Sometimes pioneers are quiet and unassuming. They don’t bring attention to themselves yet in the background, they do more to advance a cause or technology than the ones being extremely vocal. The 2022 Kia Niro EV is exactly that. It’s the battery-electric vehicle that didn’t hog the limelight and secretly gave consumers an attainable option for sustainable mobility that punches above its weight. No, it’s not flashy, but there’s more to this crossover than meets the eye. With the imminent arrival of the second-generation Niro family, let’s revisit the original model and see why it’s a bigger deal than its restrained looks seem to suggest.
2022 Kia Niro EV exterior
Restrained would be the best way to describe the 2022 Kia Niro EV’s design. It features a familiar upright greenhouse instead of the aerodynamically-optimized wedge shape. The rear end is nearly vertical, helping create excellent visibility all around. Although Kia markets the Niro family as a crossover, it’s best to think of its three members as lifted hatchbacks because they don’t have much ground clearance versus a traditional compact car. There are only a few cues hinting at the Niro EV’s electrified nature. The most obvious one is the enclosed grille where you’ll find the AC and DC charging ports. Other than that, your only other clues are blue accents on the lower front and rear fascia, and an Eco Electric badge on the liftgate.
2022 Kia Niro EV interior
That upright shape pays off in the practicality department because the Niro EV is surprisingly roomy for its size. Four people sit comfortably and there’s a lot of room to work with when it’s time to haul groceries, suitcases, and other belongings. When dropped, the 60/40 split-folding rear seats create a nearly flat load floor and a squared-off space for bulky items. Kia also created a unique center console for the Niro EV that’s not connected to the dash, giving you additional room for your bags or other small items between the driver and front passenger. One of the center console bins also has retractable cupholders for additional flexibility.
In terms of fit and finish, the Niro EV lands squarely within the mainstream realm. There are lots of soft surfaces and padded areas where your arms would fall and everything you interact with feels nice and tactile. However, it doesn’t exude the same upscale aura like newer generation Kia models. You get a noticeable amount of road, tire, and wind noise, too, especially on the highway and poorly maintained roads. There are also harder bits of plastics near areas you interact with often but at least they feel sturdy.
2022 Kia Niro EV tech features
The Niro EV recently got the newer version of Kia’s infotainment system but kept all of the physical controls. Thanks to a responsive 10.25-inch touch screen, it’s easy to use and navigate through the menus. A straightforward layout and minimal submenus minimize the interface’s learning curve. You also get a partially digital gauge cluster with an intuitive 7.0-inch display. The available Harman Kardon audio system is one of the better mainstream units, meaning it’s crisp, clear, and does a great job covering the cabin. It’s also easy to customize based on your tastes and/or the type of music you frequently listen to.
Every 2022 Niro EV gets a full suite of collision avoidance and driver assistance features. Although it’s not the newest version, it works well. Lane keeping and steering assist do a great job preventing you from drifting around and will help you navigate gentle turns with adaptive cruise control or Highway Driving Assist on. The latter’s distancing component does a great job maintaining your set gap even in traffic and will even slow down if another vehicle cuts you off. Unlike the newer versions in certain Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis vehicles, this one is a little more conservative and leaves more room than usual even if you set the distance to the closest setting. Fortunately, the system makes an effort to proactively follow traffic flow and watches vehicles around you to keep you out of harm’s way.
2022 Kia Niro EV driving impressions
Behind the wheel, the front-drive Niro EV offers a pleasant driving experience. It utilizes an electric motor with 201 hp and 291 lb-ft of torque that’s backed by a 64-kWh lithium-ion battery mounted under the passenger compartment. Thanks to its instant response, you get quick acceleration anytime you need it, allowing you to get around that Sunday driver without much effort. However, you must be mindful of your throttle inputs because you can easily squeal the eco-focused tires. From a standstill, it’s easy to accidentally do burnouts because the amount of torque going through the front wheels prevents the car from gripping properly.
Once the tires hook up, the Niro EV holds the road respectably, giving it secure handling through corners. The battery’s positioning under the passenger compartment lowers the crossover’s center of gravity, reducing body roll and adding stability. Despite its peppy powertrain and planted demeanor, the Niro EV remains more of a daily commuter, not a hot hatch. Yes, it handles well but its suspension tuning veers closer toward the comfort end of the spectrum. As a result, it dispatches imperfections nicely, keeping most harsh impacts out of the passenger compartment. Credit the 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in tires with generous sidewall for additional compliance over poorly maintained roads.
You’ll know that the Niro EV is part of the early generation of long-range BEVs once you operate the brake pedal. While it’s not jerky, the handoffs from regenerative to friction braking aren’t seamless. You know where they happen because there’s a distinct indent throughout the brake pedal’s travel that makes it obvious. There are four strength levels for energy recuperation ranging from nothing to plenty. Since there’s no dedicated one-pedal driving mode, you must hold the left paddle to bring the car to a complete stop without touching the brake pedal.
On a single charge, the Niro EV can travel up to 239 miles according to the EPA. During our week with the vehicle, we easily beat those estimates, averaging 270 miles. A full charge takes roughly 9 hours and 35 minutes using a level 2 AC charger, which enables the car to charge at rates of up to 7.2 kW. Using a level 3 DC charger, you can get to 80 percent in roughly an hour and charge at peak rates of up to 100 kW. That’s on the low side nowadays because most new BEVs have peak charging rates ranging between 150 to 350 kW depending on the battery size and market positioning.
2022 Kia Niro EV pricing
The 2022 Niro EV starts at $41,165 for the base EX grade, which comes with a long list of standard equipment including the full suite of driver assistance features. Our test car is the EX Premium with the extra cost Snow White Pearl exterior color, several dealer-installed accessories, and the Cold Weather package, the latter of which adds a battery heater, a heat pump, and a heated steering wheel. All told, the total is $47,155. The Niro EV qualifies for the full $7,500 federal tax credit plus available state and local incentives.
2022 Kia Niro EV final verdict
Kia laid down strong foundations for its electrified future with vehicles like the Niro EV. The introduction of this model along with the hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants gave the Korean automaker the know-how to build platforms that easily accommodate electrified powertrains. Although Hyundai Motor Group has its new BEV-specific E-GMP architecture, vehicles like the upcoming second-generation Niro are proof that Kia and its two sister brands are making use of convergence platforms to give everyone an electrified option that fits their requirements.
The 2022 Kia Niro EV remains a good choice, especially if you’re looking at BEVs under $50,000. The value proposition is strong thanks to generous standard equipment and good road manners. If the lower peak DC charging rates don’t bother you, this little crossover has a lot to offer and it’s wrapped in an approachable package. We’re looking forward to driving its successor and seeing how a secretly winning formula evolves.
At a glance
- Year: 2022
- Make: Kia
- Model: Niro EV
- Trim: EX Premium
- Type: 4-door subcompact crossover
- Horsepower: 201
- Torque: 291 lb-ft
- Total Range: 239 miles
- Combined MPGe: 112
- Pros: Comfortable ride, Full driver assistance suite is standard equipment, generous power
- Cons: Only 100 kW peak DC charging rate, anonymous exterior styling, noisy cabin
- Base price: $41,165
- Price as tested: $47,155