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Kia Niro 2023 review: EV GT-Line long-term | Part 2

Despite a tall price, the Niro is very capable, even managing to help me rescue another EV! (Image: Tom White)

Early in my second month with the Kia Niro electric, something unexpected happened.

It started when I decided to drive the new MG ZS EV a few hundred kilometres out of Sydney and back.

The ZS should have had enough range for the return journey, but as I was on my final approach on the freeway, the car started telling me it had zero kilometres of range remaining.

Read the other long-term review instalments

Sweating on an unseasonally warm day, and with no air conditioning on, I spent the next five minutes pondering what I would do if and when I made it off the freeway to a safe place to stop.

Thankfully, I was able to stop safely in suburbia at the next exit and ask myself how this had happened, and what I was going to do to get the car back to where it could be charged, a frustratingly short distance of just 13 kilometres.

Why am I telling you this tale of early-adopter battery electric misfortune? Well, this is where my Kia Niro long termer comes in.

You see, the new Niro now has a feature called vehicle to load (or V2L for short), which allows it to dispense charge from its large battery externally, via its charging port.

It was a long shot, and it was slow, but I only needed a few kilometres of range to get the ZS EV to the nearest charger.

A phone call to my partner, half an hour, and a cold bottle of water later, the Niro came to the rescue.

The Niro was able to charge the ZS EV via its V2L feature. (Image: Tom White) The Niro was able to charge the ZS EV via its V2L feature. (Image: Tom White)

With no idea if the charging situation would work at all, I plugged the ZS EV’s wall socket charging box into the Niro’s V2L adapter, and lo and behold, the ZS started charging.

It started charging at a respectable rate of 2.4kW, too, maxing out the Niro’s adapter. Not bad at all.

We waited around for about 40 minutes at which point the ZS EV was reporting double the range I would need to make it to the charger. Pleased I could rescue the ZS without having to call a tow truck and wait an unknown amount of time on a Sunday, I drove to the charger relieved.

Pretty neat, right? I took this scenario as proof the electric era has more than gimmicks and flat-floored cabins in store for the future.

Things like V2L are genuine innovations for automakers, and its related technology, vehicle to grid (essentially the same tech, but can be scaled to power an entire household), promises to disrupt the energy sector further.

Imagine charging up using the power at work (especially if that power is free… or even completely renewable thanks to solar) and then using your car to power your house during peak times? The possibilities are fascinating.

Things like V2L are genuine innovations for automakers. (Image: Tom White) Things like V2L are genuine innovations for automakers. (Image: Tom White)

Anyway, I digress, but my brush with the near future is a very cool part of the Niro’s list of features.

In my second month with the car, it joined me on a further two freeway journeys, one up the mountains to the west of Sydney (220km return), and another to the north (210km return), both of which revealed annoying holes in the fast charging network in New South Wales.

While there are seemingly ample charging stations to the south (no problem if you are headed to Canberra, or even Victoria), there is no fast charging location in the Blue Mountains (you can make do with a handful of slow AC public locations, but that’s it unless you traverse all the way to Lithgow on one side, or Penrith on the other).

Nor is there one in the Central Coast region, with the nearest DC locations to Sydney being Swansea (128km), Toronto (128km), or Wallsend (149km) which is in greater Newcastle.

The Niro is capable of making these return journeys, no problem, as I said in part one, with a more accurate range calculation than many of its rivals.

But it does make for an issue if you’re staying more than a few days in these regions because there’s almost nowhere to charge up.

The light steering of the Niro makes it easier to drive and park. (Image: Tom White) The light steering of the Niro makes it easier to drive and park. (Image: Tom White)

Staying in the Blue Mountains for nearly a week is the only time so far I’ve run into that dreaded sense of 'range anxiety' in the Niro.

Around the city I seem to only need to charge it once a fortnight on DC or once or twice a week on the AC charger.

This reinforces my view that if you're sticking mostly to a city an electric car with more than 350km of range will be largely anxiety-free, with longer journeys more the fault of gaps in infrastructure than the range of the car. The Niro has 460km of driving range for those counting.

To drive, the Niro has been a solid companion in the last month, too, feeling comfortable to hop behind the wheel of. My partner, being shorter than me, likes the low dash and big mirrors which help her see out of it, and she also likes the light steering which makes it easier to drive and park.

I’ve noticed it feels more like a hatchback than an SUV, with a relatively low seating position and low dash, too.

I don’t feel like I’m peering over traffic at all, although this may be contrary to some people’s expectation for an SUV.

The Niro charges from 10 to 100% in 65 minutes on a 50kW unit. (Image: Tom White) The Niro charges from 10 to 100% in 65 minutes on a 50kW unit. (Image: Tom White)

The flat floor has occasionally come in handy for the placement of awkward objects, and the Niro’s 475 litre (VDA) boot is capable of holding a week’s worth of luggage without breaking a sweat.

In terms of charging I have spent much of the first two months using DC fast charging as my longer journeys have drained the battery to quite a low level.

I am still pleased with how fast the Niro charges on a 50kW unit (65 minutes from 10 per cent). While it’s not the fastest on the market (some Teslas, for example, are faster) it’s about right for its battery size and range.

The 11kW AC charger has also been very welcome, allowing me to make the most of my local free solar-powered outlets for topping range up. They add roughly 100km of range an hour.

With more long trips this month, the energy consumption has continued to climb for the Niro, totalling 16.2kWh/100km, which, for the record, is still excellent and exactly matches the car’s WLTP figure.

I hope to give it a better chance of more city driving in the final month, to see how low its energy consumption can go. I have noted numbers as low as 11.5kWh/100km on the single-trip recorder, and most Hyundai and Kia models in my experience have significantly bested their own WLTP figures when driven around a city.

There is a single USB 2.0 port for your phone connection. (Image: Tom White) There is a single USB 2.0 port for your phone connection. (Image: Tom White)

The regen system, when set to the single-pedal mode feels very efficient, squeezing every last moment of energy regeneration when coming to a stop.

My main complaints about this car continue to be the sketchy Apple CarPlay connection and that I could never justify its alarming $72,100, before-on-road costs, asking price when cars like the Tesla Model 3 (from $65,500) and Polestar 2 (from $63,900) exist, even if those aren’t SUVs.

Although, if you wanted an electric SUV, you can have the very nice Volvo XC40 Recharge which packs 510km of range at only a slightly higher cost ($72,990).

The CarPlay one is particularly annoying, as there is a single USB 2.0 port for your phone connection, even though the car has a USB-C outlet which apparently can only be used for charging, and wireless tech exists which would solve the problem altogether (especially at the asking price for this car).

Regardless, the Niro has been a great companion this month, and I have a feeling I’ll be sad to see it go when it's returned in a month’s time.

Stay tuned for my final report, including overall thoughts on what it has been like to live with.

Acquired: August 2022

Distance travelled this month: 885km

Odometer: 2237km

Average energy consumption this month: 16.2kWh/100km

$44,990 - $79,990

Based on 29 car listings in the last 6 months

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