First Look: 2019 Kia Niro EV

Katherine Evans - July 29, 2019

First Look: 2019 Kia Niro EV

The future's electric. Haven't you heard?

There are even rumors that Hummer - yes, Hummer, the environmentalist's worst nightmare - is coming out with their own line of EVs.

And as every auto-group rushes to fill the gap and build the next "big" electric vehicle, you're bound to get some winners and some losers...AND some surprises! Like the 2019 Kia Niro EV. This is not the first Niro to hit the market, both a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid model: Kia Niro EX, are already available. But now it's the electric version's turn to shine. And while the Kia Niro EV debuted to little fanfare, it's surprisingly equipped, long-ranged and elegant. We felt it deserved a "First Look"!

Most reviewers agree that this entry-level electric vehicle is perfect for those looking to transition into the market with little to no disruption to their driving experience. And as the Niro EV is currently offered in two trim levels: EX ($38,500) and EX Premium ($44,000), there are affordable options at both ends of the spectrum.

Car and Driver

First question: How does it drive? Dave Vanderwerp for Car and Driver goes into detail, "It's an entry-level electric with substantial range plus ample back-seat and cargo space that posit Hyundai/Kia as the dark horse in electric excellence. This is arguably what the EV-hungry masses should be lining up to buy [...]. On-center steering effort is a bit heavier than the small-crossover norm, but it imparts a sense of security in shepherding the half-ton battery pack."

Car and Driver's Joe Lorio further explains, "Kia lets the driver choose among four levels of regenerative braking via a steering-wheel-mounted paddle, including a brake-and-hold feature that allows the paddle to bring the car to a full stop. Additionally, a Smart Regen system can adjust the level of brake regeneration automatically in reaction to a vehicle ahead slowing down."

And for drivers who are used to the comfort of assist packages, rest easy! Lorio assures us, "[The EX Base] comes with nearly every driver assist, including adaptive cruise control, forward emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, and a driver attention monitor. The EX Premium, at $44,995, adds heated and cooled front leather seats with power adjustment for the driver, an upgraded eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, Harman/Kardon stereo, moonroof, wireless phone charging, and LED taillights. The EX Premium Launch Edition package ($1000) includes LED headlights, a heated steering wheel, a garage door opener, front and rear parking sensors, and a cargo cover for $45,995 all in."

Kelly Blue Book

Here are some quick power stats from Andy Bornhop at Kelly Blue Book:

  • New electric Kia Niro has a 239-mile range
  • 64-kWh lithium-ion battery, 201-horsepower electric motor
  • Full recharge in under 10 hours with 220-volt AC charger
  • DC Fast Charger gives 80 percent in 75 minutes

While people compare the Kia Niro EV to the Hyundai Kona, and while they do share an engine and battery, it's body shape and size is more closely aligned with the Hyundai Ioniq. Bornhop elaborates, "As such, it has a much roomier back seat than the Kona EV, but as a slightly heavier vehicle it can’t quite match the impressive 258-mile range of the Hyundai, even though it does have the same 201-horsepower electric motor and 64-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack.

That Niro EV’s liquid-cooled battery pack — mounted low and flat in the chassis, between the front and rear axles — is huge, so large that one Kia engineer likened it to a queen-size mattress. By itself, it tips the scales at 1,008 pounds, which means it represents more than 26 percent of the Niro EV’s 3,854-pound curb weight. The battery in the Niro PHEV, for the record, weighs only 85 pounds. Ponder that for a few."

What does this mean for the Niro EV's charging power? Well, with a DC Fast Charger, you can charge up to a 100-mile range in a cool 30 minutes. How's THAT for speed?

Motortrend

Kelly Pleskot of Motortrend focus on Niro EV comparisons as well, but price seems to be a sticking point. Pleskot writes, "The Niro EV starts at $39,495. That's $1,500 more than a base Kona Electric. These prices don't take into account a federal tax credit of $7,500 available for both models. The Kia is also more expensive than the Nissan Leaf Plus, which is priced at $37,445 before the $7,500 credit. The Chevrolet Bolt starts at $37,495, but is only eligible for a credit of $3,750 at this time since GM has crested 200,000 EV sales."

But what comes with this slightly higher price tag? Space! The Niro EV is bigger and more spacious than the Kona, with a few more inches in length and in the vehicle's wheelbase making front seats roomier and backseats family and cargo-friendly. Pleskot elaborates, "With that big chunk of weight so low to the ground and between the axles (where chassis engineers like it), the Niro EV drives remarkably well. This new electric Kia feels substantial, not the least bit tinny, and it takes corners with minimal body roll and excellent composure thanks to its low center gravity. It’s a quiet car, and there’s plenty of space for a 6-foot-tall passenger to ride behind a driver of the same size.

Consumer Reports

Keith Barry of Consumer Reports has a slightly more sunny disposition on the Niro EV, drawing a more favorable comparison to some of the cars on our list. "There are several reasons to like it: It has a 239-mile range between charges and a spacious interior. It can cost less than a Tesla Model 3, and it offers more cargo room and more comfortable appointments than a Nissan Leaf or a Chevrolet Bolt." Some other positives? "It’s well appointed, too. The base model comes with tons of features such as automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility are standard, and the 7-inch touch screen is quick and responsive. Our upscale EX Premium model added leather seats with contrasting piping, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, and a large sunroof. "

Cars.com

Car.com's number four selling point? "It's Not Weird"... But what does that mean exactly? Fred Meier writes, "The Niro doesn’t overwhelm you with gadgets and gauges, and science-project design. The fact is that EVs are less complicated to drive and maintain than a gasoline car. And Kia ran with that, giving the Niro a familiar look and feel. It also simplified use, putting essential information such as range up front and making charging the car nearly as simple as charging your phone. Sure, it still has fancier EV graphics and electric-specific features that you can master at your leisure as you adapt to new habits to get the most mileage out of your juice — but the hardest thing to learn for a newbie might be remembering to turn the Niro off without the prompt of hearing a gas engine still running."

Interested in leasing a 2019 Kia Niro EV? While it's not available in all states, we have good news for anyone in (or close to!) California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington - you can lease it. You may wonder, "why the limited release?" Keith Barry for Consumer reports writes, "Some automakers only sell their EVs in states with a Zero Emission Vehicle (or ZEV) program requiring them to diversify their lineups to include EVs. Some EVs are offered nationwide, but states without a ZEV program tend to have fewer EV models to choose from. "

In the market for an electric vehicle? Carlease can help. Call our leasing experts at 847-714-1414 or visit our site, Carlease.com today to find out how we can save you time and money on your next car lease - all from the comfort of your home or office! What are you waiting for?

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