With long and low proportions, the 2021 Kia Niro EV looks more like a tall wagon than the crossovers that clog expressways and parking lots. Kia’s all-electric ute, which is also available with gas-only and plug-in-hybrid powertrains that we review separately, is attractive and packed with desirable standard features, including a host of driver assists. The Niro EV has an EPA-rated range of 239 miles, which is good for most driving duties besides long road trips. Hooked up to a 100-kW fast charger, it can replenish 80 percent of its battery in about an hour. While the 2021 Niro EV isn’t exciting in any way and is only sold in select states, it’s a surprisingly refined and satisfying subcompact crossover that also happens to be an EV.
What’s New for 2021?
For 2021, Kia makes only a few changes to the Niro EV lineup. The list includes a newly standard rear-occupant alert to help protect little Tommy or Sally from getting left in the car. All models now have wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the remote-start system now allows the cabin to be pre-conditioned—heated or cooled before you climb in. Also, the all-electric Niro’s driver-assistance tech is enhanced with the addition of navigation-based adaptive cruise control and an alert that notifies the driver when the leading vehicle drives away.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
We’d recommend the base EX trim level, which comes well equipped and costs significantly less than the EX Premium. Its standout standard features include heated front seats, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and driver assists such as automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keeping assist. We’d only add the Cold Weather package (heated steering wheel, battery heater, and–most notably–a heat pump, which is a more efficient way of heating the car’s cabin that also improves driving range in cold weather). The 2021 Niro EV still qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit, but Kia only sells the SUV in certain states.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Niro EV is powered by a single electric motor that produces 201 horsepower, which is sent through the front wheels by a one-speed direct drive transmission. The Niro EV puts up a brisk zero-to-60-mph time of 6.5 seconds, which is quicker than the Chevy Bolt EV and just a tenth of a second slower than the Hyundai Kona Electric. It is possible to drive the Niro EV with just one pedal thanks to regenerative braking (which recharges the car as you brake), but it requires the use of paddles mounted on the steering wheel, which get tiresome to control after a while. The Niro EV offers a more refined ride than its competition; wind and road noise are far less noticeable than in the Bolt EV, Kona Electric, or Tesla Model Y.
Range, Charging, and Battery Life
The 64.0-kWh battery capacity of the Niro EV is right in line with the rest of the segment, besting the Leaf’s capacity, matching the Kona EV and falling just short of the Bolt EV. The 64.0-kWh battery in the Niro EV affords it an EPA-rated range of 239 miles, which is average among the competition. The battery can be recharged using either a 120-volt or 240-volt connection, but the two connections offer drastically different charge times. On a 240-volt connection, the car can be recharged in about nine hours. For people that can’t wait that long, the Niro EV offers standard DC fast charge capability, allowing you to recharge the battery to 80 percent in an hour with a 100-kW connection.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
In our testing, the Kia Niro EV achieved 115 MPGe over our 200-mile highway fuel economy route, beating its EPA rating of 102 MPGe on the highway. Despite the high MPGe mark, we only saw 180 miles of its claimed 239-mile range during the test, which was completed at wintry temperatures. Running the Niro EV in warmer climates should return a more pleasing result. For more information about the Niro EV’s fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Niro EV comes well equipped even in the base EX trim, which has standard power front seats, heated front seats, and a 7.0-inch digital driver display. Upgrading to the EX Premium trim adds on features like ventilated front seats, a power sunroof, and wireless charging. Unfortunately, both trim levels suffer from an excess of black plastic throughout the interior that isn’t pleasant to look at or touch. The Niro EV also has an intuitive two-zone automatic climate control system with an option to turn off the passenger’s climate control if the seat is empty to save energy. This helps the EV maximize efficiency and allows for more of the battery to be used toward driving range. We were able to fit six carry-on suitcases behind the rear seats. The rear seats don’t fold flat, but when they were down we were able to fit 18 carry-ons behind the front seats. Fitting passengers behind the front seats is not ideal–the rear floor is raised to make room for the battery, and it creates a tight fit for rear seat passengers.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The standard infotainment set up in the Niro EV’s EX trim is an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, but the EX Premium trim upgrades the screen size to 10.3-inches and replaces the standard six-speaker stereo with an eight-speaker setup from Harman/Kardon. The larger infotainment display also comes with SiriusXM satellite radio and a voice-activated navigation system. Both setups have Bluetooth connectivity and support wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The Niro EV comes standard with all of Kia’s driver-assistance technology. For more information about the Niro EV’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with forward-collision warning
- Standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Standard adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Kia, along with corporate sibling Hyundai, offer some of the most complete and thorough warranty coverages available to car shoppers. The main selling point is the 10 year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, but the limited and hybrid/EV component warranties also beat what Chevrolet offers on the Bolt and what Nissan offers on the Leaf.
- Limited warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 10 years or 100,000 miles
- Hybrid components are covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance