics department in the past years. The Optima and Stinger are in the Top 10% of best-looking cars in all categories, and the Sedona van is positively an eye candy comparing to the new Odyssey, Sienna and Quest.

but, as some say, form follows function, so let’s see how much it sells for before we make a educated judgement …

I think the Niro is fine. The real question is whether they will bring more than a few hundred units to the US per year as they do with the Ioniq EV (254 through August). It wouldn’t surprise me if only a handful come here and not until well into 2019. Hope I’m wrong!!!!!

I test drove a 2017 Ioniq EV at Carmax last week and thought it was great. I would’ve bought it, but the local Hyundai dealership said that they’re not authorized to work on the EV model. Bummer.

Wow, two almosts in one sentence… It takes a lot to make a Bolt look sexy.

I’m taking possession of a Model 3 soon. It’s red. It’s sexy…Especially for a four door sedan.

I just wish I didn’t have to sell the farm to buy one!

It’s not much car for $60k.

Where are you getting that price from? There’s been no mention of a US price yet AFAIK.
The estimate for the UK price (64kWh version) is 34500gbp before incentives which includes first year registration & delivery fee. Translated into US$ after deducting VAT (US prices don’t include sales taxes), that’s US$37600 . Since US prices are pretty much always lower than UK / other European ones, the US price will likely be ~US$35K pre-incentives. That’s pretty good for a very-well-equipped larger than Bolt/Leaf ~250mi CUV.

I hope you don’t reach the point of wanting to sell your Model 3 to buy a farm. Tesla will be up against a lot of competition in a very short while.

I like the Kona exterior design, it looks cool and futuristic to me. The interior is less modern, but has great ergonomy, and it’s also very comfortable up front. The Niro looks a bit more drab to me, but again has a good if not exactly inspiring interior – and great comfort front and rear.

Both in my opinion look better than the Bolt, especially inside. And they’re more comfortable, more efficient, better equipped, and cheaper. And, at least in Norway, they also have better warranties. Kia offers the best comprehensive vehicle warranty (7 years/150 000 km) and Hyundai the best battery warranty (minimum 70% remaining capacity for 8 years/200 000 km).

Side note: Tesla has the worst battery warranty of all, being the only manufacturer to not have a capacity guarantee. Even though their battery warranty (covering pack failure) is for 8 years and unlimited mileage, they are still beaten (in the consumer council’s ranking) by every other EV on the Norwegian market, including the Renault Twizy..!

There’s always that one guy who suggests that anything non-Tesla is not good looking.

What’s their planned production?
Will they be selling anywhere else, or just California and the West Coast?

Despite the conservative styling, I rather like the Niro. If they now increase usable battery capacity by 30% to, say 84kWh (i.e. 90kWh pack; the 64kWh is actually a 70/71 with a degradation buffer), this would make for a rather compelling 500km range. A great first car then, even for people that go on long trips more regularly.

Bjorn tested one recently and got 500km going 90kph , including significant elevation changes. I think the 385km might be an underestimate. EPA rating for a gen 1 Leaf like mine is ~6.7km/kWh- so I’m not sure why they got such high energy consumption. The Ioniq and the Kona get higher efficiency than the Leaf, so at a minimum of 64kwh * 6.7 = 428km, means than the Niro should have at least 428km, if not more.

Yes, I watched Björn’s video. But he travelled at 90kmh. That is hardly highway speed here in Europe where this distance would impress me at 120kmh. I reckon though that range will drop to about 300-350km then. And I don’t consider that enough if you subtract a 20% (maybe even more) range loss in winter temperatures (read min 4 month where I live)…

Norway is in europe, and the 90 km/h avergae speed is pretty high for driving in norway.

Europe is a diverse continent. What’s fast in one region may be slow in another. Similarly, the US is a large country. While 60MPH is fast in most of Vermont (with the exception of a short spur of an interstate, where 70MPH is fast), it is downright slow out west.

To be fair, it’s diverse. In the Nordics and the UK, speeds limits are lower than in the rest of Europe. But, and this is what I find important: these cars need to be compelling _first_ cars, i.e. the ones you’ll buy as a single car and be able to take on a road trip. And these tend to involve motorway speeds. Even in the UK and the Nordics these are around 110km/h rather than 90km/h.
Others: Belgium, Spain, Switzerland: 120km/h; NL, France, Italy: 130km/h, Austria 140km/h (in places), Germany: well let’s not even go there (figuratively), ;
So that’s your biggest EV markets (people/spending power). You’ll want to make sure your car can travel at least around 3 hours in those markets before needing a refill, if you buy a first/only car, I think. So around 400km range should be a minimum target, plus (at least) 20% winter buffer, i.e. 80km extra range. So 500km is then a realistic target for car makers to make compelling first/only cars. That’s at least why everyone I know that needed a first/only car either bought a Tesla or didn’t buy an EV…

The Model 3 short range shouldn’t sell at all then?

I do indeed expect that the LR version will sell better. Unless, of course, people buy it as a second car (and a great one at that). Trouble is, you never know people’s motivation from the sales statistics…

More battery, more weight, man. So if Niro have 84kWh, the whole distance maybe <500km

The difference is not that large though. Especially at highway speeds, where air drag is more significant.

