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2023 Kia Niro EV first drive review: A more affordable EV6

Kia’s Electric Global Modular Platform — E-GMP — is all the rage in electric vehicles, delivering solid range, excellent driving dynamics, and practical storage in a range of new cars and crossovers. The EV6 is one of the best cars Kia currently sells, and the upcoming EV9 family hauler will surely impress.

But at a starting price over forty grand, the EV6 isn’t cheap. So how does Kia bring an electric vehicle to people who are more price conscious? They make an all-electric version of the Niro compact crossover, and it’s been updated for 2023.

The Niro EV is a compact, front-drive electric crossover that sports a 64.8 kWh battery pack. The Niro has 201 horsepower and 188 lb-ft of torque. That makes for smooth, linear acceleration up to highway speeds at a reasonable clip. If you turn traction control off, you can even burn the front tires a bit from a dead stop.

Speaking of driving, the updated Niro delivers on everything we liked from the last generation Niro EV — and the sister car to this, the Hyundai Kona EV — which means comfortable and quiet highway cruising with little road and wind noise, predictable round-the-town maneuverability, and even a tinge of fun. The updated Niro doesn’t drive much better than the previous car, but the previous car was already quite good.

Kia claims that the 2023 Niro EV can go 253 miles between charges, and while first looks aren’t the best events to test range, the onboard computer’s indication of over 3 miles per kWh puts it right in the ballpark.

Where the new Niro excels is the standard tech. The 2023 model gets Kia’s full suite of safety aids, including adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking for both forward and reversing movements, and highway drive assist.

More standard equipment includes a 10.25-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple Car Play, heated front seats, a Vegan interior, and even a wireless phone charger.

The new Niro can fast charge quicker than the old model, supporting up to a peak of 85 kW when DC fast charging. Kia claims that the run from 10 percent to 80 percent will take approximately 40 minutes. Onboard AC charging can be done at up to 11 kW for the overnight charging at home or plugging in at the office.

That charge rate is significantly slower than the Kia EV6, which takes 18 minutes to make that same 10 to 80 percent DC fast charge. But the Niro EV has a new feature that the EV6 doesn’t have quite yet.

A battery heater on board the Niro can help prepare for a fast-charging session. As we talk about in our EV Pulse Charging Challenge series, batteries like to be at a specific temperature to get the fastest charge rate. On previous Niros and the EV6, there is a “Winter Mode” to start battery heating, but it’s just an on/off switch.

On the Niro, if you input a charging station as a destination in the navigation system, as you approach the station the battery heater will kick on automatically to prepare for charging. This is something that Tesla and some other automakers do, but it’s not universal.

There are few options for the Niro. The standard Wind package contains nearly everything you could ever want in a car. The upgraded Wave package adds ventilated front seats, Highway Drive Assist 2 with automatic lane changing, and even remote smart park. A cold weather package adds a heat pump for cabin heating and heated outboard rear seats.

We don’t know how much the Niro EV will cost yet. Obviously, that plays a big factor into its recommendation, but we do know that it comes with more standard features than the EV6 and should start a few grand cheaper than the higher-positioned model.

Ultimately the Kia Niro EV is a competent family hauler with a surprising amount of space and practicality, predictable driving dynamics, and a nice set of standard features. It doesn’t set the world ablaze with performance or design, but it does exactly what it needs to do with few complaints. We’ll take it.

Written by Chad Kirchner
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