Car Tech

Revisiting the 2023 Kia Niro EV Reveals the Jekyll and Hyde of Electrification

My last test of the 2023 Kia Niro EV was a little… underwhelming.

Granted, it was during the late weeks of winter, but the real-world range came up well short of expectations. Making matters even more disappointing was just how impressive the one before it was in similar conditions, matching its official estimates with ease.

With summer winding down, a second look at the Niro EV was revealing – not just about this Kia, but about the Jekyll and Hyde of electrification in general.

Riding a (Heat) Wave of Range

Fall was on the horizon during this week-long test, but you’d never know it by the ambient temperatures. Daytime highs hovering around 35°C are hardly considered comfortable, but they’re far more friendly to electric vehicle (EV) range than the cold ones of wintertime that slow down the chemical reactions that occur inside the battery cells.

The other factor is a human one: we like to be cozy. But where gas-powered vehicles can recycle the heat generated by their engines to keep occupants warm, EVs don’t have the same luxury. And while heat pumps help, they can’t make up the difference entirely.

In the case of the 2023 Kia Niro EV, that combination led to real-world range of about 300 km during a late winter test – less than the 407 km it’s officially rated for. A wintertime range reduction of more than 25 per cent isn’t uncommon amongst these emissions-free entries, but that’s cold comfort for potential buyers (pun intended).

Fast-forward to early September, and this Kia – yes, the very same unit I tested before – was like a whole new car. First picked up with an 84 per cent charge, the indicated range stood at 350 km with the air conditioner on and 374 km with it off. That difference exists because the same principle applies to keeping the cabin cool as it does warm, only to a lesser degree. (Another planned pun.)

Setting out on a drive that blended a bit of time in the city with plenty on the highway, the Niro EV turned in a combined consumption rate of just 15.0 kWh/100 km over the course of 170 km. That’s significantly better than it’s rated for (18.6), and easily among the lowest I’ve ever experienced firsthand. In the process, it burned through about 40 per cent of the energy in the battery – right in line with its range estimates.

All Charged Up

Hooked up to a 50-kW DC fast-charger, it took 80 minutes to add 39.5 kWh of energy – more than half of the battery’s capacity. With it completely topped up, the computer indicated an estimated range of 448 km with the climate control system off, 41 km more than the 2023 Niro EV is officially rated for, not to mention nearly 150 km more than it managed on a full charge in March.

From there, I racked up another 200 km on the odometer, almost all of which was done on the highway. Even then, the combined consumption rate remained lower than the official Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) numbers, with the final tally fluctuating a bit before settling at the same 15.0 kWh/100 km.

That’s exactly the kind of performance that had me raving about the first-gen Niro EV as one of the most underrated emissions-free entries on the market. Some tweaks to the interior notwithstanding, this hatchback is about as approachable as they come, with its easy-driving ways only enhanced by its ability to travel longer distances between charging.

Final Thoughts

Revisiting the 2023 Kia Niro EV in warmer temperatures was reassuring if nothing else, providing proof that my wintertime experience wasn’t indicative of year-round range issues. But that’s not exactly surprising, either. Plenty of other EVs lose 20 to 30 per cent of their advertised range when the mercury drops, which is right in line with what I experienced during my last test.

So where does that leave this Kia? Probably somewhere in the middle of the pack, which likely isn’t the answer many prospective shoppers were hoping for. It remains a competent choice for commuters that makes the switch to electrification easier than most. Just be prepared for some range anxiety when the temperature outside starts to slide.