Kia Niro EV or HEV: which is for you?

by Petrol Mum
Kia Niro EV and Kia Niro HEV

The good news is the answer this question is the Niro EV and HEV are both excellent vehicles and I was impressed with each them. The Kia Niro MY23 range has been reduced, with just an EV or HEV option available, and now comes with a 5-star ANCAP (2022) rating.

A quick recap if you are new to the electric car scene, an EV or BEV is a battery electric vehicle and has no internal combustion engine, relying exclusively on electricity to supply the power for the vehicle. A HEV is a Hybrid Electric Vehicle and combines an internal combustion engine with an electric motor that charges a battery while you drive to increase the number of kilometres you get from each litre of fuel consumed.

The styling refresh of the Niro range has replaced the front bumper with a nicer design in my opinion and I like the new headlight cluster and day time running lights as well. On the interior I am sad the ‘floating’ centre console has gone, but happy that the Niro retains quite possibly the fastest moving cup holder mechanism I have ever used! I also really liked the integrated driver’s dash and infotainment screen because it makes it very easy to wipe clean. Plus, the matt finish screen on the Niro HEV in S trim did not get finger marks on it.

The Kia MY23 Niro HEV S is priced at $44,380 plus on-road costs and as tested with premium paint in Aurora Black Pearl ($520) this Niro HEV S was $44,900 plus on-roads. The Niro HEV is front wheel drive and has a 6-speed Dual Clutch Transmission with both the S and GT-Line Niro HEV powered by a 1.6 litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine with a transmission mounted Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor and a 1.32 kWh Li-ion Polymer battery located under the rear seat. The maximum combined power is 104kW and maximum combined torque is 265Nm. The Niro HEV has two drive modes, Eco and Sport, but even in Sport the HEV is not rapid and will accelerate from 0-100km/h in approximately 10.4 seconds.

I actually preferred the Eco drive mode because the power delivery was more linear and what surprised me with this hybrid system is that it operates even at highway speeds. So as soon as I came off the power from the engine, on even on the slightest decline in the road, the Niro reverted to EV power, whereas the Toyota system only operates in EV mode up to about 40km/h. For my entire week I did not see the hybrid battery reach zero percent and I did not use Smart Recuperation because I only discovered it the night before I dropped the HEV back. The official combined fuel consumption for the Niro HEV is 4.0L/100km and for my week I used 5.3L/100km and considering this is reasonable sized SUV, I was thrilled with that figure.

However, I was amazed by the figures for the Niro EV! Again, both the S and GT-Line variants of the Niro EV are powered by a 64.8kWh Li-ion Polymer battery powering a Permanent Magnet Synchronous electric motor that produces 150kW of power and 255Nm of torque. The Niro EV is also front wheel drive and has a Single Speed Transmission (Reduction Gear). There are four drive modes being Eco, Normal, Sport, and Snow, and the Regenerative Braking Control is adjusted via the wheel-mounted Paddle Shifters (Levels 0-3). I spent my week driving in Normal mode with the regenerative braking set to its maximum level. Being this is a pure EV it is quicker in a straight line than the Niro HEV and will do the 0-100km/h dash in approximately 7.8 seconds.

The official WLTP range for the Niro EV is 460km with an official energy consumption of 162Wh/km. For my week I used 62.856kWh and drove 453kms, giving me a maximum range of 467km and energy consumption of 139Wh/km (or 13.88kW/100km). That’s a lot of different ways to say that the real-world of the Kia Niro EV is very good. It was almost identical energy use to the previous Niro EV I drove in late 2021, which was 13.5kW/100km. The Kia MY23 Niro EV GT-Line priced at $72,100 plus on-road costs and as tested with premium paint in Mineral Blue with Aurora Black Pearl C-Pillar ($520) this Niro EV GT-Line was $72,620 plus on-roads.

