With a bigger, better, more spacious 2023 model just weeks away according to press releases, the current 2022 Kia Niro SUV is South Korea’s rival to the Tesla Model Y. This compact sport-utility includes regenerative braking and a heat pump for cold weather efficiency among other useful features. Appealing to both practicality and aesthetics, the Niro EV wraps an agile, fast family crossover in sharp modern styling and a range of colors running from white and gray to eye-catching red.

Kia currently builds the Niro in hybrid, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), and electric vehicle (EV) versions. The 2022 Niro EV is worthy though perhaps not an outstanding competitor in today’s compact all-electric crossover world. Back seat legroom and overall cargo space come up slightly short next to some competing models. On the plus side, according to satisfied users, the Niro is speedy, dexterous, runs quiet, and is svelte enough for handy parking. The upcoming 2023 model promises to address some of the downsides, helping the Kia Niro EV stack up better against Tesla and others.

Kia Niro
The Kia Niro has a range of 239 miles on a full charge.

2022 Niro EV: Specs

Living up to its role as a compact SUV, the 2022 Kia Niro EV sports an overall length of 172.2” and a 106.3” wheelbase. This makes it over a foot shorter than the Tesla Model Y (187” overall, 113.8” wheelbase) and nearly as compact and maneuverable as a 2022 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4-door SUV (166.8” overall, 96.8” wheelbase). The vehicle is 71.1” wide and 61.8” high.

While front legroom is about as spacious as competing vehicles at 41.7”, some owners complain about the somewhat cramped rear seating row, where legroom measures just 36”, four inches less than the Jeep Cherokee or Tesla Model Y. Headroom measures about 3” less in the rear seat. The battery’s placement is the main factor constricting this seating row. The 2023 Niro EV, due out in the near future, should improve rear-seat space.

As an SUV, the 2022 Niro EV may well be expected to carry cargo by many of its owners. Cargo capacity is 18.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up, rising to 53 cubic feet with them folded down. The seats do not fold fully flat.

Other Niro EV features include:

  • A navigation system controlled by voice
  • A 10.5” touchscreen command and information interface
  • A premium audio system, wireless and USB phone chargers, remote climate control, and other modern conveniences
  • Power driver’s seat and heated steering wheel as standard features

2022 Niro EV: Range and Performance

The 2022 Niro EV provides moderate range in its current, first-generation iteration. A full charge enables driving 239 miles according to EPA estimates. Its regenerative braking feature helps to achieve this range. Regenerative braking has four different levels the driver can switch between using steering wheel paddles. Thus, the driver can pick how aggressive the vehicle’s regenerative braking is, enabling fine-tuning between two-pedal and one-pedal driving depending on his or her preferences.

The KIA electric SUV’s single motor develops 201 horsepower and outputs 291 ft-lbs of torque. The torque enables accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds.

Winter heating for the Niro EV is provided by a heat pump. This is important for maintaining range, since EV cold weather range can be cut by up to 40% if a heat pump isn’t used, according to an AAA study quoted by MarketWatch. Many competitors’ SUVs and crossovers, including the Tesla Model Y and the Audi e-tron, also use heat pumps. The Niro EV also features this heating method, however, so it doesn’t fall short of its rivals in the cold-weather range.

While these measures are subjective, owners of the Niro EV praise its nimbleness and responsiveness. Its compact dimensions help it fit into parking spaces or maneuver in tight parking areas, along with theoretically giving it some off-road agility. Careful design minimizes both road noise and wind noise for a quieter cabin. The Niro EV is smooth-riding under normal driving conditions.

2022 Niro EV: Safety Features

The safety of the 2022 Niro EV is quite good according to testing, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) giving it an overall four out of five stars safety rating. Breaking down the data in more detail, the SUV got four out of five stars for frontal crashes and rollover. Side crashes received a five out of five stars safety rating.

The Niro’s suite of safety features includes collision warnings for blind spot hazards or those encountered in reverse. The vehicle also has forward collision avoidance, smart cruise control, lane centering or lane-keeping assistance, and a driver attention warning, depending on the options chosen.

