The Kia e-Niro is regularly cited as the benchmark in the electric vehicle segment. For this new generation, it changes—almost—in name and form, but not in its fundamentals. We had the opportunity to do an exclusive treatment on the Kia Niro EV.
It is difficult for the manufacturer to update the link. And that’s the case with the Kia Niro, a true darling of the Korean manufacturer: Launched in 2018, the SUV has quickly achieved quite a notable success, with more than 310,000 units sold in Europe at the end of last year. all engines together. But it was the e-Niro, replaced by the Kia Niro EV, that recorded the fastest takeoff. Specifically in France, where it accounted for almost 39% of Niro’s total sales (13,460 units) as of December 31, 2021, three and a half years after its launch.
Its secret: a basic market positioning with dimensions sufficient for comfortable city driving, and at the same time suitable roominess for family use, which is the very essence of a compact SUV. But it also offers one of the most interesting characteristics on the market, which mathematically allows it to offer suitable autonomy. And this mainly applies to its 64 kWh version, which is by far the best-selling one. Our various tests are convincing, while many owners have reported their satisfaction to us.
After four years of service (that’s a short life cycle for a car, but the market is moving fast), the Kia Niro is resurfacing in an all-new form with an energetic pencil brushstroke, a tech vibe and a never-before-seen technical platform. But the gist remains, and it retains its electrification-only engine lineup, with versions tentatively named HEV, PHEV, and EV.
Almost unchanged technical sheet
Contrary to expectations, the latter does not fundamentally change on paper. This is undoubtedly the result that decision makers and engineers had to come up with for a new generation of compact SUVs that will have to find a place in the coming years with the emergence of new competitors. Under the hood, the Kia Niro EV retained its engine and displayed power of 204 hp. On the other hand, the value of the torque and its distribution, as well as the gear ratio of the electric machine, have been revised.
Nothing that will change the lives of motorists accustomed to this model, who get relatively little driving pleasure, is removed with this type of vehicle. Despite the fact that the new platform gained 52 kg less (-20.3 kg for the body in white), the characteristics are completely identical: acceleration to 100 km / h in 7.8 seconds and a top speed of 167 km / h. The time at 80-120 km / h practically does not change, the time on our circle is 4.7 s against 5.0 s before. We won’t overtake faster, but it’s enough to heighten the feeling of responsiveness. On the other hand, the front axle has time to better digest the arrival of the pair. This should allow it to have better traction control, especially in the wet, especially since Continental Eco Contact 6 tires tend to be good in those situations.
More dynamic K3 platform for Kia Niro EV
Dynamic behavior becomes more sensitive, and Niro is a little more attentive. Relatively consistent direction, controlled by the EV6-inspired dual-spoke steering wheel, is more responsive. The K3 platform also allowed the development of the chassis. According to engineers, increased torsional rigidity physically improves dynamic performance. The redesigned suspension system also has a more assertive nature in corners with slightly stiffer support without compromising comfort, especially with 17-inch wheels as standard. In terms of dynamics, the Peugeot e-2008 can sleep on its two mirrors. But Niro EV is offering a long-awaited revised copy.
On the track, the differences are less noticeable, the SUV already shows a good level of comfort over long distances. Set in an all-new cocoon that is as tech-savvy as it is environmentally friendly on paper, passengers can consider long-distance travel without hesitation. Of course, he does not pretend to the level of Sportage, but the spaciousness is quite correct, especially at the rear. Still, the distance between the bench seat and the floor is quite low, forcing adults to raise their knees. In terms of soundproofing, the teams’ promises to return trouble to the lower parts seem to have been kept, but high-speed airborne noise is heard on the top of the windshield pillars.
To make driving easier, it is equipped with driving aids borrowed from the brand’s latest products, in particular the Level 2 HDA system, which combines adaptive cruise control with limit sign recognition and lane keeping assist. But it lacks the finishing touches, such as showing the camera’s blind spots by activating an indicator (which therefore prevents access to images in the 360° camera menu). If our test model at the advanced prototype stage, close to pre-production, was equipped with a projection display, then the French models will not have it. It is a pity for those who love this technique, especially since reading the speed on a digital speedometer is not always easy. But it is still possible to display the speed numerically in the center.
