Kia decided it would be a good idea to update the looks of some of its cars recently – among them; the popular and very underrated Niro received a makeover.
Part of that overhaul was to rename the e-Niro. As a result, it has been rebranded as the Kia Niro EV.
If you were familiar with the e-Niro, then not a huge amount has changed regarding its electrified ingredients. But it's based on a fresh platform, and, to look at, it's substantially different.
Out go the modest, family-friendly aesthetics, replaced with a bold, edgy, new look. The front gets a thinned-out upper grille that spans the bonnet's width. This means the headlights sit lower down than you’d expect.
A large, open-mouthed grille sits at the bottom, while there's also some cladding. And, on the top-of-the-range version, a contrasting body colour works its way up to the roof from above the rear wheel arch.
Some will think the aesthetics are cool; others will think they're uncalled for. Either way, this Kia has personality coming out of its air vents.
Three trims are offered, with the ‘2’ sporting 17-inch alloys and an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also comes with a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, cloth upholstery and rear parking sensors.
The '3' gets cloth and vegan leather upholstery, lumbar support, front and rear parking sensors, and heated front seats. It also boasts a heated steering wheel, rear privacy glass and a larger 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen with sat nav.
The flagship '4' adds vegan leather upholstery, remote smart parking assist, a head-up display, a powered tailgate, a premium relaxation passenger seat and a sunroof.
The top two grades can also be fitted with a heat pump. This will guarantee hot air is available instantly, even if the vehicle has been sitting outside all night in freezing temperatures.
The Kia is powered by a single 201PS electric motor and a 64.8kWh battery with around 285 miles of range.
The Niro EV accelerates well off the line, getting from 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds, which is brisk for a family SUV.
Torque is delivered to the wheels more smoothly than in the e-Niro, helping the tyres grip the road. It also limits any wheelspin, an Achilles’ heel of the predecessor.
Of course, driving around town centres and in stop-start traffic is blissfully quiet. And at speed, the lack of an engine note creates an even more tranquil driving experience.
The Niro EV is a comfortable cruiser, too, with the design revisions making it feel more settled and less sensitive to beaten-up blacktop.
Nevertheless, the ride isn't as good as the hybrid versions. This is due to the added heft of the electric motor and batteries in the EV, which make it slower to settle when the tarmac isn't quite up to scratch.
The Niro isn't that graceful, either, with the extra bulk and a higher centre of gravity compared with a family hatchback. This means that there's more body lean in the corners, although the consistent precision of the steering helps when tackling bends.
The ferocity of the regenerative braking can be adjusted by pulling paddles behind the steering wheel, which will affect how hard the brakes are applied. Setting the ‘regen’ to maximum recoups the most energy back into the batteries. It feels consistent and predictable rather than harsh, as in some electric cars.
Inside, the cabin has been given an overhaul, with an unusual two-spoke steering wheel and a sculpted shape to the unit that houses the two digital screens. Even the layout of the centre console looks inviting in shiny piano black.
The infotainment system is very good – perhaps not quite class-leading – but a significant improvement on Kia’s old system. It is undoubtedly of a standard that other manufacturers could aspire to.
The menus are laid out intuitively and the system is quick to respond.
In terms of practicality, there's heaps of space inside the Niro to stretch out. In fact, it's slightly taller, wider and longer than before, so tall adults won't have a problem in the front. The rear is accommodating, but the raised floor, due to the batteries, limits under-thigh support if you're pretty tall. However, there are still stacks of head and legroom.
There is plenty of storage space inside the Kia, and there are various USB ports for charging phones and tablets, including a USB-C socket on the side of each front seat.
The Niro EV gets a 475-litre boot, which beats many of its main competitors, such as the Peugeot e-2008. This expands to 1,392 litres with the seats down, while 20 litres of extra storage can be found underneath the bonnet.
Running costs should be lower than the hybrid variants in the range, while road tax is free. And, of course, it’s in the lowest band for benefit-in-kind tax, appealing to company car consumers.
You also get Kia’s industry-leading seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty to back up its superb reputation for reliability.
Thinking of making the switch to electric?
Charging speeds are limited to about 77kW, which isn't that quick by today's standards. That means a 10%-80% charge will take under 45 minutes.
The EV earned a good safety rating when tested by Euro NCAP recently. The model achieved 91% for adult protection and 84% for children.
Driver assistance systems include smart cruise control with Idle Stop and Go, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, lane-keep assist, and front collision avoidance assist.
The '3' trim and above also get parking sensors at the front, blind-spot collision avoidance and remote parking functionality. Meanwhile, the '4' grade adds highway driving assist, which helps change lanes and maintains the distance to the car in front.
Overall, the Kia Niro EV is an excellent electric car, if you don't mind the looks – not to mention a higher asking price.
You will need to pick at least the mid-range '3' trim to get the larger infotainment screen – and it's worth it because the system is excellent.
Meanwhile, the Kia Niro EV is highly practical, has a big boot and decent range figures. It is no wonder the Niro is so popular.