The new Kia Niro EV boasts a number of key upgrades over its top-selling predecessor, but battery range isn’t really one of them
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While the figures hint that not much has changed about the all new Niro EV, they didn’t need to. The areas which did need improvement – design, on-board tech and refinement – have all taken a big step forward. We’d hoped for faster charging, but the Niro is one of the most efficient EVs around – although it will face some very stiff competition over the coming months.
This is the all new Kia Niro EV. Look at the on-paper stats, and its range of 285 miles might come as a surprise.
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That’s because the latest version of the brand’s popular electric C-segment crossover – the outgoing e-Niro has been the second best selling electric car in the UK since the start of 2021 – only beats its predecessor’s WLTP-certified range by three miles.
It’s not the only figure that might look a little like a copy-and-paste job from the old model. The battery is still a little under 65kWh in capacity (though Kia has switched manufacturers for the new model). The front-driven electric motor still produces 201bhp. The 0-62mph time has gone up – now 7.8 seconds to the old car’s 7.5 seconds.
Such is the rate of progress in the battery-powered segment, some might expect each new generation to go further and faster than the last. Even more so when this is such a key model in the brand’s lineup – 60 per cent of Niro buyers are expected to go fully electric, compared to 35 per cent and 5 per cent for HEV and PHEV versions. But while the stats have hardly changed, it’s everything around that electrical system that’s new.
Most obvious is the sharp new look. The dowdy styling of the old car has been ditched in favour of something altogether more contemporary. There’s hints of the Sportage in the angular face, while the flanks draw your eye to the rear with a dramatic C-pillar which, depending on the exterior colour you go for, can be finished in a contrasting shade. The body has grown 65mm longer, 10 wider and 10mm taller.
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The second generation Niro EV sits on the new Hyundai-Kia K3 platform, and the body-in-white makes use of a greater proportion of high strength steel in its construction, which means it’s one percent stiffer yet 20.3 kilos lighter – impressive considering the growth in size.
Step inside, and the family resemblance with Kia’s flagship electric car, the EV6, is clear. The dashboard has a very similar layout to its big brother, and it gets the same twin spoke steering wheel and the same dual purpose touch panel; at the press of the button, the keys and physical dials alternate between controlling either the climate or infotainment functions.
It’s very slick, working much like the 10.25-inch infotainment system sitting above it. It’s standard Kia fare, which means the menus are logical, the loading times are quick enough and the graphics are neat if not as glitzy as some rival systems. It sits beside a digital instrument cluster – also 10.25 inches.
Material quality is decent enough – as long as you’re looking straight ahead. The door panels have an angular appearance that compliments the dash, but they’re mostly finished in flat, hard plastics that feel a bit cheap to the touch. The door bins are small, too.
Move into the back and the Niro impresses, though. Rear passenger space – particularly headroom – is great, and a pair of USB C ports are mounted to the sides of the front seats, so they’re within easy reach for charging devices. The 451-litre boot is also 15 litres larger than the outgoing e-Niro.
The driving experience, meanwhile, has become much more grown up than the last Niro. Of course, the electric powertrain is similar to before, with acceleration dispatched in a brisk silence. There are changes in its character, though. The throttle response feels softer, making it a little less jumpy and less likely to spin the front wheels as you try to pull out of a junction with a touch too much enthusiasm.
The biggest change comes in ride quality, though. Gone is the old, slightly brittle setup of the previous Niro; in comes a softer, more relaxing feel, which manages to both combine impressive comfort at low speeds with enough body control on country roads. The steering is precise and well weighted and, a little too much road noise aside, refinement is fine.
There’s also an updated version of Kia’s highway Driving Assist. Not only can it steer the car within its lane autonomously for short periods, but a nudge of the indicator will let the system check if there’s a safe space beside and change lanes by itself. The Niro will also reposition itself within its lane if a vehicle beside you starts to veer too close to the white line.
There’s five modes of brake regen to choose from, with flicks of the two steering wheel paddles allowing the driver to switch between anything from free coasting right the way up to one pedal driving. It’s a level of control that few other manufacturers offer. If you do need a little more stopping power, the physical brakes do a solid job, but the switch between mechanical and electrical deceleration can be jumpy at times.
So is the largely unchanged range a problem? We don’t think so – very few drivers will ever cover more than 200 miles in one hit anyway. What’s more important is that the Niro remains impressively efficient. A mix of city, motorway and enthusiastic B-road driving resulted in an efficiency of 4.4 miles per kilowatt hour – exactly matching the WLTP-certified 285 mile range. Driving mostly in town, we got around 5m/kWh without even trying.
One area where we’d have liked to see an improvement is charging, though. A 10 to 80 per cent rapid charge takes 43 minutes – the same as in the old e-Niro. Allowing drivers to make quicker top ups not only reduces the time taken over enforced breaks, but means they can spend less time hogging the chargers that everyone else needs, too.
There are clever things to make the most of the tech, though. On a cold day when the battery might not be at its optimum temperature for charging, the car can precondition itself if you plot a charging destination into the navigation system, so it’s as close to its optimum condition as possible when you arrive.
Prices for the Niro EV start from £36,245 for the base ‘2’ trim. As standard, it gets 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera plus an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
We’d go for the ‘3’ that we drove, though. For £38.995, you get 18-inch wheels, front parking sensors, the bigger touchscreen, wireless smartphone charging, heated front seats and steering wheel, a blind spot warning system and more.
The top spec ‘4’ trim adds ventilated front seats and heated rear seats, a 10-inch head-up display, a sunroof, a powered tailgate and vegan leather upholstery. It comes to £41,745.
Those figures put the new Niro EV right in the firing line of the upcoming Renault Megane E-Tech, plus rivals like the Cupra Born – both very capable EVs in their own right. It’ll be fascinating to see how the Niro competes with those two – but it certainly shows plenty of promise.
|Model:||Kia Niro EV 3|
|Powertrain:||64.8kWh battery/1x e-motor|
|Transmission:||Single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive|
|Range:||285 miles (WLTP)|
|Charging:||72kW (10-80% in 43 mins)|
Now read our review of the Niro Hybrid…
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