2021 Kia Niro EV

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2021
The Car Connection
2021
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Senior Editor
November 25, 2020

Buying tip

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.

The 2021 Niro EV offers a roomy layout and a long driving range, but it might not add up to the stunning value elsewhere in the Kia lineup.

What kind of vehicle is the 2021 Kia Niro EV? What does it compare to?

The 2021 Kia Niro EV is a fully electric vehicle that offers well over 200 miles of range. The Niro EV is nearly identical in its cabin packaging and usability to the Niro hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid models—and just as with those, some might see the Niro EV as a car and others could perceive it as a utility vehicle. It most closely compares to other long-range EVs such as the somewhat smaller Nissan Leaf Plus and Hyundai Kona Electric, although the somewhat larger Ford Mustang Mach-E and Volkswagen ID.4 will overlap with it price-wise. 

Is the 2021 Kia Niro EV a good car?

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The Niro might not flat-out seduce you with its styling or performance. But if you’re shopping for an electric vehicle based on how it works for the family, the Niro EV covers all the bases for practicality, with a roomy interior, versatile layout, and a strong feature set—in addition to enough for driving range long enough for weekend road trips (with a fast-charge here and there) and a more engaging driving experience than the other Niro models. Accordingly, we rate the 2021 Niro at 6.6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's new for the 2021 Kia Niro EV?

The Niro was introduced as a late entry for the 2019 model year and, after some upgrades to its infotainment systems and some new accent trim for 2020, it’s expected to enter 2021 with minimal changes. 

Although the Niro EV doesn’t look much different from the rest of the Niro lineup, outside of a flush-looking front end and a different shifter and dash layout inside, it flaunts all the benefits of going electric from the driver’s seat. 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. The perky, quiet performance prevails all the way up to highway speeds. Handling and roadholding are good, but it’s simply not as nimble on the backroads since the Niro EV weighs about 700 pounds more than the Niro hybrid. 

Although some of the rugged cues might throw you off initially, the front-wheel-drive Niro EV is much closer to a slightly taller-riding hatchback than a lower-riding SUV. Versatility and space are the keywords, and the seat height is just right for getting in and out—or for snapping in child seats. Front seats are short and lack the support many will want for road trips, though, and there’s only enough width for two adults in the back seat. 

How much does the 2021 Kia Niro EV cost?

Pricing for 2021 hasn’t yet been released. For the 2020 model year, the Niro EV EX started at $40,210, while the EX Premium, with a sunroof, cooled front seats, Harman Kardon audio, and a larger 10.3-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation, was $45,710. 

Where is the 2021 Kia Niro EV made?

Hwaseong , South Korea

5

2021 Kia Niro EV

Styling

The 2021 Kia Niro EV isn’t daring, but there’s nothing unattractive about it.

Is the 2021 Kia Niro EV a good-looking car?

The Niro EV is a good-looking vehicle, but not a great one. To help break out the distinction, the EV’s styling isn’t overtly daring, rugged, or sporty, and its profile and styling are solidly uncontroversial—middlin’, which is why it’s a 5 here.

It’s reasonably well-proportioned, with 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 isn’t much taller than a sedan.

Keep looking closer, and there are a few pieces of distinction exclusive to the EV. In front, there’s no actual grille; instead there’s a plastic panel with a pattern of diamond-shaped dimples, plus some tidy blue accent lines down low. And inside, the Niro EV breaks out from its utilitarian small-car influences with its large touchscreens plus a different twist-dial shifter and more space-efficient center-console layout—plus more matching blue accents.

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5

2021 Kia Niro EV

Performance

The 2021 Kia Niro EV is top-notch in electric-vehicle credentials, but the driving experience could use some fine-tuning.

In acceleration and driving range, the 2021 Kia Niro EV does good in showing off the quick, quiet potential of an all-electric powertrain. But there’s no sport-sedan ride and handling here.

How fast is the Kia Niro EV?

The Niro EV won’t deliver the sort of acceleration that’s become the content basis for hordes of Tesla YouTubers, but it’s strong, quick, and impressive. A permanent-magnet electric motor 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—amounting to a 0-60 mph time of about 6.5 seconds.

Unlike some other electric vehicles, the rush doesn’t fade beyond 50 or 60 mph; it still feels quick at U.S. highway-passing speeds.
As impressive as the Niro EV’s straight-line performance might be, we really can’t call it any revelation in handling, and it falls flat on some of the aspects we look for even in affordable vehicles for ride and refinement. That’s why here it keeps to a rating of 5.

Is the Kia Niro EV 4WD?