The charge port for the Niro EV is located in the centre of the front bumper and when you plug the charge cord in there is a locking sound to indicate connection, the lights adjacent to the plug start to flash and the vehicle says to you “start charging”. On the driver’s dash a graphic indicates the charge status and time remaining. I used the 2.3kW AC charging cord that comes supplied with the vehicle and this is the slowest means of charging your Niro. I liked that the Niro also told me that I had left the charge port door open because I have done this previously when driving EVs.

The Niro EV uses a Type 2 AC charging port and for faster at home charging you can install a 7kW or 11kW wall box that Kia claims will charge the Niro from 10-100% in 9h 25m or 6h 20m respectively. For DC fast charging the Niro EV has a CCS Combo2 charge port and Kia claims that a 50kW DC Fast Charge will take 1h 5 min to charge from 10-80%, a 100kW DC Fast Charge will take 45m for 10-80% and a 350kW DC Fast Charge will take 43m for a 10-80% battery charge. It is recommended to limit the charging at rapid chargers to 80% to preserve battery health.

I drove the Niro HEV in S trim and the Niro EV in GT-Line trim and found the ride was pleasant to live with in both vehicles. The Niro HEV S does not get smart keyless entry or keyless start, you have to actually insert the key and turn it to start the vehicle, a rarity with many vehicles these days. On the interior the main differences are the HEV S has no sat nav and the seat trim is cloth and artificial leather compared to just artificial leather in the GT-Line, which are heated and cooled for the front seats and it as a heated steering wheel.

The driver’s seat in both vehicles has 8-way powered adjustment with 2-way lumbar support and no memory positions, but they differ in the passenger seat configuration. The passenger seat of the Niro HEV S only gets manual adjustment for recline, forward/back, and seat height. In the Niro EV GT-Line the passenger seat gets the same 8-way powered seat with 2-way lumbar support as the driver’s seat, but also can be laid almost flat in Premium Relaxation mode.

Both vehicles had the 10.25” digital driver’s dash and I think that the image on the Niro EV dash was actually reflecting the ambient weather and surroundings, but I could be wrong about this? Under the 8” infotainment touchscreen in the Niro HEV you can display the energy flow of the vehicle to and from the hybrid battery. Under EV menu of the GT-Line 10.25” touchscreen you are shown your nearest EV charger and your driving range and on the sat nav you can display EV charging stations and it will tell you if these are AC or DC chargers and for some Chargefox locations it can even tell you if a charger is available. A feature I like on Kia vehicles is the control panel below the infotainment screen that can be switched between the infotainment menu options or climate controls options.

As previously mentioned the cup holders in the centre console are very cool and can be completely pushed away to create one large storage space under the arm rest that would fit a small hand bag. The drink bottle holders in the front door cubbies are awkwardly shaped and only suitable for slim bottles, as are the rear door drink bottle storage cubbies.  

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come as standard across all Niro 23MY variants, with the S trim getting wireless operation of this and the GT-Line having the wired version of both apps and wireless Android Auto . For both vehicles there is a cubby at the front of the centre console for your phone, but in the S it is hard plastic and your phone can slide around whereas in the GT-Line is has a wireless charging pad for compatible devices. Above this cubby there is one 12V outlet, one USB-A port and one USB-C port.

By pressing the button on the steering wheel with the masculine-looking silhouette on it you can use voice control on the Niro HEV S only when Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is connected, which has always been the case for Kia vehicles. However the Niro EV GT-Line now has AI voice commands with natural voice recognition that works without Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. It generally responds only to simple commands like ‘navigate to home’ and could not enter a destination on the sat nav for me, but it did make a phone call when I asked it to.

Like many other modern cars the Niros have gloss black trim on the doors, centre console and dash and this attracts dust almost as fast as children will put there sticky fingerprints on it. I swear it is like a magnet for them and they can’t help themselves and touch it for no other reason than to annoy me!

The rear seats have ample head and leg room for two adults to comfortably sit back there and the centre seat folds down as an arm rest with two rigid cup holders in the front of it. There are two ISOFIX/three rear tether child seat restraint points, but in reality only enough room for two car seats due to the overall width of the rear seat. ANCAP did note that one of the selected Type A convertible seats in rearward facing mode, and one of the selected booster seats could not be correctly installed in the centre rear seating position.

