Another competent Korean car—the Kia Niro EV, reviewed

The Kia Niro EV is a battery electric vehicle I’ve been eager to drive for a while now. Two years ago, I tried the $26,000 Niro, a 40mpg (5.9L/100km) hybrid that charmed my socks off. Last year, it was the Niro PHEV, a plug-in hybrid that beefed up the battery in exchange for not too much more money. Both of those still carried around an internal combustion engine; the $39,090 Niro EV does not. Aside from some subtle design clues, you might not know one from the other, but a blanked off nose grille and bits of blue highlight trim give the game away that this version ditches the ICE.

Instead, a 64kWh lithium-ion battery lives low-down between its axles. Under the hood lies a 201hp (150kW), 291lb-ft (395Nm) permanent magnet synchronous motor that drives the front wheels. If those specs sound familiar, they should be: the Niro EV shares its electric powertrain with another budget BEV from Korea, the Hyundai Kona EV.

As we discussed with the hybrid Niro review, Kia calls it a crossover. Whether you do depends on how sensitive you are to its visual height—as a shape, it screams, “I’m a mini SUV” much more softly than the Kia Seltos we looked at last week. You don’t sit that high up—enough for a bit of extra situational awareness, perhaps, but still a couple inches lower than another Kia is-it-a-hatchback-or-a-crossover, the Soul. Pigeon-hole it where you like, that part is probably not as important as whether it fits with one’s lifestyle.

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