All in all, it seems that Hyundai/Kia are going more “all-in” than any other incumbent manufacturer at the moment:
Hyundai Ioniq, Kona, (even Nexo FCEV), Kia Niro, Soul (upgrade coming up, too) are 4 (5) full EV offers.

No other manufacturer (group) currently has that many full EVs available, not even Tesla, Renault-Nissan (only barely) or Volkswagen. Yes, they can be improved, both in range and in styling, comfort, interior materials. And they could be made as EV only without similar ICE/PHEV versions. But they are all incredibly efficient vehicles compared to the competition and that means their drive-train technology is well developed and probably ahead of at least other incumbent manufacturers.

If they manage to align the battery development and then reduce costs for bigger packs so they can maintain current prices but increase capacity by 30-50% and increase charging speed to 150kW, then these cars will remain most compelling, and entirely competitive for at least one model generation, putting them ahead of competitors targeting price points below Tesla.

What are your thoughts?

Well, define “available”. I can go to the nearby Chevy and Nissan dealership and pick a Bolt or a Leaf from a number of color and options on the lot and get a discount. Can’t get the Ioniq electric outside of California and everything else has to be ordered through a lot of a hassle. There is no date on a statewide Kona and Niro electric availability on their respective websites.

Well, that sounds sad, but looks better in Europe (where I’m writing from). And yes, availability is important, but will surely improve over time. Also in CA.

It is indeed sad. For most the Model 3 is out of their reach, or they want a compact hatchback with more headroom. We don’t even have the e-NV200 or any electric van available states-side. No Zoe, no e-UP!, basically no eGolf, no Twizzy, plugin hybrids are easier to find.

Sounds like you Americans are being handed a bad deal. Make sure that you organise and voice your demand to manufacturers. Kinda weird this. Normally we Europeans are the last to get any technology product. But with cars, it seems manufacturers are not considering the market well enough developed. I guess we do have better charging options here in Europe (depending on country) and we do typically buy smaller cars than US customers. I guess that is the reason we get a Zoe and e-UP. Also they’re local companies of course, they would sell here. As for Nissan? I’d have to guess. They’re typically more invested in the US (Infinity) than in Europe and I also think the Leaf sells better there. Why no eNV200 or Renault Kangoo derivative? No idea. For Hyundai/Kia I expect no less than beating the Bolt sales as of 2020.

They just avoid the market Tesla dominates, easier to sell where there is no Model 3 dominance.

Well, the base Model 3 shouldn’t be out of reach for anyone who can afford a Kona/Niro?…

And given the low supply from Hyundai/Kia, I wouldn’t be surprised if most people will actually be able to get the base Model 3 sooner…

I think Niro and Kona EV’s will be very limited in the US in 2019. Korea’s government is really pushing electrification so I think their priority is domestic market. There is still a limited battery production capacity so if they want to sell more overseas, they need to ramp up. Hyundai and Kia are much more forward thinking that Toyota and Honda. That just seems to be the trend with tech between Korea and Japan. Toyota and Honda needs to up their EV game. If there are Camry and Accord full EV’s that get 200 miles for about $35K, they’ll sell like hotcakes.

Relatively speaking, from an historical POV, the Koreans are the newcomers and the Japanese are the incumbents. In that regard, it’s not surprising that the Koreans would be more forward thinking and the Japanese would be more conservative.

“All in” unequivocally means you make a large investment in manufacturing, whether directly to produce your own batteries or indirectly with large long term supplier contract that you cannot back out of.

Hyundai and Kia have limited production plans (50k per year across all BEVs in 2019) , and I just cannot agree that they are remotely all in.

Props to their R&D in making a efficient EVs, pushing C-rates with the Ioniq, etc. But in my book, they’re not serious about EVs until they have plans for 100k/year and goals for even more.

5.4 km/kWh is 185wh/km in non-backward units.


Thank you! I was going to make that conversion and post it, but you saved me the trouble. I mean, I don’t want to look a metric gift horse in the mouth, but very few countries use units like that.

Thank you, it’s very annoying with the backward metrics, old relics of an imperial system or whatever.

Hyundai/Kia 60+ kWh BEVs make for interesting review readings but they are all much harder to purchase than a Chevy Bolt. Why bother just buy a Bolt.

The GM Bolt is not sold in a lot of counties.

I wish Toyota and Honda would get more aggressive and come up with some great EV’s at reasonable prices.

FYI Hyundai & Kia are one & the same car company… Hyundai owns Kia… sort of like Chevy & Buick!! One & the same cars for both…just name & barge engineering here!!

First part is true, second part not really. Same platform, but different body.

> The new, small CUV has surpassed Hyundai’s IONIQ in Korean sales for the month.

Yes, but it’s hardly meaningful when neither car is available to buy and have a waiting list.

(Not that I think Ioniq would outsell it if demand was fulfilled for both.)

Thank you for the rational format for energy used.
I would have thought it would be higher at the worst I’ve done in my ’13 leaf it’s 8.5km/kwh

Rational would be (k)Wh/km. And doing 118 Wh/km as your worst in a Leaf is impossible. The average for the Leaf is more like 160 Wh/km (6,25 km/kWh).

Unless you live in a city with perfect temperature around the year and don’t use heaing/aircon and never drives faster than 70 km/h.