Took the opportuinty of inspecting/test driving a Niro EV Friday. It was at Winn Kia in Dublin, CA, and they had at least four ready to go, and another two or more waiting for prep. I happened to test drive one of the Premiums, although I'd personally prefer the EX. I thought it was very nice, and could see owning one if it had AWD, although its lack of range and slow QC rate would limit its usefulness for me. They also had a $4,995 ADM on the sticker, but I didn't discuss prices and assume that customer resistance will make it impossible for them to hold to over MSRP, beyond a few people with money burning holes in their pockets (and they've probably already bought Teslas). Some thoughts.
Pax. space: The Premium has a power driver's seat, and when I did the' sit behind myself' test (6'0", 34" inseam), I found that toe room was very tight - I really couldn't have slid my toes under the seat at all. I imagine the seat could have been raised and that would have solved the problem. OTOH, knee room in that same position was excellent; I had at least 3" of space between my knees and the seat back. Headroom front and rear was a non-issue, despite the premium having a sunroof. I had at least two inches of clearance in front, and plenty in back too.
Cargo space: very important for me. One of the tests I do with any car I'm considering is see if I can lie down fully stretched out with the rear seats folded down, fronts slid/folded fully forward, and my head on the front center armrest. The Bolt and presumably the Kona, both 164" long, are too short. My Forester is 175.2" long and I can do it easily. The Niro's only 171.5", but AFAICT it had virtually the same length as my Forester, so passed that test with flying colors. The rear seats don't fold completely flat but have a slight slope like my Forester, and that's okay. The important thing is there's no step at the base of the seats when they're folded, so you have a continuous load floor to slide stuff in and out.
One of the things that has changed in the last decade or so is that cars are increasing the wheelbase while keeping the length the same or even less. This has the effect of increasing passenger leg room esp. in the rear, but decreasing cargo area length with the rear seats up. Case in point, my Forester's length and wheelbase are 175.2"/99.4" respectively, while the Niro is 171.5"/106.3". With seats up, as I expected from the respective volumes (32 vs. 19.4 ft.^3) the cargo area of my Forester is longer (37" at base of seat to inside of hatch, 28" at top of seat ditto) vs. 30"/23.5". Both cars are 18" from cargo floor to top of rear seat, not counting headrests. The Niro's cargo area is a bit short for some of my typical loads such as backpacks and scuba tanks, and would require these to be loaded crosswise instead of lengthwise, which is not ideal.
Surprisingly, the Niro's wider between the shock towers, 41" vs. 37", and the Niro's door opening is also wider, so sliding a bike in should be easier.
I didn't measure the lift-over height but it seemed similar to the Forester, with essentially no lip which makes sliding heavy/awkward loads in and out much easier.
Under the cargo floor is a storage bay with a foam compartmented tray for various accessories (EVSE etc.), which can be removed to reveal a spare tire well under it;, not sure if it would hold a compact or full size, but one or the other's essential for me. There were also a couple of small side cubbies under the floor cover that would still be usable with a tire in the well.
Most of the measurements above should be accurate to within 1/2 inch, possibly excepting the top of seat to rear hatch one, which required a bit of contortion to measure with the hatch closed.
Ergonomics: Quite good, and as others have noted, it all felt very normal rather than some tech geek's wet dream ala' Tesla. I felt right at home immediately, and would have no issues using all the controls once I'd had a read through the owner's manual for the less obvious ones. Speaking of which: https://di-uploads-pod4.dealerinspire.c ... -OM-sm.pdf
360 degree driver visibility was quite good if not up to Forester level, but the Forester in its various generations has regularly won awards for its outward visibility, and I found the Niro acceptable, although the mirror view directly to the rear was noticeably more constricted (rear hatch glass starts higher and angles up at the corners, headrests take up more of the viewing area). Front/rear corner views were both good.
