- Roomy interior
- Simple, intuitive interface
- Great infotainment systems
- Packed with features
- Not a $45,000 car in the up-close details
- Busy ride motions
- Benchlike front seats
- Odd center console layout
The Kia Niro EV gets more screen space for 2020, and it remains one of the roomiest of the affordable long-range electric vehicles.
The 2020 Kia Niro EV is a fully electric vehicle that offers a range of more than 200 miles per charge in a practical package that’s otherwise nearly identical to that of the Kia Niro hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid.
Overall, we rate the 2020 Niro at 6.6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Like those other Niro models, the Niro EV’s styling is not daring or rugged or sporty. There are some token hints of all-weather capability in the rubberized wheel-well trim and upright grille, but beyond the winks and the nods this is a front-wheel-drive car that has a tall, roomy body and it doesn’t sit significantly higher off the ground than a sedan.
For 2020, the Niro EV gets larger 8.0-inch and 10.3-inch infotainment screens, replacing the previous 7.0- and 8.0-inch ones, respectively. It also gets a little more metallic trim around the headlights and new rear LED combination lights.
The rest of the critical specs for the Niro EV carry over, and that’s not a bad thing. The single electric motor makes 201 horsepower and 291 pound-feet of torque and can accelerate the Niro EV to 60 mph in around seven seconds and it feels perky all the way to highway speeds. Ride and handling feels quite different than the Niro hybrid as the EV weighs about 700 pounds more. It’s confident on the highway but not as nimble on the backroads.
Most of the Niro hybrid’s interior versatility and space carries over to the Niro EV. The rear seats still flip forward, and there’s enough space for two adults in the back seat. The front seats aren’t so road-trip worthy, though.
The Niro EV is offered in EX and EX Premium models, with a larger screen, built-in navigation, Harman Kardon premium audio, and a heated steering wheel among the upgrades.
A $7,500 federal EV tax credit applies to qualifying buyers of the Niro EV, as well as various local and state incentives. Kia only sells the EV in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Texas, and Washington.
2020 Kia Niro EV
The 2020 Kia Niro EV might well be the wallflower of the current crop of utilitarian electric vehicles, but there’s nothing offensive about it.
From a distance, the 2020 Kia Niro EV doesn’t stand out. It’s neither daring nor inoffensive, with a silhouette that is standard form for a contemporary carlike crossover. And it doesn’t make any rugged or high-performance statements with its trim—save for the little bit of rubberized wheel-well trim that all Niro versions have.
The most distinctive details on the outside are exclusive to the EV: It has a plastic panel in place of the grille—made more visually interesting with a pattern of diamond-shaped dimples—plus blue accent lines for the lower air intake.
Inside, “utilitarian” is the keyword, but the Niro EV has a few more differences worth noting. It drops the shift lever and center console of other models for a twist-dial shifter and different center-console layout—plus more blue accent trim around the vents and for the seats.
In short, the Niro is middlin’ in just about every styling standpoint you could think of, which is why it’s a solid 5 out of 10.
2020 Kia Niro EV
The 2020 Kia Niro EV has a top-notch propulsion system, but the finer elements of ride and handling won’t satisfy everyone.
From a driving and performance standpoint, the Niro shows the strengths of an all-electric powertrain—with strong, near-silent acceleration and great responsiveness—but the front-wheel-drive 2021 Niro EV doesn’t deliver anything approaching sport-sedan ride and handling.
Since the Niro EV delivers confident straight-line performance that’s a solid step ahead of the Niro Hybrid, but is no revelation in handling, we rate it a 5 out of 10.
Acceleration isn’t ludicrous, but it’s impressive. The Niro EV has a permanent-magnet electric motor that produces 201 hp and 291 lb-ft of torque, and it can take off with an urgency not possible in Hybrid versions—easily enough to squeal the front tires momentarily. Unlike some other electric vehicles, the acceleration still feels quick at U.S. highway-passing speeds in the Niro EV.
Regenerative braking is offered in three steps, via steering wheel paddles—plus an Auto mode that uses adaptive cruise control sensors. A full “one-pedal driving” gradual stop is allowed if you keep pulling the left paddle. Normal, Sport, Eco, and Eco+ modes affect not just accelerator sensitivity but brake regen, heat, and A/C. The only thing we’d like to change about how the Niro EV drives is its somewhat spongy brake feel.
