Electric Road Trip

How the Kia Niro stacks up to the Nissan Leaf

ATLANTA — How different are two electric vehicles from one another?

Very different, it turns out.

We had the opportunity to drive a 2019 Kia Niro EV and a 2013 Nissan Leaf around the streets of Atlanta over the past couple of days. We noticed a variety of subtle and not-so-subtle differences in how the cars felt while driving, how far the cars could travel on a charge and how others reacted to them.

We were mostly driving around the city. We didn't take the cars on the highway, which would have allowed us to experience them at higher speeds — and in heavier traffic.

Still, when driving inside the perimeter — or "ITP," as locals say — we noticed that the Kia Niro was a much smoother ride. Fewer bumps traveled up our spines. And the range was great; it is rated to go 239 miles on a single charge.

By contrast, the Leaf felt clunkier. The gear shift was not intuitive. We pushed the stick forward to go in reverse, which is the opposite of most cars, and it was difficult to put the car in neutral when parking.

Perhaps our biggest gripe with the Leaf, though, was that it only had a range of roughly 60 miles. We could only travel short distances before needing to find a charging station. The "range anxiety" was palpable.

Of course, this was a 6-year-old model, from the days when battery technology wasn't where it is today. We've heard the new 2019 Leaf is speedier, sleeker and boasts a range of up to 226 miles, part of the range rivalry between automakers that also brought us the Kia. We're curious if any readers have purchased a new Leaf, and if so, what they think of it.

These differences between the two cars were on display when we attended an EV Club of the South meeting at Manuel's Tavern, an Atlanta institution that has been frequented by politicians and journalists here for decades. Everyone loves a new car, and the EV enthusiasts at Manuel's were eager to get a peek at our Kia Niro, which is still a rare beast in the Southeast. They poured into the parking lot of Manuel's and peered under the hood, gesturing excitedly and remarking on its big battery.

As for the old Leaf, we were given a frank message before the meeting: "Don't bother bringing it."

Electric Road Trip

E&E News reporters take a 6,000-mile road trip in an electric vehicle to explore how the switch from gas to electric transportation will change the economy, environment and daily life of America.
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