Kia intends to address the weaker points of the previous models, improving the battery, legroom, and electrical system.

What the Upcoming 2023 Niro EV May Offer

Due out in the summer of 2022, if Kia can keep to its promised timetable, the 2023 Niro EV is a second-generation overhaul of the first-gen 2022 Niro and earlier model years. Hybrid and plug-in hybrid models are also planned for 2023.

The 2023 Niro EV addresses what might be viewed as some of the weaker points of the vehicle’s first generation. It keeps the heat pump setup enabling earlier models to retain most of their range in colder weather. A standard 64.8 kWh battery nudges range up to 253 miles, a 14-mile increase over the 2022 model’s nominal range. Enhancements to the electrical system also make the compact SUV about 25% faster to charge. The time required to charge on a direct current (DC) Level 3 charger from 10% to 80% now dropped from the current hour to 45 minutes. A mere 25 minutes of charging will add 100 miles of range according to Kia, enough for both legs of all but the longest commutes.

Thoughtful Redesign

A reconfigured interior boosts cargo space behind the seats to 22.8 cubic feet, a 20% increase from 2022’s 19 cubic feet. The overhauled interior will also give occupants more elbow room, improving comfort, especially for the previously somewhat cramped rear seat. Storage pockets will be scattered at convenient locations throughout the interior.

Impressively, Kia managed to make the cabin more spacious and comfortable, and increase cargo space, without sacrificing the Niro’s convenient compactness. The wheelbase grew just 0.8 of an inch to 107.1 inches for the second generation. As a thrifty capstone to the Niro’s improvements, while the price will increase to $42,000 for the EX trim and $46,000 for the EX Premium, Kia says the SUV still potentially qualifies for full federal tax credits of $7,500, depending on its configuration.

The 2023 Niro will also feature “Vehicle to Load” ports, making it a power source for equipment and electronics. It can recharge or operate everything from small handheld devices such as smartphones or tablets, to laptop computers. It can also handle larger pieces of equipment such as appliances or lights. Kia even says it can be used to recharge an electric bike.

Kia Niro: Full Specs, Price, Range, and More FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How much is the Kia Niro?

The 2022 Kia Niro EV has a base manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $39,990 for the EX trim. The EX Premium trim costs a base of $44,650.

How does the Kia Niro charge?

The Kia Niro EV has two different connectors for charging. Ordinary charging at home or public charging points is achieved using a Type 2 connection. Fast charging, requiring a 100 kWh DC charging point, uses a CCS connector.

How much does it cost to charge a Kia Niro?

The price to charge a Kia Niro EV will vary depending on location (state). The use of an ordinary Level 2 charger or a Level 3 fast charger also affects cost. Ordinary charging costs an average minimum of 14 cents per kWh in 2022 according to Kelley Blue Book data, while fast charging is generally considerably more expensive.

When will the Kia Niro be available?

The 2022 Kia Niro, and earlier model years, are available right now. The vehicle is now available in all 50 U.S. states, which was not the case earlier. The 2023 Kia Niro EV, launching the second generation, should be available in summer 2022.

What is the difference between Kia Niro LX and EX?

The Kia Niro LX is a trim available only in the SUV’s hybrid model. The base model of the 2022 Kia Niro EV is the EX trim, while both the hybrid and EV have a top-end EX Premium trim with luxury features.

What problems does the Kia Niro have?

Relatively limited cargo space, a somewhat cramped back seat with limited headroom and legroom, and possibly shorter range than some extended-range modern competitors. Hybrid models may have underpowered acceleration, but the EV has strong, reliable acceleration typical of fully electric vehicles.

Is the Kia Niro a reliable car?

Consumer Reports data shows the 2019 and 2020 Kia Niro EV model years to have high reliability. From this, the 2022 model year reliability is also projected to be high.

How long does a Kia Niro hybrid battery last?

According to some Kia dealerships, Kia Niro batteries have a lifespan of between three years and five years.

Is the Kia Niro available with all-wheel drive?

All Kia Niros to date have front-wheel drive only.

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