The 2019 Kia Niro EV debuts at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show.
Expect quicker charging times and an abundance of safety features.
It even makes a futuristic noise that resembles a spaceship. No. Seriously.
Electric vehicles are coming, and they’re coming for every price point and customer out there. What was once the province of rich people with a point to make, is now, or soon will be, within reach of even those of humble means. What Tesla is to guilt-ridden project managers, the Kia Niro EV will be to, uh, people who buy Kias.
Look, I have nothing against Tesla. They are very well made and very usable. The only thing I don’t like about Tesla is they’re expensive. Sure, in my Lotto-winning Mind Palace Garage Mahal, I’d have a couple of them, but now? No can do. Automotive writers don’t make much crust.
The Kia Niro EV, like the Nissan Leaf and other “budget-minded” EVs, want to rectify that. No firm pricing yet but c’mon, it’s a Kia. How much can they possibly charge? And even though it will not be Rolls-Royce priced, it is, like everything Kia makes, loaded with features of all sorts. Tech, comfort, convenience, the lot.
What will differentiate it from its ICE-powered brethren is the powertrain, which is anything but cheap.
The 2019 Kia Niro EV is powered by a state-of-the-art, liquid-cooled 64kWh lithium ion polymer battery that lives under the floor. Nice because there are minimal passenger intrusion and a lower center of gravity. Charging rates are said to be brief. The prime mover is a 201 horsepower electric motor with an impressive 291 lb-ft. of torque.
Kia says the Combined Charging System (CCS) handle a 100kW load, with the DC fast-charge equipment being standard. That means you can get around 100-miles of recharge in 30 minutes, or “fill up” 80 percent of the battery in 75 minutes (a long lunch).
If you’re pulling from a Level 2, 240v line (i.e. like the one your washer/dryer is hooked to) at 7.2 kWh, then you’re all charged up in 9.5 hours. So, park it for the night, plug it in, and you’ll be good to go for the following day.
Yes, with 291 lb-ft. of torque, the driving can be fun. There are four drive modes you can choose from: Eco, Normal, Sport, and Eco+. These allow you to tailor stuff like the regenerative braking level, air and heat settings, and even speed for better efficiency.
For example, the regenerative braking system has four levels depending on how aggressive you want the regen effort. The Brake and Hold System brings the Niro to a full stop, adding energy to the battery otherwise lost under normal braking. Smart Regen creates smoother “coast-down driving,” especially on steep roads. The Smart Eco Pedal Guide is a nanny on the instrument cluster, keeping you aware of real-time power distribution based on accelerator pedal input.
Did You Hear That?
Kia even threw in a “techy whirring noise” when moving to evoke a speedy sci-fi spacecraft. No, seriously. One early tester confessed to driving in parking garages with the windows down just so they could hear the sound. The sound, however, is actually the Pedestrian Warning System, a speaker and controller assembly behind the front bumper.
Without it, the Niro EV would be silent and a potential hazard to pedestrians.
Tech & Connectivity: Plenty To Go Around
Besides the EV parts, this Niro is what you’d expect out of any modern car: tons of tech and tons of safety stuff. There’s a seven-inch color touchscreen with a rearview camera and parking guidance. Tunes come from an eight-speaker Harman/Kardon premium audio system.
There’s a USB input along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Wireless smartphone charging and Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition, all standard.
Other bits of flash include the “high-tech” rotary shifter dial, customizable “mood” lighting, a multi-functional center console with many (many) storage options, cup holders, compartments, and three USB ports. A deluxe scuff plate finishes off the blingee.
Related: Solid handling and good fuel mileage – our full review of the 2018 Kia Niro.
Safety? Like A Bank Vault!
Antilock braking, traction control, electronic stability control, hill-start assist control, and a tire pressure monitoring system for starters. There’s the “Kia Drive Wise” suite with forwarding collision warning, forward collision-avoidance assist, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, blind spot collision warning, driver attention warning, smart cruise control with stop & go rear cross-traffic collision warning, and parking distance warning.
Finally, the 2019 Kia Niro EV has a revamped telematics system so you can monitor and control a long list of vehicle operations. This includes things like battery and charging status, scheduled charging, and real-time charging station updates.
If Kia didn’t tell you this is an EV, you’d never notice. Apart from that spaceship sound thingo, which is kinda goofy.
Pricing & Availability
The 2019 Kia Niro EV will be available in two trims, EX and EX Premium, and will go on sale early next year. Pricing information is forthcoming.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.