Kia Niro EV review: Still one the of best EVs on the road - MrLiambi's blog


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Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Kia Niro EV review: Still one the of best EVs on the road

It seemed difficult for the original Kia e-Niro to stop winning awards. While it wasn't the best-looking car, it fused together two things: range and value for money. That made it one of the most appealing electric cars on the road, offering that range at an attractive price with few compromises.

We first saw the Kia e-Niro in 2019 and it became the EV against which most others were judged. That makes the new 2022 Kia Niro EV â€" note the cleaner name â€" particularly important.

The world has changed, so can Kia repeat the performance and retain the crown?

Design and spec

Kia's design has changed remarkably over the past few years, and while we admired the Kia e-Niro, it was never especially attractive. It was more of a car that you admired because it was technically good.

With a new sense of purpose in Kia's design, the Kia Niro EV is sharper and more attractive. There is now, of course, a model that sits above it â€" the excellent Kia EV6 â€" and it doesn't look quite as attractive as that flagship model: it's less sporty.

Of course the Kia Niro comes in other forms too (hybrid and plug-in hybrid), but it's really the Niro EV which stands out. One of the new design features is the so-called blade, that rear quarter panel that can come in a contrasting colour â€" but that wasn't an option selected for our review car.

Aggressive lights, and a stronger overall stance give the new Niro EV more road presence, but again, it's a car that's flanked by the new Sportage and the EV6 which make it once again look a little ordinary.

That said, it's still a big step forward â€" in our opinion â€" over the previous generation, looking better in all areas.

A surprisingly spacious interior

What was perhaps a surprise about the interior was the response of the rear passengers. "This is bigger than the BMW" (a 5 Series Touring) remarked one, which is high praise indeed. It's not bigger, overall, but the space afforded to the rear bench is impressive.

Benefitting from a flat floor in the rear, it's really practical for families, allowing kids to easily dive in and out of either door, sliding through the car and dragging their bags with them.

collection: interior

Kia keeps the trim levels simple as it does across all its cars, with the option for "2", "3" or "4". Our test model was the "2", the most affordable starting at £36,245, but importantly, all models have the same size battery and motor - so you really are just paying for more creature comforts as you move up.

The interior isn't the most luxurious and there's wide use of harder plastics throughout the cabin, although for the price, we feel that's fair enough and it wouldn't deter us. It's also equipped with cloth seats and manual adjustment at this trim level, but they are comfortable enough.

The central display on the "2" trim is 8-incher (whereas the others get an integrated 10.25-inch display), meaning there's some spare trim around this smaller display that looks a little cheap. But while it might not tick the box for luxurious styling, it is certainly not a concern when it comes to functionality.

Like the Sportage, there's a dual-function line of controls, which are backlit touch controls that switch between climate control and media. It looks cool, but it's not as direct as using button controls for all functions.

The centre console is finished in glossy black plastic that attracts all sorts of fingerprints, dust and debris, so seems to need constant cleaning. Otherwise the layout is logical enough, with controls easy to find, and a good spattering on the steering wheel.

The door pockets have been cleverly designed to accommodate a water bottle â€" those popular bottles from Chilly's slide right in. The centre console also has a couple of slots for cups, with retractable dividers, so you can open up the space and use it for something else, like securing a small handbag.

There's also a 475 litre boot â€" including some under-floor space and a small frunk too â€" so you can easily fit in all your luggage. Rather than a hard parcel shelf, the "2" trim we had offered a soft cover, which is actually convenient as you can just put it on the floor of the boot when you don't need it.

The technology loadout

As we mentioned, to get to things like media or mapping buttons, you'd have to use that dual-function control bar below the screen to switch from climate control to those additional functions. The alternative is to use the touchscreen directly, which often means tapping the home button to get there.

collection: screens

Typically, we found that keeping the climate control functions made more sense, as adjusting things like volume was easier from the steering wheel. Basically, while the lack of buttons is clean, it would be a simpler system to use if there were a few hard buttons for basic functions, like satnav or the radio.

Moving to the user interface, Kia's system doesn't seem to have evolved much and is starting to look a little dated. It feels as though Kia has accepted that drivers will connect their smartphone and use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto â€" both of which are supported wirelessly.

One of the things that leads us to this decision is that Kia's own interface is better when you start using a connected phone. For example, stick to Kia's UI but play Spotify on your phone, and album art will drop into place, so it all looks better.

Another factor that plays into this thinking is the voice button on the steering wheel. This doesn't do anything unless you connect a phone â€" it then powers Siri or Google Assistant, so again, the Niro EV at this basic level feels like it has been designed to better accommodate your phone.

There is a USB-C in the rear and USB-A and USB-C in the front, so there's no shortage of connection options if you need to power those devices.

The Niro EV does get a full digital driver display on all trims though. This doesn't offer much customisation, but does change slightly to reflect the drive mode you've selected. Otherwise it's full of information including the word READY pretty much all the time, which strikes us as rather odd.

Aside from the entertainment technology, the basic level of car gets a reversing camera. Parking sensors and a wireless phone charging pad come in at trim "3" and above, while trim "4" gets such luxuries as a heads-up display.

A lot of the active safety measures, however, aren't included until you get to the higher trim levels.

Battery, range and performance

As we said, all models of the Kia Niro EV come with the same battery â€" 64.8kWh â€" and the same motor driving the front wheels, with the equivalent of 201bhp. That delivers a 0-60mph speed of 7.8 seconds, which isn't fast, but is actually the fastest of all the Kia Niro models.

Kia cites a range of 285 miles (combined), but we found a realistic full charge to read out at 268 miles. We would typically find that driving on the motorway would return averages around 3.8 miles per kWh, which would be 246 miles â€" in urban areas it's higher as there are greater opportunities for regeneration.

Certainly, you're getting good range from that battery and it doesn't drop off too drastically when you move to motorway driving, just as long as you're not too heavy with the acceleration pedal. We also like that there's a "driver only" option for the climate control, but not all versions come with a heat pump, that's something you'd have to specify when you buy.

The Kia Niro EV doesn't support the fastest charging rates out there, but there has been progress. While the new model's peak charging of 72kW looks lower than the 77kW of the previous version, the battery management is now better, meaning it can charge at that rate for longer. That means it will charge faster than the previous model overall. 

There are three driving modes â€" eco, comfort, sport â€" which are all self-explanatory, with eco dulling the throttle response slightly to increase efficiency. We found this a perfectly comfortable mode for driving in pretty much all the time â€" it's not exciting, but it's not designed to be.

There are paddles on the steering column to select the level of regen you want, which we like, as it gives you easy control all the time.  The top level is i-Pedal, which allows one-pedal driving and is great for city driving, while there are three other levels of regen you can set to your preference. That means you can remove regen with a couple of clicks once you get onto the motorway and coast without deceleration, which is better suited to motorway driving.

The adaptive cruise control works well, with lane keeping and steering assistance, which is effectively level 2 autonomy. It works well, although it misses out on the simplicity of a single button solution that you might get from Tesla Autopilot or Nissan ProPilot.

The lane keeping is a little tiresome in urban driving though, often alerting you and sometimes trying to correct your driving line, which isn't compatible with parked cars on UK roads where you frequently have to cross the central line without indicating.

The Kia Niro EV is a comfortable car to drive, it handles broken roads well enough and offers great ride height so you have great visibility. However, it does handle like a typical SUV, making it a little soft through the corners and built for comfort rather than speed.

That said, the fairly slow acceleration doesn't tell the whole story. As with all electric cars, the speed off the line, in perfect silence, remains fun and will beat most other cars at the lights without much effort.

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