If you’ve driven a Niro Hybrid, don’t expect the Niro EV to ride and handle in the same way; that’s because the Niro EV just isn’t small-car light and nimble. It’s around 700 pounds heavier than the Hybrid and has a 1,008-pound battery pack mostly under the passenger floor. While the added heft seems to help the Niro EV cruise on the highway with poise, it’s not a fan of back roads, where it can bounce and bound and feel a half-step behind on quick changes in direction.
Long road trips are definitely possible in the Niro EV. A full charge of the Niro EV takes you 239 miles officially, and in a couple of follow-ups we’ve seen real-world results that stay true to that, without as much of a dent in cold weather as in some other EVs. With a 100-kw CCS fast charger, you can recover an 80% charge from zero in just 54 minutes.
2020 Kia Niro EV
Comfort & Quality
The Niro EV doesn’t make any comfort or utility concessions in going all-electric, but its premium price tag isn’t reflected inside.
The 2020 Niro EV carries the same basic package of the Niro Hybrid and Niro Plug-In Hybrid forward. That means the rear seats still flip forward for larger cargo, and there are no big surprises in terms of odd seating adjustments or cargo humps.
There’s one exception, but you might not even notice it. The Niro EV’s back seat is positioned slightly different to accommodate the battery pack, where it’s double-stacked below. That brings slightly less passenger space—an inch or so less to official leg and head room specs—and rear seat-folding that doesn’t line up as flat as other models.
Front-seat space is identical to the other models, and we find some of the same issues with the front seats, which feel a bit bench-like and lack the full thigh support for long drives. They also mash taller drivers up too close to the headliner.
It’s also an easy vehicle to get into for little ones, older family, or pets. Just beware that the Niro is a rather narrow vehicle and so fitting three across in back won’t work in most cases.
The Niro EV is spacious and versatile in just about every way, and has impressive cargo capacity, which earns it a 6 out of 10 here. If its interior materials were a little more impressive it might do better.
To that, the Niro EV isn’t offering up luxury-vehicle ambience, and the cabin experience otherwise hits a middle ground— some people might have an issue with its more than $45,000 sticker price. The trims and materials in the Niro EV look like they’ll wear well, but they’re hardly charming or warm. Road noise is mid-pack among budget-priced EVs, and you tend to hear the distinct whine of the motor and reduction gear—also a plus or a minus, depending on expectations.
2020 Kia Niro EV
The Niro EV lacks official crash-test data.
There aren’t many crash-test results that apply to the latest version of the Niro lineup to begin with. And to put it bluntly, the 2020 Niro EV is a niche model based on what’s already a niche model, so it’s not likely to be high-priority for the safety agencies to test or retest.
Due to that general shortage of crash-test ratings, we haven’t assigned a rating here.
Both the base Niro EV EX and the Niro EV EX Premium come with automatic emergency braking, plus adaptive cruise control, and lane-keep assistance.
2020 Kia Niro EV
The features list is strong for the Niro EV, even if you manage to secure the base EX version that’s the better value but much harder to find.
The 2020 Kia Niro EV offers a solid list of features —more than other EVs in this price set—and its upgraded infotainment help it earn a 7 out of 10 here.
The base EX version of the Niro EV comes with an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, satellite radio, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and rear climate-control ducts. It’s also equipped with a DC fast charge port and a 7.2-kw onboard AC charger capable of getting the Niro EV to a full charge in about 9.5 hours on a 240-volt circuit.
Key upgrades for the Premium include a 10.3-inch touchscreen, built-in navigation, a power sunroof, interior mood lighting, heated and cooled front seats, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, and Harman Kardon premium audio with a subwoofer.
The Niro EV subs out the standard center console from the Niro for one that’s quite different—due to the dial-type shifter—and while it includes wireless charging for smartphones, we found its cupholder, beneath a covered compartment to be somewhat awkward.
2020 Kia Niro EV
The Niro EV has a 239-mile rated range and great efficiency, and the option of a heat pump will help those in colder climates achieve that.
The 2020 Kia Niro EV has a 64-kilowatt-hour battery pack and is rated at 239 miles of range by the EPA. Its fuel economy rating is 112 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent). That breaks out to 123 MPGe city and 102 highway.
Since the Niro EV easily breaks past the 200-mile range, it earns a top 10 out of 10 in this category.
A Cold Weather Package costs $1,000 and brings a heat pump and battery heater; it’s the default for dealer-stocked cars in colder climates.