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Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus vs. 2019 Kia Niro BEV – Surprising Similarities & Stark Contrasts

We compare the 2019 Kia Niro Battery Electric Car to the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus and come away surprised by some similarities and also by some stark contrasts.

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The stars are aligning for Tesla and its more affordable Model 3 trims. The company finally has an electric car that fits the budget of many Americans. However, just as Tesla’s achievable Model 3 Standard Range hits the market, so too are some great alternatives. One we feel must be compared is the 2019 Kia Niro EV. Read just a bit further and you may be surprised by some of the similarities of these two great vehicles. Yes, there are some stark differences, but not in the areas we expected.

Related Story: 2019 Jaguar I-Pace - What It Offers That Tesla Models Do Not

Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus vs. Kia Niro EV – Similarities
The first similarity between these two electric vehicles is space. They have nearly identical interior passenger volume. 96.6 cu ft for the Niro and 97 cu ft for the Model 3. The second area of similarity is range. The Tesla Model 3 SR has an estimated range of 220 miles. The Standard Range Plus has a range of 240 miles. The Kia Niro EV’s range is 239 miles. Next up in the similarities is price. The Model 3 Standard Range Plus (black paint) is priced at about $38,700 without Autopilot. Add in Autopilot and gray paint and white interior and the price is $44,200. The Kia Niro EV will have two trims. The top trim will be priced at about $42,000 before incentives. After incentives, the Niro will have a meaningful price advantage. We expect the Niro to sell in EV-target states like Massachusetts for about $29K-$31K and the closest Model 3 will sell for between $32K and $38K until July 1st. After that, expect the Niro’s price advantage to grow as Tesla’s federal tax credit shrinks again.

niro interiorInterior: Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Partial Premium vs. Kia Niro EV
We’ve opted to compare the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range with the Partial Premium Interior to make this match-up meaningful. The Standard Range standard interior Tesla Model 3 has never been seen at a Tesla delivery point as of this story’s publication. Also, with manual cloth seats and zero amenities, the Model 3 SR seems like a rental car trim until you hit Partial Premium.

model 3 interior

Even with the upgrade, the Niro has a long list of features that the Model 3 does not have. Here is a quick list: Heated steering wheel, ventilated seats, wireless phone charging, auto-dimming mirror, Homelink, Android Auto / Apple Carplay, full in-vehicle navigation, and perforated leather seating material.

For its part, the Tesla Model 3 has a few features the Niro EV does not. These include power folding side mirrors, walk-away locking, novelty credit card key, a frunk, and adaptive headlights. Tesla offers vegan leather (synthetic plastic) seating, which may appeal to many green shoppers.

Performance: Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Partial Premium vs. Kia Niro EV
We drove the Niro BEV and the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus back to back. We covered city situations, winding back country roads, and open highway stretches. The Tesla fans are not going to believe this, but we preferred the Niro’s drive and found it to be real-world capable in the same way the Model 3 is. Does the Model 3 have a quicker 0-60 MPH time on a spec sheet? Yes. Is it more fun and pleasurable to drive in the real world? No it is not. The Niro is quick, nimble, and sucks up bumpy roads. With 291 ft-lb of torque the Niro is no slouch. The Model 3 is equally adept, but we didn’t feel any advantage in the Model 3’s ride or performance in the real world. Particularly when we used the Niro EV’s Sport mode. The Niro is front drive and the Model 3 SR+ is real-wheel drive. In New England, front wheel drive trumps rear wheel in normal driving. Rear wheel is better for aggressive driving.

niro cargoFamily Car Convenience - Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Partial Premium vs. Kia Niro EV
The Niro EV has a similar layout to crossovers. It has a higher ride height than a sedan, is more “boxy,” and its driver’s position has a great open and airy feeling. Getting in and out is a bit easier in the Niro. We didn’t take a rug rat on our tests, but the Niro’s higher ride height will enable easier bucking in of a child into a car seat. We also liked the larger 18.5 cubic foot trunk in the Niro which is about three more cu ft than the Model 3 has. It has a better load height and a flat floor. Its rear seats fold flat for adventures and cargo hauling. The Model 3 has a conventional sedan trunk (plus a nifty frunk).

