The Kia e-Niro is regularly cited as a benchmark in the electric segment. For this new generation, it changes – almost – in name and form, but not in its fundamentals. We had the opportunity to perform a unique handling of the Kia Niro EV.
Difficult for a manufacturer to renew a reference. And this is the case of the Kia Niro, a real darling of the Korean manufacturer: launched in 2018, the SUV quickly achieved quite remarkable success with, at the end of last year, a volume of more than 310,000 copies sold in Europe, all engines combined. But it was the e-Niro, replaced by the Kia Niro EV, that registered the most meteoric rise. In particular in France, where it accounted for nearly 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 central market positioning, with measures contained enough to be comfortable in the city, offering space suitable for family use, the very essence of a compact SUV. But it also offers one of the most interesting efficiencies on the market, mathematically allowing it to offer adequate autonomy. And this is especially the case for its 64 kWh version, by far the best-selling. Our various tests are conclusive, while many owners have told us their satisfaction.
After four years of service (it’s short in a car’s life cycle, but the market moves fast), the Kia Niro arrives in a whole new form with an energetic pencil stroke, a technological atmosphere and a never-before-seen technical platform. . But the substance remains, and it maintains its range of electrified engines, with versions soberly dubbed the HEV, PHEV and EV.
An almost unchanged datasheet
Contrary to expectations, the latter does not fundamentally change on paper. This is undoubtedly the result that decision makers and engineers had to find for this new generation of compact SUV, which will have to find a place in the coming years with the arrival of new competitors. “Under the hood”, the Kia Niro EV retains its engine and a displayed power of 204 hp. On the other hand, the torque value and its distribution have been revised, as well as the reduction ratio of the electric machine.
Nothing that will change the lives of drivers used to the model, who enjoy relatively little driving away with this type of vehicle. Despite the 52 kg less gains with the new platform (-20.3 kg for the white body), the performances are therefore strictly identical: 0-100 km/h in 7.8 s and a maximum speed of 167 km/h. h remains. Times at 80-120 km/h hardly improve, with our lap time of 4.7 s versus 5.0 s previously. We won’t overtake any faster, but that’s enough to reinforce the feeling of responsiveness. On the other hand, the front axle manages to better digest the arrival of the couple. This should allow it to better control traction, especially on wet roads, especially since Continental Eco Contact 6 tires are generally good in these situations.
A more dynamic K3 platform for the Kia Niro EV
Dynamic behavior evolves more sensitively and Niro is a little more alert. The relatively consistent steering, guided by an EV6-inspired two-spoke steering wheel, is more responsive. The K3 platform also enabled chassis development. According to the engineers, increasing torsional stiffness physically improves dynamic behavior. The reworked suspension system also has a more assertive character in the corners with a little more rigorous support, without this affecting comfort, especially with the 17-inch rims delivered as standard. In terms of dynamism, the Peugeot e-2008 can sleep in its two mirrors. But the Niro EV offers a welcome patched copy here.
On the road, the differences are less pronounced, the SUV already has a good level of comfort for long distances. Housed in a new cocoon that is as technological as it is eco-responsible on paper, passengers can consider long journeys without a second thought. Sure, it can’t claim the level of a Sportage, but the space is quite right, especially at the rear. Still, the distance between the bench seat and the floor is quite low, forcing adults to lift their knees. In terms of soundproofing, the promises of the teams seem to have been fulfilled regarding the return of the nuisances in the lower parts, but the noise of the air is heard at high speed at the top of the pillars of the windshield.
For easier driving, it’s packed with driving aids taken from the brand’s latest products, most notably the Level 2 HDA system, which combines adaptive cruise control with limit sign recognition and lane-keeping assistance. But it lacks the latest touches, such as the display of blind spots by the camera activating the indicator (which prevents access to images in the 360° camera menu). If our test model at the advanced prototype stage near a pre-series is equipped with a head-up display, the French models will not have one. A pity for those who like this equipment, mainly because it is not always easy to read the speed on the digital speedometer. But it is still possible to display the speed numerically in the center.
