Kia Niro EV shrinks gap between green and traditional vehicles
Automotive technology has not yet reached the point where electric vehicles — EVs — can compete with convenience and price of conventional gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles. But they’re closing in on that goal, as Kia demonstrates with the arrival of the Niro EV.
The Niro, introduced in 2019, is a subcompact crossover that’s available with gasoline-electric hybrid and all-electric power. Prices range from $23,490 for the hybrid to $28,500 for a plug-in hybrid with an all-electric range of 26 miles, to $38,500 for an EV with a maximum range of 239 miles. EV buyers in Connecticut are eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit and $1,500 incentive from the state — so the EV actually costs just $1,000 more than the plug-in hybrid.
People who are in the market for an EV should beware of the price ceiling. Our test car, a loaded 2019 Niro EV EX Premium, had a sticker price of $47,155. Connecticut’s incentive applies only to vehicles with sticker prices below $42,000.
The Niro is part of a new generation of EVs featuring lower prices and longer driving ranges. Among these EVs are the Chevrolet Bolt, $36,620 and a 259-mile range; Nissan Leaf, $29,990 to $36,550, and 150 to 226 miles; and the Tesla Model 3, starting at $41,100, 240 to 310 miles.
The Niro has the look and functionality of a crossover, lacking only an all-wheel-drive option. The 201-horsepower electric motor propels the Niro briskly and silently, and the car’s ride and handling both are comfort-inducing. It also has an unexpectedly roomy back seat. Equipped as our test car was, it has ample luxury, safety and tech features.
The EV system has many advantages, beginning with its strong performance. It never requires an oil change, spark plugs, fuel filter, catalytic-converter replacement or emissions inspection. Kia warranties the battery for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Hyundai, Kia’s sister company, offers a lifetime warranty on batteries for its Kona EV, but only for the original owner.
What about range anxiety? With a range of 239 miles, that’s really not an issue for Niro owners, especially with charging stations proliferating across the United States.
2019 Kia Niro EV EX Premium
Engine: AC synchronous electric motor, 150 kW (201 horsepower), 291 ft.-lb. torque
Weight: 3,854 lb.
Ground clearance: 6.3 in.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 17x7-in. alloy
Tires: P215/55R17 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 18.5 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 53 cu. ft.
Range: 239 miles
Fuel economy: 123 mpge, city; 112 mpge, highway
Fuel type: electricity
Fuel cost? In Connecticut, the average price for regular gasoline is $2.74 per gallon. EV drivers rely on electricity, not gasoline — and if they recharge at a public charging station, the juice usually is free. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “If electricity costs $0.11 per kilowatt-hour, charging an all-electric vehicle with a 70-mile range (assuming a fully depleted 24 kWh battery) will cost about $2.64 to reach a full charge.” By comparison, a conventional car that gets 35 mpg will cost about twice that much in gasoline. Unfortunately, Connecticut residents pay 17.24 cents per kilowatt-hour. So it’s still cheaper to plug in than to gas up, just not as much of a bargain as in states with lower electrical rates.
The final, obvious question: What about recharging time? Using a DC fast-charge, the Niro can be brought to 80 percent capacity in 75 minutes. The U.S. Department of Energy reported there are now more than 20,000 charging stations nationwide, and 16 percent of them are DCL fast-charge units. Plugged in at home, the Niro will be fully charged in 9.5 hours (240-volt) or 17 hours (120-volt).
Of course, it’s possible to fill a 12- or 16-gallon gasoline tank in fewer than five minutes … and we’ve heard reports of drivers lining up at charging stations. With “range anxiety” largely a thing of the past, the main obstacle to wider use of EVs is the time required to recharge it on trips that exceed its range.
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.