Date Night Coolness - Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Partial Premium vs. Kia Niro EV
Let’s face it, the Model 3 is the sexier car. The Niro looks like many other small crossovers and small wagons. If you are looking to buy swagger, the Model 3 is the choice. The Model 3 is also ultra-modern inside. Its single large screen is unique, and the interior being devoid of any adornment is also unique. It has “wow factor.” We won’t pretend the Niro has anything to offer here. It is a more conventional family car.

supershargersLiving Electric - Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Partial Premium vs. Kia Niro EV
Superchargers. Yes, Tesla has them. If you find them on your route, they are a cool way to charge up. However, the Niro comes standard with DC fast charging capability. Tesla charges for its Supercharger usage and we all know that most EV owners primarily charge at home. The Niro has about 9% more range than the closest Model 3 in price. 19 extra miles is not insignificant. We are going to call this one a tie. If Superchargers are part of your weekly plan, then the Model 3 has a big advantage. If charging at home and occasionally at public chargers is your plan, the Niro is not at any disadvantage.

Ownership Experience - Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus Partial Premium vs. Kia Niro EV
Tesla has three locations serving five New England states. Kia is everywhere and has 14 full-service dealerships surrounding Tesla’s three locations. Tesla promises better roadside service, and often delivers cars and parts to owners. Read over the mixed reviews on any Tesla forum and you will see that Tesla has a long way to go before it delivers on all that it has promised customers. However, Kia is not a premium brand. Your call here.

Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Partial Premium vs. Kia Niro EV – Conclusion
EV owners interested in affordable BEVs like the Kia Niro EV, Hyundai Kona EV, Jaguar I-Pace, and the dozens of PHEVs now available should thank Tesla for leading the way. Should you thank Tesla with your business? That is your call. We will say this; We drove these two cars back to back and dove deep to be sure we knew the prices and the features that each offers at a price point in the low $30Ks. Tesla’s Model 3 is a fantastic car. But without Autopilot, without Full Self Driving and without many of the features we take for granted like ventilated seats, Android Auto, and wireless charging, the Model 3 Standard Range does not stand out in the way one of the $55K - $65K Model 3 performance trims do. We offer our story as a comparison of two great “affordable” BEVs. Give each a look and you will see that they will serve different buyers, but they have a huge area of overlap as well.

John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career to chase his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin

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DeanMcManis (not verified)    April 2, 2019 - 9:45PM

I got to give you credit here John. That was a pretty even handed review, especially considering that you have little good to say about Tesla on most days. So Kudos. My good friend just bought a new Kia Niro EV. The top option model, for something under $44K before rebates. And they love the car. They had a Kia Soul (gas) which they also liked (and kept still), but they had been anticipating this new long range EV for a while. I have to give credit to their dealer because he did not jack up the price despite a great demand for the new EV. I think that they looked also at the Bolt, but did not really consider the Tesla because they are looking for a crossover and the Teslas have been historically more expensive. The Model Y will compete better in this affordable EV crossover market, but it will be more expensive than the Model 3, and it is still some time before they are available to buy.

John Goreham    April 3, 2019 - 10:36AM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

Thank you, Dean. Your comments are always great, but I appreciate the validation of the pricing here very much. My Tesla sales associate told me this week that Model Y will be available "No sooner than 2021." That was the only bummer of the day.

Ardub (not verified)    April 3, 2019 - 7:29PM

The model 3 DOES have full in-vehicle navigation. If you remove $1000 from the model 3 because the Kia does not have Autosteer, and the white interior, both cars are equal in range and price (before incentives). Model 3 also has Sentry Mode, Cabin Overheat protection, remote pre-conditioning, and automatic wipers. The availability of Superchargers, even if used rarely or just for resale, is an advantage. No question the Kia, with twice the tax credit, is the value play, while the model 3 is the performance play, even if its capability goes unused.