Driver dash displays were good, large digital speed to right and DTE to left (I'd prefer the reverse, being used to speed left/tach right, but that's minor). RND and regen levels are both displayed, the regen indicated by L0-L3 at the bottom center, maybe a bit small but easily readable if you don't just go by feel, and what looked like the usual circular arc bar graph on the left for power out/regen in. The DTE was showing something over 270 miles of range at the start, with either 94% or 97% SoC, forget which, but that's slowish speed city driving with lots of regen.
HVAC controls are physical buttons and switches, which I insist on, and radio on/off volume knob is also physical, plus there's the usual excessive number of buttons on the steering wheel, many for functions I'll never use while driving, like a phone. I didn't look all that much at the touchscreen display as I consider them too distracting to use while driving, but it had the usual functions of nav/map/music/energy/charge times etc.
Driving: Fairly typical test drive on surface streets with a salescritter so I couldn't really wring it out, but from 15 month-old memory accel seemed slower off the line than the Bolt, but around 10-20 mph or so it picked up, which is fine by me; I don't need to win stoplight drag races, just pass safely on two lane roads. As it is, the 0-60 time is 2-3 seconds faster than my Forester. I think it might have slightly less torque steer than the Bolt when you nail the accelerator, but both are easily controllable compared to the "Whoa, Nellie, you'd better have both hands on the wheel" of the Spark, and from 7 y.o. memory the 24 kWh LEAF didn't have the accel for it to be an issue. My impression, again from memory so don't take it as gospel, is the Bolt feels generally more lively while the Niro's more restrained, but it's acceptable for the typical driving I do. Ride seemed good although the roads were all smooth so not much of a test, steering was fast and maybe a bit light, but good feel. My hearing loss makes me the wrong person to ask about noise levels.
As someone who prefers to and does drive a stick, I really liked the paddle regen controls, and need something like them to give me something to do. They worked fine, and L3 seemed to have more than enough decel on the one hill, guessing 8-10% slope, that I descended. As someone not used to one pedal driving I found L3 to be a bit much around town, but I could see it for bumper-to-bumper stop-and-go commuting. As others have noted it won't bring you to a complete stop, but pulling the left regen paddle back and holding it when you're in L3 will do so, at least on flat ground.
Didn't have a chance to check the handling given the traffic and aforementioned salescritter, but others have reviewed that. The Lane departure warning makes a beep that I could hear with my hearing aids turned on (but not off), and there's a small warning triangle that comes up on the display that could easily be missed if you don't hear the beep. I didn't try LKA because I'd never use it, as it makes it too easy to take your eyes off the road, mentally disengage and allow yourself to become distracted. I won't be willing to use such systems until they achieve L4 autonomy.
Kia went for subdued colors on the Niro EV, as they considered the customer demographic was less exuberant than that for the Soul EV, which will get some flashier options. White, silver, dark blue, dark gray, black, snore. Of the above, I found the blue to be the best of the lot (low bar), with the gray next. I've had three silver cars including my current one, and while it's great at reflecting heat and long- lasting I'm tired of it, black is stupid in a BEV and dark gray not much better if you're concerned about battery degradation (unless you live somewhere the temps never get above the '60s), and white's just plain boring, as well as too easy for snowplows to mistake as part of the snowdrift.
The Niro EV seemed a very nice all-around car, one I could see owning if not for the three major issues noted above (and I'd also prefer a trade of a couple of inches of rear legroom for more cargo area length). If it had AWD and either more range or better charging speed, I might go for it anyway. As it is, I'm hoping one will show up on Turo soon, and if it does I intend to rent one for a couple of days and try it out on one of my more common road trips (once the road is plowed and opens for the season), i.e 190+ miles and almost 10k feet of elevation gain one way to the Tuolumne Meadows/Tioga Pass area of Yosemite, and return. With QCs at Highway 99 I should be able to make it, and if CEC opens one or more of the QC sites along Highway 120 it will be easy. If the L2 in Lee Vining and/or the QC in Bishop are open I might even try to do that round trip.