Full autonomy of 300 km on the motorway is possible.
A true benchmark in terms of efficiency and autonomy, the Kia Niro EV is expected to be a turning point in this area. This new version integrates a new 64.8 kWh (+0.8 kWh) battery that is no longer supplied by SK Innovation (no new supplier named). This is what partially contributes to the improvement of the declared average autonomy of 460 km, i.e. 5 km better than before, while the normalized consumption increases very slightly (16.2 kWh/100 km vs. 15.9 kWh/100 km). Undoubtedly, this is a matter of aerodynamics, although Cx 0.29 has not changed much (only one value is reported at the moment).
On the road, it is absolutely impossible to take stock of the evolution of consumption, especially during such a quick start. However, we still decided to go on the highway, after driving almost 140 km. Composite portrait of the area: a hilly highway teeming with work on the Mediterranean front in the Genoa region, Italy. Not enough to improve the “lap” time (we measured both ways), averaging around 110 km/h. As a result, the dashboard showed us an consumption of 19.1 kWh / 100 km. This corresponds to a range of 340 km under the strict rule of three, or 238 km of a “useful” range of 10 to 80%. Always horror! At 130 km/h (what little we could last), we estimated consumption at about 22 kWh/100 km by averaging the displayed data. But let us recall the purely informative nature of these data, since such a speed is rarely maintained over a long distance.
Faster, but moderately fast charging
But it is from the point of view of recharging the Kia Niro EV that raises questions. While most model connoisseurs expected a significant change in the declared peak charging power to bring it to the level of competitors, the electric SUV “regresses”: from a value of 77 kW, it now drops to 72.8 kW. Amazement among customers! But Kia clarifies that the charging curve has been redesigned at the software level, which allows you to save power longer. Without control, power is nothing, as the famous Pirelli slogan says. Proof of this is, for example, the Megane e-Tech, for which we have a real charge curve in our database: a claimed peak power of 130kW takes 37 minutes to charge 10-80% of a 60kWh battery in total.
We did not have the opportunity to perform a full recharge during this test. We have just been able to top up an Ionity Veefil terminal within 15 minutes between 65% and 80% charge. The ability to realize, conditionally, that the bearings will last longer: we still had 44 kW of power left at 80% load when we turned off the car. To take note of this new curve, a full recharge must be performed. Meanwhile, Kia transfers 10-80% in 43 minutes on this type of terminal. The previous data sheet indicated 10-80% in 54 minutes, a 20% improvement.
As for slow charging from home AC or from a public terminal, the Niro EV comes standard with an 11kW onboard charger. The full charge time is not specified, but it will take almost 7 hours. Following the EV6 technology trajectory, the compact SUV also offers a V2D (Vehicle to Device) reverse charging device that allows you to connect anything and everything with a maximum power output of 3kW.
Kia Niro EV review: evolution, not revolution
The new Kia Niro EV has changed more in form than in substance, with slight mechanical changes based on the Japanese principle. Kaizen : improve in small touches, without radically changing the formula. But the fact remains that if engine power is of lesser importance for the daily life of users, then fast charging is surprising. Especially when the numbers on the data sheet should please buyers, in a segment where the bar of 100 kW seems to be minimal. Perhaps we could wait for a software update in the next few years so that it can be up to par with the upcoming competition?
Either way, the Niro EV retains the qualities of its predecessor in terms of efficiency and versatility. But it’s made even more family-friendly with increased roominess, a very small, slightly larger boot, a range of new on-board technologies and, usefully, a 750kg brake towing weight. The Kia Niro EV starts at €41,990 with the Motion trim (or €267 per month with the LOA version) and goes up to €45,590 with the Premium trial. Compared to the previous Lounge finish, this is 1400 euros less. Admittedly, the price may seem a little high, but it is undoubtedly at the top of its segment in terms of price/performance ratio.
- Effective pencil stroke
- Dynamic/comfort compromise
- Autonomy is still huge
- Average reload time
- Appearance of interior materials
- Master route planner
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