You Shouldn’t Ignore the ‘Sleeper’ Kia Niro EV Despite Its Loss to the Ford Mustang Mach-E

Kia produces some of the best cars on the road. The automaker is also competitive in terms of EVs. And as far as the all-electric SUV segment goes, Kia has the Niro EV, an excellent electric crossover. Although it didn’t win the 2021 Car and Driver EV of the Year award, you still shouldn’t sleep on the 2021 Kia Niro EV.

The 2021 Kia Niro EV is a contender

A dark-blue 2021 Kia Niro EV parked on concrete outside a modern glass building on a sunny day
2021 Kia Niro EV | Kia

Car and Driver thoroughly tested 11 EVs for three weeks for its EV of the Year contest. The automotive site ultimately declared the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E the best EV. Car and Driver gave a few reasons for that, but the main takeaway is that the Mustang Mach-E won for what it can do. Sure, its numbers aren’t spectacular, but it can convert “EV skeptics to EV evangelists,” C/D says.

So that’s a high bar for the Kia Niro EV to beat. Regardless, Car and Driver gave the Niro EV high praise. C/D called the Niro “the sleeper” — an overlooked but great car. 

Why does Car and Driver think the 2021 Kia Niro EV is a sleeper?

One of the obvious reasons why consumers might overlook the Kia Niro EV is its looks. According to Car and Driver, the Niro “re­­inforces some negative stereotypes about electric cars.” This is because it doesn’t look sleek on the outside or the inside. Add in its $40,000 price, and the Niro EV might turn off many customers.

Still, customers shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The Niro’s electric powertrain, which doesn’t reinforce negative stereotypes about EVs, impressed C/D. Its electric motor produces 201 hp and 291 lb-ft of torque, allowing this compact crossover to go from 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds.

Not only that, but its 64-kWh battery gives it some great range. Car and Driver said that even with the Niro going 75 mph on the highway, it still had a range of about 210 miles. However, driving at slower speeds will give this crossover even better range. The Niro has an EPA-estimated 239-mile range, but other reviewers have gotten 285 miles on a full charge.

On top of that, Car and Driver liked the Niro’s handling and infotainment system. So even though this EV doesn’t look flashy, it’s “more capable than it appears.” 

Other contenders in the EV of the Year contest

Car and Driver tested almost a dozen EVs, including three Tesla models. The Model 3 and Model S both earned good reviews, but both fell short in one way or another. The 2021 Model Y also fell short, with Car and Driver simply saying it was worse than the Model 3. 

C/D also tested a few other popular EVs, including the Nissan Leaf and Audi e-tron. Nissan designed the Leaf to be an affordable EV, and it has succeeded in that regard. However, the Leaf isn’t much else compared to other EVs. And the e-tron, though expensive, is a relatively quick EV both on the road and at the charging station.

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