For most people I suspect electric vehicles remain something of a mystery for the simple reason they have never had a chance to drive one in everyday life.
However, my recent test of the 2019 Kia Niro EV reinforced the basic fact that electric vehicles are practical for everyday use and lot of fun to drive even in cold weather.
Indeed, the first time I climbed into the Niro EV the temperature was well below freezing in Michigan and the conventional wisdom that has built up around EV’s is that they don’t do well in cold weather. In fact, one of the reasons EVs can be hard to get outside of California or a few other big metropolitan areas in the so-called sunbelt is that they have issues in cold weather.
It was at or just above freezing during much of my test of the Niro and it did well. It started in the morning, heated up quickly during a drive, and the need for heat didn’t seem to diminish the battery. According to the gauges tracking the life of the Niro’s battery, the range seemed to improve on the day the temperature pushed past the 40-degree mark.
Overall, however, the Niro performed well under standard driving conditions and it was fun to drive because of its quick acceleration, more than ample torque and low center of gravity, which gave it nice balance coming through curves with a firm, well-planted feeling that is reminiscent of sport sedans with well-tuned suspension.
Another criticism of electric vehicles seems to be that they don’t have the power needed to keep up with traffic on freeway.
I found the Niro EV’s performance on the highway quite acceptable. Yes, it is a small crossover vehicle, but its electric motors are capable of producing 201 horsepower, which is more than enough to balance the extra weight from the lithium-ion polymer battery pack.
Overall, it had plenty of power to pass other vehicles or accelerate quickly when needed such as coming down a freeway off-ramp. In addition, with 291-foot pounds of torque from the electric motors, the Niro EV also delivers plenty of the punch that is so satisfying to drivers of all ages. offers plenty of pull and, well, electrifying get-up-and-go.
The freeway driving also didn’t seem to drain the battery excessively, according to the gauges, the power available did drop but the draw down wasn’t precipitous drop in the energy on-board energy supply.
One of the systems with which I was impressed with the regenerative-braking system, which puts energy back into the battery. Re-gen braking systems have been around for the better part of three decades but the system on the Niro, judging by the gauges, seemed to re-capturing more of the kinetic energy. The re-gen system clearly extended the driving life of the battery in the Niro.
The regenerative braking system in the Niro also can be operated via paddle shifters, offering drivers the ability to slow and adding extra range.
Of course, driving style affects the amount of energy expended, and the Niro EV is equipped with drive modes – Eco, Normal, Sport and Eco+ – that automatically adjust regenerative braking level, air conditioning and heating settings, and even set speed limits to help manage operating efficiency.
The Niro not only performs much like a vehicle with a gasoline engine, it also looks like one. The overall exterior design of the Niro fits into the silhouette of a conventional small crossover. No one who buys or leases one is going to have to worry about sticking out like a sore thumb.
At the same time, Niro cross over shape also provides plenty of versatility and functionality in compact package with a 106.3-inch wheelbase. The Niro has a raised seating position and excellent visibility.
The interior design is simple and very straightforward with a lot of emphasis on the vehicle’s all electric character. The controls are quite straight forward and the Niro also comes with the latest connectivity and safety features, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, USB Charge Port, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
The Niro EV EX Premium model that I had an opportunity to test also came with a list of features people didn’t think you could find on an EV because of the drain on the battery. The list included heated seats, power sunroof, premium audio, a navigation system, wireless charging and mood lighting.
The Niro EV isn’t inexpensive. The manufacturers suggested retail price was $47,155, which included the $995 destination charge. But you have to remember the average price of a new vehicle sold in the U.S. hovers around $40,000 so it’s the Niro’s price isn’t exactly outlandish when you consider you don’t have to buy gasoline or motor oil.
After driving the Niro EV, I also think that if more people got to drive them, manufacturers would sell more.