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.
Interior: 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.
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.
Family 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.
Living 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