In terms of looks, the Niro EV reflects Kia’s growing confidence and reputation for bold styling. The front end features an evolution of what Kia calls its ‘tiger face’ and makes quite a statement with its unusually-shaped headlight clusters and shallow light strip that runs the full width of the car. The off-set charging flap of the eNiro has been replaced by a new centrally-mounted port while the new clamshell bonnet features Kia’s new logo for the first time.
The big talking, point, however, is at the back, where Kia has introduced a contrast panel that runs from the roofline to the back wheelarch. It’s the kind of feature that you either love or loathe and while we’re huge fans of brands who deliver bold designs, its something that takes a little getting used to.
Inside, Kia has done a decent job in making the Niro a more rewarding place to spend time. Much as we love the outgoing model, the cabin was always something of a let-down, both in terms of layout and quality. The new dashboard takes some styling cues from the larger Sorento and Sportage models and feature a a long, sloping dashboard rail that houses both a digital instrument binnacle and an infotainment screen, both of which are 10.25” displays. As with the EV6, there’s a sensible combination of physical buttons and touchscreen controls and anyone switching from a traditional ICE car won’t be overwhelmed by the familiar layout. Kia is also introducing some new materials such as a headlining made from recycled wallpaper and door trims made from a solvent free plastics.
The switch to a new platform has bought a decent increase in interior space. This is most noticeable in the rear where six-footers will appreciate the improvement in legroom. Kia points out that in addition the new car’s longer wheelbase, the front seats are now thinner to allow for more knee space in the back.
In terms of practicality, the Niro Electric offers an impressive 475 litres of space (up 24 litres) and, for the first time, a frunk. Although it can only hold 20 litres, that’s enough for a Type 2 cable and means that your filthy wet plugs don’t have to be stowed with the rest of your luggage in the boot.
Customers can also specify a special ‘relaxation’ seat that reclines fully and allows you to catch forty winks during a charging break.
Downsides? Well, some of the materials look a little cheap. The fake leather is particularly fake and while we don’t doubt its longevity, it doesn’t deliver the premium feel of its EV6 stablemate.
Battery and range
While much of the Niro’s design and styling features are new, the same can’t be said for its battery and charging set-up. The Niro Electric has a fractionally larger battery pack at 64.8kWh (0.8kWh bigger than the old pack) and, bizarrely, a slightly slower rapid charge system. Where the eNiro was capable of DC charging at a maximum speed of 77kW, the new version maxes out at 72kW. While this seems something of a backward step – especially at a time when 100kW DC charging is considered the bare minimum – Kia says that its new electronics allow the Niro to charge at a higher speed for longer. As a result, a 10-80% charge will take around nine minutes less at around 43 minutes.
As for range, this has also improved, albeit slightly. Kia claims a WLTP figure of 287 miles, which represents a five mile increase on the previous model. However, given the eNiro’s reputation for eke-ing out every last drop of energy from the battery, and a new sat-nav based battery heating system that pre-conditions the pack prior to charging, we’d expect that to translate to a solid 240-250 miles of real world range.
And if you’re wondering where the 39kWh version is, the bad news is that Kia has yet to make its mind up on whether to introduce it. Demand for the 64kWh model is considerably higher than for the 39kWh, and with the market shifting towards larger packs with longer ranges, the smaller model may well have run its course.
We’ve yet to sample the new Niro on the road, but Kia’s updates suggest that the new version will be better to drive. Kia claims to have tweaked the power delivery and throttle response of the new car following criticism of the first-generation car’s jerky acceleration. Although the motor has the same power output at 201bhp, the snatchy throttle response of the original has been muted to give a smoother, less wheel-spinny getaway. As a result, the 0-62mph time goes up from 7.5 seconds to 7.8 seconds.
The Niro Electric also offers buyers the opportunity to add a tow bar for the first time. Although it comes with a modest 750kg limit, it will appeal to owners who tow smaller trailers or who want a mounting point for a large cycle rack.
Kia also claims to have improved ride comfort and handling as part of the switch to a new platform. But as with the power delivery, we’ll need to sample these ourselves before delivering a definitive verdict.
There are two new acronyms to get to grips with if you’re planning to become a Niro Electric buyer: RSPA and V2L. RSPA is Remote Smart Parking Assist. It means you can drive the car forwards or back when you are outside by using the key as a remote control. Handy if someone parks too close to you and wedges you in. V2L is Vehicle to Load as we’ve already seen in the EV6 and means you can power external electrical appliances using the battery power. Handy if you need to dry your hair while camping or make coffee in a car park.