INDIANAPOLIS — I have a pretty long commute – about 35 miles each way. And as I noticed while picking up soda at the gas station last weekend, 87 octane was $4.65 per gallon. Premium and diesel were uncomfortably over $5. I own a Smart car and have test cars most of the time, so gas prices don’t usually affect my budget much, but goodness, that’s expensive. I let it sink in, then realized I still don’t care because…I’m driving the 2022 Kia Niro EV.
Part of my mission this week was to see if I could live with an EV as my daily driver because, let me assure you, I’d be considering one if I had to buy a new car for myself. The Kia Niro finds the sweet spot between entry-level EVs like the Nissan Leaf or Chevy Bolt and high-end models from Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, and Cadillac.
It’s clear the Niro EV is different with its flat panel front and charge port door on the facia, but the rest looks like the Niro hybrid on which it’s based. That’s to say, it looks like a normal compact crossover dressed with turquoise accents, 17” wheels, low rolling resistance tires, and roof rails. Ours came in metallic white, which looked both elegant and high-tech. I wish it looked more futuristic, but many of you shopping EVs for the first time will no doubt appreciate its understated style and practical proportions.
Even compared to dedicated EV architectures dressed with flashier attire from competitors, the Niro EV makes a strong case for itself. The powertrain, with a 64 kWh battery pack, delivers 201 horsepower and 291-lb.-ft. of torque. Typical of EVs, it provides instant smooth acceleration, running 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds. You can hammer the left lane if you choose, but running posted speeds will net 239 miles range.
When I left for work fully charged, range showed 245 miles. Upon arriving, it showed 210 miles – or exactly the 35 miles I traveled. It’s accurate and impressive, given 25 miles was spent running 70+ mph. I don’t have a charger in my garage, so I plugged in the auxiliary cord to household current. It took 15 hours to recover 80 miles range. A Level 2 240v charger could fully replenish in 9.5 hours. Commercial DC fast chargers get you to 80% in an hour.
To help justify its lofty price, the Niro EX comes very well equipped for long commutes given Harman/Kardon audio, power sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, and a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel. Automatic climate control can be aimed at just the driver to conserve energy. An intuitive 10.5” touchscreen controls devices connected with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and charged wirelessly. Safety is enhanced by automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind spot warning, and rear cross path detection. Adaptive cruise makes those long commutes much easier.
Even without an electric powertrain, the Niro would make a strong case with a roomy interior, washable vegan leather upholstery, fold-down rear seats, and a control pod for gear selection in the center console. But, with tossable handling and quiet quick demeanor, it delights. Not worrying about the price of gas may be the biggest joy of it all.
A base price of $39,000 rises to $47,080 as-tested – reduced by a $7,500 tax credit. It’s a fair deal, but will soon get zapped by the Subaru Solterra, Toyota bZ4X, Nissan ARIYA, Chevy Bolt EUV, and Kia’s own EV6.
Send comments to Casey at AutoCasey@aol.com; follow him on YouTube @AutoCasey.