Cheerful, not cheap: 2022 Kia Niro EV and hybrid first drive review

A white Kia Niro GT-Line EV parked by a building.

Craig Duff

Posted July 08, 2022


The second-generation Kia Niro has more maturity in its shape and interior sizing. It needs to, given it's now priced as a premium competitor in the small SUV segment.

Gone are the days when Kia competed as a price-sensitive entrant. The South Korean car maker now has the credentials to not only compete in the mainstream but to consider itself as a premium player in those ranks.

The Kia Niro embodies the new approach. The second-generation vehicle has seen price rises across both hybrid and fully electric versions. They’re not huge jumps but do reflect the increased cost of materials and shipping, along with a classier look inside and out of the compact SUV.

Kia Niro EV, hybrid review | RACV

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How much does the Kia Niro cost?

There are two specifications for both the hybrid and battery-electric vehicles.

The entry Kia Niro S hybrid starts at $44,380 before on-road costs; a rise of $4,390 over the previous SUV.

Moving up to the GT-Line is a $50,030 proposition, or $6,140 more than the outgoing Sport Hybrid, which lacked many of the features now standard on the top-spec variant.

The battery-only versions are $65,300 (up $2,700) and $72,100 (a rise of $6,100) respectively before dealer delivery and registration fees.

For context, the Mazda MX-30 E35 Astina electric is $65,490, while a Lexus UX300e Luxury starts at $74,000.

Even the bigger (and better, assuming you can find one) Kia EV6 electric car starts at $67,990. A Tesla Model Y is $72,300.

Kia’s product head Roland Rivero, not surprisingly, defends the Niro pricing as a result of the ongoing supply disruptions.

“If the EV6 was launching today, it’d probably be up to $10,000 more expensive,” he says.

“Based on global factors, the Kia Niro is competitively priced for a car with every feature you can expect in this segment.”

“We don’t expect … and can’t get … big numbers of the Niro because every other market wants it as well.”

For the record, Kia Australia is hoping to source around 75 Niros a month, meaning fleet managers will be competing with private buyers for these cars.

The attraction for both sets of buyers is the Kia Niro has a longer range than many of its rivals, helping offset the price rise.

The plug-in hybrid has been dropped from the line-up after it was the least popular drivetrain in the first-generation range.

Is the Kia Niro safe?

This version of the Kia Niro has yet to be tested by ANCAP. The outgoing model’s hybrid variant was rated as a five-star car in 2018, with a 91 per cent score for adult occupant protection and 80 per cent for child occupant safety.

Vulnerable road user protection came in at 70 per cent and safety assist systems rated 81 per cent.

The second-generation vehicle is a physically larger SUV in all dimensions and doesn’t skimp on safety gear.

Default equipment extends to a centre airbag, multi-collision braking (meaning the Niro will auto-brake after the first crash to prevent it rebounding into another vehicle or obstacle), active blind-spot and rear cross-traffic collision assistance, lane-keep assist and a driver attention monitor.

GT-Line models add parking collision-avoidance assist when reversing out of a space, front and rear parking sensors, safe-exit assist to avoid opening the doors in the path of oncoming traffic and an emergency service call though the new Kia Connect telematics system.

 

The 2022 Kia Niro starts at $44,380 for the hybrid and $65,300 for the battery-electric model.
The second-generation Kia Niro is larger and has a more chiselled look than its predecessor.
Battery electric versions of the Kia Niro have a 20-litre storage cubby under the bonnet.

What’s the Kia Niro like inside?

Sit in the Kia Niro and the first thing you’ll feel is the cushiony headrest. If it’s soft enough for me to notice, it is going to be a talking point in the dealership.

The other highlight is the multi-mode digital panel under the infotainment screen. It toggles between climate control and infotainment functions and is an elegant alternative to physical buttons and having to swipe on the touchscreen to find the desired feature.

The main infotainment screen measures a petite 8.0 inches in the Niro S hybrid, expanding to 10.25 inches in the other three variants, which also pick up a 10.25-inch digital driver’s display.

GT-Line models boast a head-up display, along with a wireless phone charging pad.

Both all-electric versions have a vehicle-to-load capacity, with three-point power socket to operate a laptop or similar domestic appliance.

The Niro also flaunts some sustainable initiatives, with a recycled PET (plastic bottles) headlining and bio-polyurethane seats covered in Tencel, a material based on eucalyptus fibres.

There are some plastics that don’t feel particularly premium, but the overall ambience is reasonable at this price point.

A space-saver spare tyre restricts cargo space for the hybrid to 425 litres. The EV’s use of a tyre-repair kit enables a 475-litre capacity.

What’s under the Kia Niro’s bonnet?

In the case of the Kia Niro hybrid, a 77kW/144Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine is paired with a 32kW/170Nm motor to produce a combined output of 104kW and 265Nm. Kia quotes an acceleration time to 100km/h of around 10.4 seconds.

The pure electric versions use a 150kW/255 motor that’s good for a claimed triple-digit acceleration of 7.8 seconds. Given there’s no engine up front, owners pick up a 20-litre storage receptacle under the bonnet.

 

The Kia Niro GT-Line uses a pair of 10.25-inch digital displays.
The AC charging port coupler has a vehicle-to-load interface.
There's another V2L connection inside the Kia Niro EV.

Is the Kia Niro efficient?

The battery-powered Niro uses a 64.8kWh lithium-ion unit with a WLTP-accredited range of 460km. That’s miles better than the Mazda MX-30 and Lexus UX300e, which offer around 200km and 360km respectively.

Kia quotes a time of six and a half hours to recharge the Niro from 10 per cent to full using an 11kW home wallbox, or 45 minutes to charge from 10-80 per cent using a 100kW public fast charger.

Buy the parallel hybrid and the quoted combined fuel consumption is a frugal 4.0-litres every 100km. Under typical driving, the engine is used to recharge the 1.32kWh battery mounted under the rear seat.

How does the Kia Niro drive?

Driving dynamics aren’t typically a coveted feature in the small SUV ranks. Buyers want a car that looks classy, has room and is economical.

The Niro ticks all the above boxes. The local suspension and steering tune help on the drive front, though the BEV is a better-riding vehicle than the hybrid at low speeds typical of urban driving.

The hybrid rides on lower profile 18-inch rims compared to a more supple 17-inch rubber on the BEV and consequently feels more unsettled over small hits.

It regains composure quickly and the issue is less prevalent as the pace picks up.

The behaviour is unusual, given the electric Niro is around 300kg heftier, but probably comes down to the range of options Kia’s head office let the Australian arm play with.

Body roll and front/rear pitching is well suppressed in both versions.

The steering rack feels marginally more responsive in the hybrid, and both versions arguably have a touch too much resistance when turning in sports mode with the lane-keep assist active.

Disable the LKA and that extra weight eases. Keep it in the default mode and it isn’t an issue.

Regenerative braking is easy to access using the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, though the variation in retarding momentum isn’t as pronounced as it is in rival products.

 

Electric versions of the Kia Niro offer a more refined ride around town than the pair of hybrids.
Cargo space is 425 litres in the hybrid and 475 litres in the battery electric versions.

Should I buy one?

In a year where the humble iceberg lettuce can cost $12, no one should expect a bargain when shopping.

On that basis, the Kia Niro is far from a bland choice.

Like most EVs, it is still a boutique proposition. Like most EVs, the price should fall as production resumes some semblance of normality.

The range is good enough to meet most families’ needs, the space is more than adequate and the build quality can’t be argued with.

 

The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit racv.com.au. As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s) issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.


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