With up to 285 miles of range, the new Kia Niro EV could be one of the best electric cars on sale right now…
4.5 out of 5
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Kia hasn’t tampered with the recipe for its new Niro EV, and it moves the game on from what was already an impressive electric vehicle. The price has increased accordingly, but few – if any – rivals offer better on-board tech, versatility and range. It remains ordinary to drive, but the new K3 platform adds some welcome polish to its road manners.
The EV6 may be stealing the spotlight as Kia pushes into an all-electric future, but it’s the new Niro EV that forms the bedrock of its battery-powered line-up. The previous-generation model – called the e-Niro – was one of the best-selling electric cars in the UK thanks to its blend of space, range and affordability, and this second-generation version aims to rekindle its appeal in a more modern package.
To that end, the new Niro – which is also available in hybrid and plug-in hybrid forms – adopts the same practical, upright bodystyle as before, albeit with thoroughly redefined styling and some extra design flourishes. It looks far more distinctive than the previous version, with textured grille elements at the front, angular headlight units and a two-tone paint finish. This extends to contrasting C-pillars which double as aero devices, channelling air along the body.
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Buyers can opt for a single body colour if they prefer, and there are hints of Mk1 Ford Focus in the swept up vertical rear lights; Kia has made an effort to set the Niro EV apart from the competition – and it works.
Car group tests
Step inside and cross-pollination with the EV6 is immediately clear. The tech suite is a marked improvement over the previous Niro, and on higher-spec models there’s a 10.25-inch digital dash and a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen housed beneath a single panel, each running Kia’s familiar interface. It’s one of the better systems on the market, with relatively intuitive menus and crisp graphics, although quicker touch responses wouldn’t go amiss.
Kia’s slick multi-mode panel also makes an appearance, allowing users to switch between climate and media controls at the touch of a button. Wireless phone charging, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a head-up display and heated rear seats are available too, along with a function called “Vehicle-To-Device”, which allows the Niro EV to power appliances via a three-pin socket.
The Niro is laden with tech, then, and the cabin itself is mostly attractive. Save for the scratch-prone gloss black centre console and rougher plastics lower down, the touch points are high quality and the rising door panel surfaces are a nice touch.
Progress has also been made under the skin. Riding on Kia’s latest K3 architecture, the Niro EV drives with an extra layer of sophistication compared with its predecessor. The silky smooth and quiet running around town is typical of an EV, but the upgraded platform gives it more solidity and assurance over rough roads.
It takes the edge off scarred surfaces and potholes, but it’s clear that Kia has had difficulty managing the extra mass of this EV version – the body fidgets over some bumps and a series of larger undulations can introduce some float in the chassis, where the hybrid and PHEV models remain better tied down.
Still, the Niro EV’s handling is secure and the steering is well weighted, allowing you to guide the car through a corner with one smooth input. There’s plenty of performance on tap too, with the front-mounted electric motor producing 201bhp and 255Nm of torque – enough to send the front tyres scrabbling along the tarmac in greasy conditions. Acceleration is brisk up to motorway speeds, and a 0-62mph time of 7.8 seconds is more than fast enough for a compact family SUV, plus tyre roar isn’t intrusive while cruising.
Thanks to a 64.8kWh battery, Kia claims the Niro EV will achieve 285 miles of range. This is a healthy figure in isolation, but given that the old car trails this by just a few miles, we would’ve liked to have seen the Niro EV break the 300-mile barrier. However, we know the car’s range predictions are trustworthy, so there’s still impressive flexibility on offer here.
Topping up the battery from 10 to 80 per cent takes 45 minutes, and the Niro EV uses a nifty navigation-based battery conditioner to ensure that charging speeds are optimised when you reach a station.
To maximise range it’s best to utilise the Niro’s one-pedal driving functionality, which recoups energy when backing off the throttle and slows the car to a stop. It’s a well-calibrated system, although the driver can also cycle through multiple levels of regen using wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Despite having the largest battery of all the Niro variants, the EV also has the largest boot of the lot thanks to its floor-mounted pack. The 475-litre load space is bigger than that of the Peugeot e-2008, and grows to 1,392 litres with the rear seats folded. The EV also has a 20-litre front boot, which is useful for storing charging cables.
The trade off for the floor-mounted battery is a slightly compromised rear seating arrangement, with the raised floor forcing tall passengers to lift their thighs from the seat bases. Still, there’s ample headroom and plenty of knee room for one six-footer behind another. Still, space is an area where the Niro EV has improved over the old e-Niro.
Despite one or two snags, it’s difficult to fault the Niro EV. It builds on the strengths of the original while injecting Kia’s latest tech into the mix. The equipment levels are class leading, but it’s worth noting that while the entry-level Niro EV 2 model starts at £36,245, the fully kitted out Niro EV 4 is expected to be the best seller. Priced from £41,745, we’re not sure this version represents the best value, nudging the Niro EV into Hyundai Ioniq 5 territory and not far off Kia’s own EV6.
|Model:||Kia Niro EV 4|
|Powertrain:||64.8kWh battery/1x e-motor|
|Transmission:||Single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive|
|Charging:||77kW (10-80% in 45mins)|
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