The Niro EV, like other Niro models, has front-wheel drive, and don’t expect an abundance of all-weather traction unless you’re willing to substitute in other tires that may put a dent in range.

With a curb weight nearly 700 pounds heavier than that of the Niro hybrid—from a roughly 1,000-pound battery pack under the floor in the middle of the car—the Niro EV feels more settled on the highway than its hybrid counterparts. But it feels out of sorts on backroads, where it bounces and bounds and tends to feel a half-step behind what the driver dials in with the steering wheel.

Energy is recovered and fed back into the battery pack with regenerative braking—which you might equate to the idea of downshifting a gear in a gasoline model. With three steps for that, via steering-wheel paddles, or an Auto mode that uses adaptive cruise-control sensors, you can cater much about how the Niro EV responds to the accelerator and (sometimes spongy-feeling) brake pedal.

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6

2021 Kia Niro EV

Comfort & Quality

The Niro EV doesn’t give up anything all-electric, but the premium price doesn’t fit the frugal-feeling interior.

Let’s cut right to what some people might have issue with in the 2021 Kia Niro EV: It can have a sticker price of more than $45,000, and yet it’s not offering up anything approaching luxury-vehicle ambiance.

The trims and materials in the Niro EV tend to be rather drab, and they’re neither cheerful nor charming. Road noise can be ever-present on the highway. And the front seats in the Niro EV feel lacking in support and, for some drivers, are too high without the adjustability to lower them.

Given all that, the Niro EV has a lot of versatility and packaging goodness, which is why it maintains a 6 in this category despite all those cautionary points.

Just as in hybrid versions of the Niro, rear seats flip forward for larger cargo, and the battery doesn’t bring any odd humps to work around in the floor or cargo area.

Getting in and out of the Niro EV is a cinch, as is loading little ones, or helping older family in. Just beware that the Niro is a rather narrow vehicle and so fitting three across in back won’t work in most cases. Further adding to the family factors—and if you can overlook the lack of charm—the trims and materials look like they’ll wear well.

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2021 Kia Niro EV

Safety

The Niro EV lacks official crash-test data.

How safe is the Kia Niro EV?

Frankly, it’s tough to tell. Although hybrid versions of the 2021 Kia Niro have done very well in crash-testing and safety ratings, there aren’t any crash-test ratings that apply to the much-heavier Niro EV—and thus, we haven’t yet assigned a score.

To put it bluntly, the Niro EV is a niche model based on what’s already a niche model, so there’s little incentive for U.S. safety organizations to test this model—save for curiosity about battery safety, perhaps.

Both the Niro EV EX and the Niro EV EX Premium come with automatic emergency braking, plus adaptive cruise control, and active lane control. That’s a reassuring safety set.

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7

2021 Kia Niro EV

Features

The 2021 Niro EV has a strong feature set, but it’s not as compelling as other Kia models on value for money.

The 2021 Kia Niro EV offers a somewhat stronger feature set than most other affordable EVs—including one of the more straightforward infotainment systems. That combined with a strong 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty help nudge it to a 7 out of 10.

Which Kia Niro EV should I buy?

The base EX version of the Niro EV is the one to get. It 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 are also included.

You don’t need to step up to the higher model to get DC fast-charging, which will help you quickly regain up to 100 miles of range in 30 minutes or get from 0-80% in 54 minutes. The 7.2-kw onboard AC charger is capable of getting the Niro EV to a full charge in about 9.5 hours on a 240-volt circuit.

Get the Cold Weather Package. It costs $1,000 and brings a heat pump, battery heater, and heated steering wheel; it’s the default for dealer-stocked cars in colder climates.

How much is a fully loaded Kia Niro EV?

The EX Premium (or just Premium) costs nearly $47,000 if you add the Cold Weather package. The Premium includes a 10.3-inch touchscreen, built-in navigation, a power sunroof, interior mood lighting, heated and cooled front seats, leather upholstery, and Harman Kardon premium audio with a subwoofer.

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10

2021 Kia Niro EV

Fuel Economy

The Niro EV can go 239 miles on a charge according to the EPA—and its tech helps those in colder climates achieve that.

Since the 2021 Niro EV breaks past the 200-mile mark in rated range, it gets a top 10 out of 10.

According to the EPA, the Niro EV’s achieves 112 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent; that breaks out to 123 MPGe city and 102 highway.

Beyond that, several real-world experiences have informed us that the EPA range isn’t just a high water mark but something that owners are likely to see on a regular basis. With the heat pump included in the Cold Weather Package, those in colder climates might see something close to it even in winter.

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$39,090
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6.6
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 5
Performance 5
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety N/A
Features 7
Fuel Economy 10
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