Starting with the perennial performance junkies over at Car & Driver, the 2023 Niro is called out for its “distinctive style…a handsome two-box design that would blend into the small-crossover landscape if not for its avant-garde D-pillar” and “fabric on the seats [that] is partially constructed from eucalyptus, which will delight koalas”. Moving on from the Niro’s good looks and marsupial titillations, Car & Driver also mentions: it’s affordable price (at least for the HEV version, and possibly the PHEV and EV versions, depending), competent steering, well blended regenerative braking and a spacious cabin, but ultimately describe the new Niro as “a little boring” (not that that is a bad thing). Honestly none of this seems at all surprising from this storied source; performance comes first and I would humbly suggest that C&D’s review is about as glowing as it could be for a vehicle with less than 300 horsepower and no manual transmission.
Perhaps if Kia added a second motor and a hundred more horses out back the Niro could have been their new favorite hot hatch? We’ll never know. But, at least the Niro EV model offers an electric heat pump now (which should help it get better range in cold weather).
Next up, Edmunds praised the 2023 Niro versions for: excellent forward visibility, a well isolated cabin, brisk acceleration (in the EV model), the addition of new features (to save the battery charge for later in the PHEV model, in particular), and a well appointed cabin (for the uppermost trim they tested). Interestingly, Edmunds was most impressed by the Niro PHEV, whose starting price was also announced yesterday by Kia at $33,740 for the EX model, not including destination fee. The higher trim SX Touring model starts at $39,490, also not including destination fee.
The EV model’s price has not yet been announced. All of this is to point out that Kia may have a somewhat tougher time selling its plug-in versions of the Niro because now that Kia lost eligibility for the U.S. federal tax incentive, their pricing is much less competitive. For the plug-in Niro models, there are only a few other PHEV and EV crossovers and SUVs on the market at present, but those are either larger or cost less (after the tax incentive, or not). Specifically, the Ford Escape PHEV and the Chevy Bolt/EUV EV will both have significant cost advantage over the Kia plug-ins, especially for when/if the federal tax incentive is only available for the U.S. brands.
Finally, in contrast to Edmunds review, there’s Jalopnik’s take on the new Niro (which liked the PHEV version the least). Jalopnik said that the Niro “punches up the styling, transforming it into a head-turning smallish runabout that happens to be really good as either a hybrid or a fully electric car” (and less so, apparently, as a PHEV). Jaolpnik also praised the Niro’s “pretty comfortable” ride, confident (though not engaging) handling, accurate steering, and excellent efficiency. Jalopnick ends its review by suggesting Kia might sell a “bajillion” Niros, but Green Car Reports points out that most of Kia’s planned sales for the Niro are expected be the HEV model (at about 65 percent of the total expected sales), with only about 25 percent being the EV model and the remaining 10 percent the PHEV. With the Niro’s best U.S. sales year (2019) only seeing a little over 22,000 Niros sold, it would take approximately 5,000 milenia for Kia to sell a bajillion units, but who really keeps track of this stuff?
Note, I absolutely agree that Kia is most likely to sell more HEV versions of the Niro than either of the plug-in versions in the U.S. precisely because of losing the tax incentive and because Kia is ramping down PHEV production as well, going forward.
What do you think of the new 2023 Niro models? Please leave your questions or comments below.
Images courtesy of Kia.
Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 14 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Twitter for daily KIA EV news coverage.