There is a lot of hard plastic in the rear seat area, so much so that my daughter’s voice echoed when she spoke to me, not something I remember noticing in any other vehicle that I have driven? Thankfully rear passengers do get two central air vents with individual direction and on/off controls and Kia have a cleverly place USB-C location on either side of the front seats. The headrests are shaped in such a way as to allow you to hang a device from them and with the cord plugged into the side of the front seat there would be less chance of tripping on it. The Niro EV also has a vehicle to load three-pronged plug under the rear seat and an external V2L plug as well and as the battery is located under the vehicle’s floor the rear foot well is flat and a mat completely covers the floor, making cleaning easy.

The Niro HEV S has a power assisted manual tailgate operation while the Niro EV GT-Line gets a a power operated tailgate with open/close button under the tailgate, on the key fob and in the cabin. The boot is large enough for a weekly shop and should fit a pram and a smaller shop, if required. Both boots have four plastic tie down points, hooks and a light, but no 12V outlet. The rear seats have a 40:60 split fold mechanism with the manual release for this located on the outer shoulder of the rear seats. Under the boot floor in the Niro HEV there is a temporary use spare tyre, but the Niro EV only gets a tyre repair kit and under its boot floor there is room to store the charge cable and the Niro EV does not have a front boot/frunk space.

All 23MY Niro vehicles come with a comprehensive list of active safety features including adaptive cruise control, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) – Car, Pedestrian, Cyclist & Junction Turning, Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Following Assist, Blind Spot Collision Warning with Rear Cross Traffic Collision Warning, and Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist with Rear Cross Traffic Collision Avoidance. ANCAP tests of the AEB (Car-to-Car) system showed GOOD performance, with collisions avoided or mitigated in all scenarios, including AEB Junction Assist where the test vehicle can autonomously brake to avoid crashes when turning across the path of an oncoming vehicle. ANCAP tests of lane support system functionality showed GOOD performance, including in some of the more critical emergency lane keeping test scenarios. The overall ANCAP score for Safety Assist was 87%.

The ANCAP Adult Occupant Protection score is 88% (33.71 out of 38) and the Child Occupant Protection score is 84% (41.62 out of 49). Dual frontal, side chest-protecting and side head-protecting (curtain) airbags, as well as driver knee airbag, are standard. A centre airbag which provides added protection to front seat occupants in side impact crashes is also standard.

Both Niros have automatic dusk sensing headlights and automatic high beam assist and the Niro EV GT-Line had rain sensing wipers, but these were in the habit of turning on even if there was no moisture present. Both also have a standard rear view camera with rear sensors and the EV GT-Line gets forward sensors also and this vehicle emits a gentle bong to warn nearby people that it is reversing.

All new Kias come with a 7-Year Unlimited Kilometre Warranty (or 150,000km for the Li-ion Polymer battery) and one year of complimentary Roadside Assist. Owners can renew their Roadside Assistance package yearly, for up to eight years, by simply returning their vehicle to an Authorised Kia Dealer for its annual scheduled services. Membership will remain valid for one year following your scheduled service, and will be renewed if an Authorised Kia Dealer completes the vehicle’s next scheduled serviced within one year.

The Niro service intervals are once a year or 15,000km, whichever comes first. For the Niro EV you can purchase pre-paid service plans for three years ($621), five years ($1,187), and seven years ($1,754). For the Niro HEV the price for the first seven services is capped at $3,996.

So which Kia Niro would best suit you? The answer is whichever better fits your lifestyle, because both of these vehicles are very easy to live with. You can Build & Order a new Kia Niro on-line or visit your preferred Kia dealer for more information.

The EV range and HEV fuel economyLots of hard plastic surfaces in the Niro HEV S
The cup holdersThe gloss black centre console, dash & door trims
Now has a 5-star ANCAP (2022) safety ratingNiro HEV S does not have keyless start

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.

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