For the better part of two years, the Chevrolet Bolt EV has been the only electric vehicle offering a long range (238 miles) at a reasonable base price ($37,495). That should change by the end of 2018. Not because Tesla is releasing an affordable Model 3; instead, it will be foreign automakers introducing their mass-market EVs to U.S. consumers.
Right now, it looks like a race between Nissan (the 2019 Leaf) and Hyundai (the 2019 Kona). Both are expected to break 200 miles, with the Kona aiming for 250 on a full charge.
Soon after, we should see the first deliveries of the 2019 Kia Niro EV in the U.S. Here’s what to expect from this all-electric crossover as Kia preps its debut.
1. Strong range and power specs
According to Kia, the top-spec Niro EV will get about 240 miles on a full charge with a 64 kWh battery. That range quote bests the Bolt EV by a hair and goes well past the base Tesla Model 3 (220 miles) that should arrive next year. A smaller battery pack (39 kWh) will offer about 150 miles of range.
With the larger battery pack, the Niro EV will use a 150 kW electric motor capable of 201 horsepower and 291 pound-feet of torque. Both figures are competitive with (or better than) other mass-market EVs. Meanwhile, its acceleration time (7.8 seconds to 60 mph) is solid for a crossover.
2. Focus on practicality
From reports of a first-drive event Kia held for the Niro EV in South Korea, it’s clear that practicality remained the focus of the production model. The interior is heavy on buttons and knobs — quite unlike the Model 3 — though a digital instrument cluster (for speed and range readings) comes standard.
Still, you won’t find a high-end finish in the Niro EV. It appears Kia is aiming for the practical EV buyer (i.e., someone who prizes range and reliability over luxury).
3. Larger than Kona
Kia already released the Niro hybrid and plug-in hybrid on the U.S. market, and this platform is larger (106-inch wheelbase) than the Kona (102-inch wheelbase) that sister brand Hyundai debuted at the New York Auto Show in 2018.
That type of space (equivalent to a Corolla’s wheelbase) and crossover utility should broaden Niro EV’s appeal on the U.S. market. Currently, there is nothing like it on sale.
4. Charging times
While Kia has not released charging times for Level 1 (120v) and Level 2 (240v) systems, the automaker said the Niro EV would charge to 80% in 54 minutes using a 100 kW fast charger. That’s on the slow side.
In practical use, that type of fast-charge times would make long road-trips more difficult. However, in normal driving patterns, the 240 miles of range would eliminate any range anxiety.
5. Release dates and pricing
With the Niro EV already on sale in Korea and headed for Europe in late 2018, U.S. dealers will see this model arriving in the first quarter of 2019. It will go to markets like California first in limited quantities before making its way to other locations.
Kia has not released U.S. pricing for the 2019 Niro EV yet. Pricing in Korea ($44,000) and the UK ($40,000) suggests the model with the larger battery would be in line with the Bolt EV. If Kia were to undercut that price, the Niro EV would be in a much better position to break through.