Kia’s popular Niro EV gets a less wagon-like exterior and a modern interior in its second-generation remake for 2023. That makes it more eye-catching both on the road and on the showroom floor.
A striking feature is the “aeroblade” side panel, available in contrasting colors. It improves the Niro’s aerodynamics by streaming air through a vent that keeps it from creating drag. The blade helps the Niro EV get more range: 253 miles per charge, according to Kia’s internal estimate. That’s a 14-mile increase from 2022 and better than its closest potential rivals, the Chevrolet Bolt EUV (247 miles), Volkswagen ID.4 (229 miles), and Nissan Leaf SV Plus (266 miles). The Hyundai Kona Electric pulls a little ahead of the Niro with 258 miles, but the difference is negligible, and the Kona is half a size smaller.
The 2023 Niro EV is roomier than its predecessor and bigger inside than most competitors. Only VW’s ID.4 has more total passenger volume. The Niro EV boasts more rear headroom than its rivals and is second only to the ID.4 in total cargo space, as measured with the rear seats folded down.
Pricing, though, is higher than the competition’s, and under new rules requiring North American assembly, Niro EVs sold after Dec. 31, 2022, are no longer eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit. Both the Leaf and Bolt EUV are still eligible (Nissan is a Japanese company, but Leafs sold in the US are now built in Tennessee). After that credit is applied, their actual cost can be $19,000 to $25,000 lower than the Niro EVs, depending on model and trim level.
Even the pricing of the 2023 Kia EV6 Light, the entry-level model of the Kia EV6 introduced in mid-2022, could pull some customers away from the smaller Niro even though it has more horsepower and range.
Unlike competitors from Chevy and VW, the Niro doesn’t have an all-wheel-drive option, which is always useful in snowy and wet climes. And with 201 horsepower, it’s no speedster. But it offers a refined ride, confident handling, and an inviting interior inspired by the EV6.
All in all, the 2023 Niro EV offers good looks, excellent range, and a plenitude of features. The combination, plus Kia’s 10-year warranty on EV batteries, makes it a compelling choice among small crossover EVs if price isn’t the deciding factor.
The 2023 Kia Niro EV is available in two trim levels: Wind and Wave. The nature-based naming scheme originated in 2022 with the debut of the EV6 and is used only for Kia’s all-electric models.
The base Wind trim starts at $40,745 (including a $1,295 destination fee). Standard equipment includes LED headlights and taillights, a smart key system with push-button and remote start, heated exterior side mirrors with integrated turn signals, matte black exterior trim, synthetic leather and cloth upholstery, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat and manually adjustable front passenger seat, a reconfigurable 10.25-inch driver information display, a 10.25-inch infotainment system touchscreen, a Harman Kardon audio system, navigation, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charger, dual-zone climate system, and a full suite of advanced safety and driver-assist systems.
We recommend this trim because it is replete with high-end features, and there’s no improvement in range, performance, or looks with the more expensive Wave model.
Starting at $45,745, the trim adds projector-beam LED headlights with leveling adjuster, LED fog lights, power-folding exterior mirrors, chrome door handle accents, gloss black exterior trim, a power sunroof, aluminum trimmed accelerator and brake pedals, self-dimming rearview mirror with integrated HomeLink controls, heated steering wheel, driver’s seat memory settings, ventilated front seats, full imitation leather upholstery, a power-adjustable front passenger seat, a cargo-area mounted subwoofer for the audio system, and a vehicle-to-load power takeoff system.
A $1,300 Preserve package, available for both trims, is designed to enhance battery life and maximize range by reducing the climate control system’s hefty power drain. The Wind Preserve package includes a heat pump, battery warming systems and heated rear outboard seats and steering wheel. Oddly, the price remains the same for the Wave, although that trim’s standard features mean the package adds only the heat pump and heated rear seats.
Battery and Performance
The 2023 Kia Niro EV is a front-wheel-drive crossover that delivers 201 horsepower and 188 pound-feet of torque from a single electric motor fed by a 64.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
It is not a particularly quick electric car: Kia estimates its 0-to-60-mph time at 7.6 seconds. But it easily gets up to freeway speeds when merging from an on-ramp and doesn’t labor when climbing hills. The Chevrolet Bolt EUV is the fastest of the small electric crossover pack, with various enthusiast publications recording its 0-60 time at 6.7 to 7 seconds.
Kia engineers have designed the Niro as a family car intended for commuting, shopping trips, and leisurely Sunday drives. It is not particularly fun to toss around on twisting country roads, but neither are its chief competitors. As a daily driver, the Niro EV offers reliable handling and a comfortable ride. The Kia EV6 provides more driving excitement.
Range and Charging Time
The Niro EV is now rated per Kia’s estimate at 253 miles of range, up from 239 miles in 2022, and the longest per-charge traveling distance in its class. The Chevrolet Bolt EUV, at 247 miles, is second-best, followed by the Volkswagen ID.4, 229 miles, and Nissan Leaf SV Plus, 226 miles.
The Niro uses a 68.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and an 11-kW onboard charger that can replenish it in about seven hours on a 240-volt, Level 2 home or workplace charger.
For road trips, the Niro EV can use most DC quick chargers (Tesla is beginning to allow other manufacturers’ EVs to use its Supercharger system with an appropriate adapter), replenishing its batteries from 10% to 80% of capacity in as little as 45 minutes.
That’s not as quick as some newer models, including the EV6, but the Niro EV has been around for a few years and its electronics haven’t been treated to an update the way its exterior and interior have. Its maximum DC charging rate is 85 kW.
Most of the Niro’s competition doesn’t charge any faster. The Bolt tops out at 54 kW and the Leaf at 69 kW. The ID.4 is the segment’s speediest fast-charger at up to 125 kW per hour, while the quickest charging of today’s EVs, including the EV6, are capable of taking advantage of 350 kW quick-charge stations.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hasn’t published fuel efficiency ratings for the 2023 Niro EV, but Kia can duplicate EPA testing in its own facilities and rates it at the gasoline equivalent of 126 mpg in city driving, 101 mpg on the highway, and 113 mpg combined. Among likely competitors, only the 2023 Bolt EUV does better, with an EPA rating of 115 MPGe in combined city and highway driving.