Driving in the UK on a pre-production Kia Niro EV prototype confirms some of the ride concerns we had during previous testing, and we’re still not sure if the range-topping ‘4’ is the derivative we should choose. It’s a great electric car, practical overall, and very efficient.
The arrival of the all-new Kia Niro EV is big news. The old e-Niro (note the name change for the new car) was Britain’s second best selling electric car in 2021, and its successor is expected to make up about half of all Niro sales.
However, the electric car market is noticeably more crowded than it was when the e-Niro was launched in 2018, and even since the car comes close to taking the lead in UK electric car sales in 2021. This new version is vital Kia to maintain this momentum, but is it good?
Sure, in the looks department, it’s a huge improvement over its rather cutesy predecessor. Here, we have a front end that owes a lot to the larger Sportage, but with an overall cleaner look. The LED headlights feature unusually shaped daytime running lights that are said to be inspired by the way an electrocardiograph displays the heartbeat.
Meanwhile, at the rear of the car are two huge panels that cover the C-pillars. Standard, they are body colour, but these side ‘blades’ can be finished in either steel gray or pearl black – a £150 option for plain-paint cars, or £745 if you select one of the fancier luxury colours. There’s a certain kind of atmosphere to the first-generation Audi R8 for two-tone cars, which performs better in metal than you might imagine. The panels serve a functional purpose as well – they are ductwork, directing air from the sides of the car into a series of vents by boom-shaped rear headlights.
The body is 65 mm longer than that of the outgoing Niro, while the wheelbase is stretched by about 20 mm. However, since this is an electric vehicle built on a platform that needs to accommodate hybrid and plug-in powertrains as well, you won’t get the same sense of interior ventilation found in ground-up electric vehicles like Kia’s EV6.
Even without a flat floor, the Niro EV feels very roomy inside, and there’s plenty of legroom in the rear even for taller passengers. Meanwhile, the luggage compartment has grown from 451 to 475 liters, and there is now a front luggage compartment or – to name a few – the word “frunk”. It only delivers a modest 20 liters, but it could be a handy and accessible place to stow charging cables if the luggage compartment is full for the weekend.
The dashboard is a good step forward from the old Niro, with a sharp-looking design that houses a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and a similarly sized infotainment screen arrangement in one unit. Once again, there is a clear link to the Sportage here, and to the larger Sorento.
There’s an interesting mix of finishes and materials here, and the quality looks good overall, although this is a pre-production prototype in roughly the same stage of development as the car we drove in Oslo a few months ago. Like this car, it’s also top-of-the-line Class 4 spec, which adds a head-up display, power trunk lid, power sunroof, Harman Kardon audio system, heated rear seats and much more.
Weighing in at £4,495, this model is about £5,500 more than the entry-level Niro EV 2 and not far from the starting point for the Kia EV6. The car’s £37,745 price tag3 might be a better compromise, with an impressive standard instrument menu that includes 18-inch wheels, a larger infotainment touchscreen, faux leather upholstery and a ‘vehicle-to-device’ function (formerly known as ‘vehicle’). for loading”, another strange name change) with a three-way socket for powering devices including laptops. However, you lose out on the large digital instrument cluster and get a 4.2-inch TFT screen instead.
The Niro EV is available with only one specification of the powertrain, which combines a 201bhp, 255 Nm engine mounted on the front axle with a 64.8kWh battery. That makes a quick 0-62mph time of 7.8 seconds, and a range of 285 miles. With a charging capacity of 80 kW DC, the Nero EV battery can go from a 10 to 80 percent charge in 45 minutes, nine minutes faster than before. Some competitors can accept higher charging rates, although the Peugeot e-2008 finishes at 100 kW, while the new Smart #1 hits 150 kW.
Straight-line performance will be more than fast enough for most people, without catching those unfamiliar with electric motors’ instantaneous torque delivery by surprise – there’s a noticeable lag when getting on the throttle, which is present (albeit brief) even in Sport mode.
What happens when you boot again depends on the selected renewal mode. There are four to choose from with the type of steering-wheel-mounted paddles typically associated with automatic gearbox changes – the first two give only a palpable off-throttle feel, while the third provides good balance. The fourth activates the I-Pedal driving mode.
The lack of an afterburner makes no noise, vibration or harshness (NVH) anywhere to hide, but the Niro EV ranks well in this regard, being nicely silent even at high speeds. The damping can be resolved better, although the suspension absorbs big bumps well, is rarely harsh, but the ride can be very busy at times.
The bonus is a reasonable sporting stance through corners, with the Niro EV being surprisingly fun on a twisty road. There is some body rolling, but not an unacceptable amount, and it meets well-weighted, consistent steering. In the meantime, the dry-mode drag from the front end is provided in abundance.
Having said that, you feel the weight of the Nero EV’s heavier in the tighter bends. They tip the scales at roughly 1,750kg, carry a quarter of a ton more mass than the Nero Hybrid, and about 150kg more than the PHEV.
In any case, what’s more important to the average Niro EV driver is efficiency, and like the car it replaces, the 2022 edition scores well here. During the day of our testing, which included much less sympathetic driving, we managed 3.9 miles per kWh. This means that with a little more care, it should be easy enough to match or even beat that official number for a 285-mile range.
|Model:||Kia Niro EV 4|
|Engine/Battery:||1 electronic motor, 64.8 kWh|
|power/torque:||201 HP / 255 Nm|
|Connecting:||Single speed automatic, front wheel drive|
|0 to 62 mph:||7.8 seconds|
|maximum speed:||104 mph|
|Domain:||285 miles (WLTP enlistment)|
|Max charging:||80 kW DC|
NON-SLIP phone pad for 4-in-1
#Preproduction #review #Kia #Niro