Despite our misgivings of considering the front-wheel-drive only Kia Niro a true crossover utility; there’s no denying its practicality, or its comforting nature, whether in standard hybrid guise or as a plug-in PHEV. Well, the Niro family is expanding with a full EV. So not only is their family getting bigger, but a lot more efficient, too.
Everybody knows the revolution will be battery powered, or at least the automotive one anyway. And Kia continues to change the social order of their lineup with this 2019 Kia Niro EV, a fully-electric version of their Niro hybrid.
The Niro EV runs silent and runs deep; boasting 239–miles of range from its 64–kWh liquid-cooled battery pack. Providing the power to do so, is a large 170-kW electric motor, shared with the Hyundai Kona EV. Output rates 201 hp and 291 lb ft of torque.
With no gas engine or transmission to account for, Kia was able to mix things up inside.
The center console is unique, with a rotary shift dial and some additional storage options. Likewise, the Supervision gauge panel, with 7-inch TFT, gets updated to provide relevant EV information.
Same UVO infotainment system, which is great; just additional EV screens, and unique navigation to route you to charging points.
Good comfort continues up front, with the seats sporting EV-specific materials; and there’s more than ample room for passengers in back.
Steering wheel paddles allow you to select one of four regen braking modes, and even bring the car to a stop for one peddle driving.
Amazingly, even though it shares a chassis with the gas-hybrid versions, including the same 106.3-inch wheelbase; Kia was able to package batteries low in the chassis like a dedicated EV, for a mostly uncompromised cargo area, losing only about one cubic-ft., 18.5 cubic-ft., expanding to 53.0 with the rear seatbacks folded.
Also like most other EVs, the near soundless driving experience is almost surreal; and there’s torque-a-plenty that makes it quite enjoyable to drive.
So yes, if you need another reason to check out the Niro EV, it’s also a heck of a lot quicker than any other Niro. And we know that because we took our long term Niro PHEV along on the EV’s track day for some head-to-head action.
And the EV beat it right from the hole shot, at least when we could find decent traction. And we sure didn’t have to battle burnouts in the PHEV. Once the EV’s tires were warmed up and gripping a little better, we were able to leap off the line to 60 in 7.0–seconds flat. That’s over two seconds faster!
Even better, no shifting, no CVT-induced engine screaming, just silent jet-like power throughout the ¼-mile for 15.5–seconds, ending at 91 miles-per-hour.
And that’s with some 400-lbs of extra motor and battery weight compared to the PHEV.
Through the cones, that does allow a little more oversteer than we remember, as well as some additional body roll. But, kudos to Kia for keeping the fun-factor high with well-weighted steering and traction control that allows for plenty of aggression before stepping in.
Braking performance is also very good. Stops from 60 averaged 115-feet, just 3-feet more than we saw in the original Niro.
In addition to the usual eco-blue accents; setting the EV apart from other Niros outside, is a whole new front end that’s been smoothed out; with no need for a grille to allow in air for engine cooling.
It also harbors a new charging port; moving to the front compared to the PHEV, to allow for a DC Fast Charge plug, in addition to the standard Level 1&2 plug.
And to further prove they haven’t forsaken all utility in search of efficiency; standard roof rails remain.
In regards to charging, the Niro EV can be quick charged to 80% in as little as 60-minutes. Regular Level 2 charging will take will take about 9½-hours if fully drained; and if you’re stuck with 110, plan on a lengthy 59-hours.
Kia has delivered a fantastic EV; and while official pricing has not been released, it will be available in two trims. We figure the base EX will fall well under 40-grand, in order to get it under 30, with the usual Government tax credits.
Kia already seemed to have just about all of the car and crossover bases covered. But now that this “player to be named later”, the 2019 Kia Niro EV has arrived, it just might turn out to be the MVP of the team.
torque: 291 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 7.0 seconds
1/4 mile: 15.5 seconds @ 91 mph