Kia Australia has launched its electric future with a three-pronged strategy featuring Hybrid (HEV), Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) and full-electric (EV) versions of the stylish Niro crossover. Each of the three powertrains will be available in two trims, S and Sport.
I recently drove the fully electric Niro in S trim and I was impressed by Kia’s first foray into electric vehicles as it was quite a zippy little EV. The Niro runs on a permanent magnetic electric motor, offering 150kW and 395Nm, powered by a 356 Volt Lithium-Ion battery with a single speed reduction gear transmission. Stored under the vehicle floor, to give optimum centre of gravity and balance, the 457kg battery pack is capable of a range of 455km (WLTP) with capacity of 180Ah and 64kWh. The Niro EV has four drive modes, Comfort, Sport, Eco and Eco+.
EV models also have the option of the Smart Regenerative System activated by an extended pressure on the right steering wheel paddle. The system controls the regenerative braking level automatically according to road gradient and driving style of the vehicle in front through use of the front radar. When operative the system helps minimise use of the brake and accelerator pedal to improve efficiency. A feature unique to the EV is One Pedal Braking which is activated by holding the left paddle in for more than half a second while coasting. Continuing to hold the paddle in can effectively bring the car to a halt. Aerodynamics are also used to improve range, but this has led to an ugly looking front end on the Niro EV.
For my week I used a total of 57.6kW and covered 427km (13.5kW/100km), giving me a real world range from the 64kW battery of 474km, if the battery was run flat. For this reason, I found the Niro EV very easy to live with and for my week I only had to charge it once using the 240V ICCB Trickle Charger provided. The plug-in point is located at the front of the Niro and the charging status for PHEV and EV is communicated to the driver through the instrument cluster or via a three-light bar on the dashboard visible from the outside.
Kia uses the Type 2 (Mennekes) connection for AC charging on the PHEV and EV and the CCS Type 2 Combo connector for DC charging on the pure Electric Vehicle. For the EV an ICCB Trickle Charger will take 29 hours to fully charge the battery from empty while using a 7.2kW AC charger will replenish an empty battery in nine hours and 35 minutes. DC Fast charging (0-80%) will take one hour and 15 minutes using a 50kW unit with a 100kW unit reducing that to 54 minutes.
A Cable Lock function on PHEV and EV models allows the user to select when the charging connector can be locked and unlocked in the charging inlet. Activation of the cable lock function through the button on the dashboard means the charging cable is locked only when charging is in progress and the cable will automatically unlock when charging is completed. With the function deactivated the charger will be locked at any time a cable is connected. To unlock it the user will need to unlock the car door using the remote.
The Niro has Virtual Engine Sound System (VESS) which generates an engine sound to alert pedestrians while the vehicle is moving at low speeds less than 28km/h. The feature can be switched off for PHEV and EV models. It sounds like a gentle hum and for this reason we christened our Niro the Korean Monk. Also, when you select reverse there is a gentle bong sound to alert people behind the Niro.
The seats in the Niro Sport are nice looking with contrasting materials and white piping. The driver’s seat has power adjustment for recline, forward/back, front and rear seat cushion height adjustment and 2-way lumbar support with no memory positions. The passenger seat only has manual adjustment for recline, forward/back and seat height.
There were some interior features that I really liked in the Niro and others I didn’t like. The cup holder set up in the centre console was funky as there are multiple ways you can configure it. I also liked the large storage space under the rotary gear selector as this would fit a hand bag. Above this there is a slot for your mobile phone with two USB ports and one 12V outlet, with a third USB port located under the arm rest.
I was not keen on the hard plastics used on the doors and the gloss black plastic around the door pulls as I think these would get bad fingermarks on them. I also wasn’t keen on the gloss black plastic across the dash, because it attracts dust and fingermarks from children who just feel the uncontrollable need to touch it.
The pure electric Niro EV features a 7-inch digital driver’s display and I thought that the steering wheel was nice looking as well. The Niro has voice control that can be activated by pressing the button on the steering wheel with the masculine looking silhouette on it. But like other Kias voice control only works when Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is connected.
The entry level S models feature an 8-inch audio visual unit with touch screen, multi-Bluetooth connection, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, USB connectivity with MP3 playback and the range of Eco Drive displays. But this system does not have built in satellite navigation and another interior feature worth noting was the Niro I drove only had single zone climate control.
The rear seats have ample head and leg room for adults to comfortably sit in them, but I felt that my knees were sitting up high. For younger passengers there are two ISOFIX/three rear tether child seat restraint points, but in reality, only enough room or two seats. The centre seat folds down as an arm rest with two rigid drink holders in the front of it and there is also good sized drink bottle storage cubbies in the rear doors and front doors. There are two central rear air vents with manual air speed on/off controls and no rear USB ports.
The Niro boot a good size and deep so that you could place a pram in the boot and load groceries on top of it. There are four tie down points and a light, but no hooks in the boot. Under the boot floor there is a tyre repair kit and the charging cord neatly fits in a space provided. The rear seats have a 40:60 split folding mechanism if you need to carry larger items in the boot.
Across the range there are seven airbags, including driver’s knee bag, along with Autonomous Emergency Braking (car/pedestrian/cyclist), Lane Keep Assist, Lane Follow Assist and Smart Cruise Control. The S model does not get blind spot monitoring or rear cross traffic alert. You do get a standard rear view camera with rear sensors, auto wipers and auto lights though. The Niro hybrid and plug-in hybrid models have a 5-star ANCAP (2016) rating, but the EV Niro does not have an ANCAP safety rating.
Kia’s 7-Year unlimited kilometre warranty, 7-Year capped price servicing and 7-Year roadside assist apply across the Niro range with the exception of the high voltage battery and electric motor which are covered by a 7-Year 150,000km warranty. The service interval for the Niro EV is every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first and owners can opt to pay for services up front for three ($1,164), five ($1,728) or seven years ($2,803) or on a pay as you go basis which will cost a total of $2,803 for the first seven services.
Pricing for the Niro Hybrid starts at $39,990 for the S with Sport at $43,890. The Niro PHEV is priced from $46,590 for the S and $50,490 for Sport while the range-topping Electric Niro starts at $62,590 for the S and $65,990 for Sport excluding on-road costs. As tested with no options fitted the Niro EV S I drove was $67,490 drive away. Visit your preferred Kia dealer for more information on the Niro range or build and order yours online.
|Ample real world battery range||Gloss black plastic on dash and door trims|
|Funky centre console and cup holders||No ANCAP safety rating on EV Niro models|
|The Virtual Engine Sound System||The look of the front end|
Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.