John Goreham    April 4, 2019 - 9:06AM

In reply to by Ardub (not verified)

Hi Ardub. Thanks for your comment. The Model 3 Standard and Partial Premium interiors both do not have full Nav. That option is only available on Premium interiors. Tesla calls it "Satellite-view maps with live traffic visualization and navigation." I drove the Model 3 on Autopilot and the Kia Niro with its lane keep assist system, lane following assist and stop and go adaptive cruise control. The Tesla system is better in many situations, but the Kia, like almost every modern vehicle, can indeed steer itself. I do agree with your conclusion that the Model 3 is the performance car in this comparison.

Ardub (not verified)    April 4, 2019 - 6:38PM

In reply to by John Goreham

Thanks, John. I was aware of the lack of satellite view/live traffic for the Tesla M3 SR+ Nav, I was only noting that the Nav system in the Kia was not an advantage it possessed over the Tesla. I agree with both your statements that Kia has its flavor of auto steer, and in many situations the Tesla version is better.

Mo (not verified)    April 4, 2019 - 12:14PM

In reply to by Ardub (not verified)

Apple Car Play and Android Auto provide full in-vehicle navigation. While Tesla's Autosteer is no doubt more robust, they charge $3000 for it. The Niro does have an Autosteer equivalent they call LKAS, and it's free.
(Lane Keep Assist System. Get a little help staying alert and on course. The Lane Keep Assist System (LKAS) comes standard on all trims and is designed to help you stay on course by monitoring the position of your Niro under certain conditions and may apply corrective steering if it senses you drifting outside your lane)
Light interior is available for no additional charge. Ventilated seats, heat pump, and Driver Only climate control features mean the Niro should be more efficient/comfortable in inclement weather. Full $7500 tax credit. Cheaper to insure.
The main benefit of the 3, other than swagger, is if you want to drive like a banshee. If you just intend to get from point A to B the Niro is probably the better option.

Xavi (not verified)    May 12, 2019 - 2:02PM

Model 3 can be purchased with a tow bar. The Niro cannot. I'd probably go for the Niro if it had it...
For my taste, not having all the info right in front of you is a big drawback of the Tesla, though. I wouldn't get used to it, I know, I had a car with the same issue for 9 years.

Isaac (not verified)    December 13, 2019 - 7:33PM

Just a quick comment on the comparison, with the caveat that I am a Tesla owner.

Tesla has the ability to improve the car you actually own over time and to upgrade it.
Our Model three from the early batches definitely had bugs and all of them have been resolved via over the air updates while we sleep for free. When we had a glitch, we called, they remotely diagnosed it and patched the software overnight. The functionality, performance, range and driving experience of our car have improved since we bought it.

This is actually what I think is the Tesla killer feature. The ability track all of it's cars all the time, learn what they could have done better, and actually make the cars on the road better. When adopting new technology, knowing that it wont be obsolete soon is pretty important.

sokoo78 (not verified)    December 31, 2019 - 4:45PM

In reply to by Isaac (not verified)

Kia will also have update over air soon (coming with the 2020 version), and also has remote options like preheating trough UVO Connect app. Of course I do not expect the same level as Tesla, but will see.

Atanas Filipov (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 10:04AM

Please, the biggest advantage of the Tesla, is that it's the SAFEST CAR ON THE PLANET. Enojy riding others untull some accident accurs... Then we"ll talk again.

John Goreham    January 24, 2020 - 11:09AM

In reply to by Atanas Filipov (not verified)

How do you know the Model 3 is safer than the Niro BEV? The media have widely reported on both driver and passenger occupant deaths in the Model 3. Can you find a Niro BEV death reported? The Model 3 and Niro's tested are IIHS Top Safety Pick vehicles. Here is an AP story about 3 Tesla car deaths. In one day.

Ian Talbot (not verified)    November 6, 2020 - 7:16PM

Had the 2 cars. Get rid of the TM3. To many build defects. But...range of the TM3 SR+ is not even close to Niro EV.
Niro: summer: around 500km (away from highways)
Winter (-15): around 350 km (thanks to heatpump..
SR+: summer around 400 km
winter (-15) need to shut off cabin heating to reach 200km...
Tesla is very overrated in term of range...KIa goes way over manufacturer range specs...