2023 Kia Niro EV First Impressions

Welp, we’re in 2023 and I’ve apparently not made a blog post yet. So the first thing I blog about this year? My new car, of course!

I’ve gotten myself a brand new 2023 Kia Niro EV Wind. Yup, I’ve crossed over to the electrified world of driving. There’s a few reasons I chose this car. Kia seemed to be on a good path to electrification for the masses, the price wasn’t terrible, the Niro EV was revised for 2023, and it was available. Yeah, for that last one, many new vehicles (ie: Chevy Bolt EUV) have months long waiting lists, and the Niro EV I wanted was available now.

So I’ve had it for a few weeks at this point. I did trade in my Outback so this is all I have to drive. And I have some thoughts.

First of all, I want to state up front that I am, overall, happy with the car. It easily meets or exceeds my needs. I haven’t used a public charging station at all, and haven’t felt any worry about this. I just have Level 1 charging at home, which is the slowest charging speed, and this is working well. Sure, it’s slow, but with a charge limit at 90%, this has not been a problem. Battery has only been down into the 70s% so far. There’s plenty of room for me and both of my greyhounds. It’s fairly comfortable to drive, and the normal drive mode is pretty smooth and easy to work with. When I was test driving and talking to the sales guy, one of the striking things that really stood out to me was how responsive the infotainment/display software was. This has been a persistent problem with prior vehicles for me. So having a smooth UX was not only nice, but seemed super important for an EV and Kia seemed to nail this, at least minimally. Here in 2023, there’s still cars coming out with USB Type A ports everywhere, but Kia included USB Type C. And they’re plentiful.

It appears for 2023, at least in the US, Kia no longer provides a portable charger with the car. For the price, compared to other cars in the class (ie: Bolt EUV), this is a really weird decision. I’m a new EV owner, and Kia is going to be getting more of these kinds of people. Which is to say I had no EV charging accounts anywhere, and no home charging available. Kia provided 3 years of service with Electrify America, but the nearest EA charger is 14 miles away, and then the next one is over 50 miles away. There’s evGO (or is it EVgo? I can’t keep their branding straight) charger about a mile away, but when I tried to use it I discovered I needed a special card. I had created an account, but that was not enough. It would not scan my phone. I couldn’t just wave my debit card at it like I can with gas pumps. So, for the first 2 days I had the car I could not charge it. It was delivered with nearly 100% charge so I had capacity to work with, so I had to order my own home Level 1 charger, which I got on Amazon (Lectron charger). Yeah, for 2 days I literally did not have easy access to put energy into my car.

Performance is fine. For a car in this class, it’s about what is expected. It definitely is capable of getting out of the way when needed. Just over the weekend, I took it out on a freeway for the first time to see how it handles, and while cruising at 60mph, I punched it and it got to about 100mph quicker than I expected. So it doesn’t seem to be starving for performance. However, I do question Kia’s choice to remove performance for 2023 in the name of extending range. This car has drive modes, and I feel like the 100 lb ft of torque that was removed could have been left in “sport” mode. When you shut off the car while it’s in sport mode and then come back to it later, it starts back up in normal drive mode, so it’s not like you need to remember to turn off the battery draining mode when you want to drive normally. So keep that torque in there in sport mode, but software limit it in normal and eco modes. In terms of performance, this would, easily, keep the car competitive in the field.

My last 3 vehicles were Scion FRS, Subaru Impreza, and Subaru Outback. Their seats were fairly different, but I always felt as though I was fully supported up to my shoulders with access to the headrest if I needed it. This is not the case with the Niro. The seat back is not fully supportive of my back and this creates a bit of discomfort with longer driving. I’m a tall guy and I guess it’s just not built for people like me. But the FRS was also a small cockpit. I’ve been searching for a solution for this and I have something that’s working pretty okay so far, but it’s still not what I really want. Related to this, the seatbelt is super loose. I prefer a tighter seatbelt that has a bit more tension. But there’s not enough tension to keep it tight. So I find myself pulling it tight periodically.

There’s a wireless charger and there’s Carplay and Android Auto. There is not wireless Carplay nor Android Auto. Wireless variants of this has existed for a while, and back when I had my Outback I even balked at the idea that it included a wireless charger but I still had to plug in for Carplay. What’s the point? Well, Kia also has done this…in 2023. Thankfully, my wireless Carplay gateway still works so I was able to plug that in and go.

Navigation is a weird one in this car. I can search for charging stations, but I can’t set a route that optimizes for charging. Tesla was doing this a decade ago. An app called ABRP (A Better Route Planner) can do this, but I have to pay to use it through Carplay. And the infotainment thinks this is one of the main displays I want to see. So when I hook up carplay in split screen mode, instead of giving me the EV info I want, it has to show me a map first, causing me to have to reach over and swipe to get the info I want. Setting the order of the screens doesn’t fix this. I can’t disable maps in this view either.

There’s no wifi nor other internet connectivity in the car usable by occupants. There is internet connectivity for Kia Connect, but that’s it. I’ve seen indications there might be some wifi hardware in the car but that may be for previous year models and removed for this one. I stopped using the wifi internet in my Outback and cancelled the subscription, but the hardware is needed for wireless Carplay, and this also means I can’t connect my car to my home wifi for a better connection when needed. I guess that last one isn’t such a huge deal because it doesn’t seem to do OTA updates.

This car is expensive. The price of EVs continue to march down. The Hyundai Kona, which is the Hyundai version of this, is much cheaper. But Kia chose $40k to start. The only real advantage it has with its competition at the moment is it seems to be easy to get one, and I noticed the price at the dealer went up slightly. But yeah, you’re paying for it. And what sucks is Kia is treating it like a budget car, still. With questionable decisions like not including a portable charger, rejecting wireless connectivity while including wireless charging, and neutering the performance without making it available in some way, despite the fact that Kia has been doing EVs for a while, it feels like they’re still trying to figure this thing out.

I’m still in the first weeks of having this car. For the most part, I’m happy with it. I think Kia could have done better without jacking up the price, and in fact, feel their price is a tad high to begin with before getting to the missing items. I haven’t, yet, experienced how some of the driving automation works so I don’t know how good it is yet.

I’m kinda curious how hackable this car will become as time goes on.