A total range of 300 km is not impossible on the highway
A true benchmark in terms of efficiency and autonomy, the Kia Niro EV is therefore to be expected at the turning point in this area. This new version incorporates a new 64.8 kWh battery (+ 0.8 kWh), which is no longer supplied by SK Innovation (without us having the name of the new supplier to communicate). This is what partly contributes to improving the advertised average range of 460 km, i.e. 5 km better than before, while normalized consumption increases very slightly (16.2 kWh/100 km versus 15.9 kWh/100 km) . Undoubtedly a matter of aerodynamics, although the Cx of 0.29 is almost unchanged (the only figure communicated for now).
On the road, it is quite impossible to take stock of the evolution of consumption, especially during this fast start. However, we still decided to take the road to cover almost 140 km. A composite portrait of the terrain: a construction-infested mountain road on the Mediterranean front in the Genoa region of Italy. Not enough to improve the “lap” time (we did our round trip measurement), with around 110 km/h on average. In the end, the dashboard showed us a consumption of 19.1 kWh/100 km. This corresponds to a range of 340 km according to a strict rule of three, or 238 km of “useful” range from 10 to 80%. Always terrible! At 130 km/h (for what little we could bear), we estimate consumption around 22 kWh/100 km by the average of the displayed data. But let us remember the simply informative character of this information, as this speed is rarely maintained over a long journey.
Faster but moderately fast charging
But it’s in terms of recharging that the Kia Niro EV questions. While most connoisseurs of the model expected a significant change in the peak charging power advertised to put it at the level of the competition, the electric SUV “regresses”: from a value of 77 kW, it now drops to 72 kW. Surprise among customers! But Kia specifies that the charging curve has been reworked at the software level, which makes it possible to retain power longer. Without control, power is nothing, as the famous Pirelli slogan would say. Proof of this is with the Megane e-Tech for example, for which we have a real charging curve in our database: advertised with a peak of 130 kW, it takes 37 minutes to make 10-80% of a 60 battery kWh in total.
We did not have the opportunity to perform a full recharge during this test. We were able to recharge an Ionity Veefil terminal for 15 minutes between 65% and 80% charge. The opportunity to conditionally realize that the bearings would be kept longer: we still had 44 kW of power at 80% load when we disconnected the vehicle. It will be necessary to perform a full recharge to observe this new curve. However, Kia communicates 10-80% in 43 minutes on this type of terminal. The previous data sheet announced a 10-80% in 54 minutes, a 20% improvement.
On the side of slow charging in domestic alternating current or in a public terminal, the Niro EV comes standard with an 11 kW on-board charger. The time for a full recharge is not specified, but it would take almost 7 hours. Following the technological trajectory of the EV6, 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 of 3 kW.
Kia Niro EV review: An evolution rather than a revolution
The new Kia Niro EV changes more in form than substance, with minor mechanical changes based on the Japanese principle of Kaizen : improves with small touches, without radically changing the formula. But the fact is that, if engine power matters to a lesser extent for users’ daily lives, those of refills are surprising. Especially when the numbers presented in the datasheet must please customers, in a segment where the 100 kW bar seems to be the minimum. Perhaps we can wait for a software update in the next few years to allow it to be at the level of the competition that is coming?
In any case, the Niro EV retains the qualities of its predecessor in terms of efficiency and versatility. But it’s becoming even more suitable for family use with more space, a – very small – slightly larger trunk, lots of new on-board technology and, this might come in handy, a braked towing capacity of 750kg. The Kia Niro EV starts at €41,990 in the Motion version (or from €267/month in the LOA) and goes up to €45,590 in this Premium trial version. Compared to the outgoing Lounge trim, it costs €1,400 less. Admittedly, the price may seem a little high, but it is unquestionably at the top of its segment in terms of price/performance.
- Impactful pencil stroke
- Commitment dynamism/comfort
- Autonomy still formidable
- average recharge time
- Appearance of internal materials
- Route planner summary
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