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Kia Niro 2023 review: EV S

The new Kia Niro S Electric offers a good driving range and specs, but how about the price tag?

Kia has released the newly updated Niro, which is the smaller and less sporty sibling to Kia’s popular, EV6. As far as EVs go, it has a decent driving range and specs that should entice first-time electric vehicle owners to dip their toes into the EV pool.

However, the updated model does come with a price hike… which might not excite a budget-conscious buyer, especially with such affordable competitors like the MG ZS EV and Hyundai Kona Electric also available.

I’ve been hanging in it for a week with my family of three to see how it handles!

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Price and features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

There are two variants for the Niro, our base model, the S, and the range-topper GT-Line.

Despite being the base model, the Niro S will still set you back $65,300, before on-road costs. Which makes it about $5K dearer than the equivalent Kona Electric, and $20K more expensive than the ZS EV.

There is a hybrid Niro (also available in two grades), if you’re not quite ready to commit to a full EV life. The price isn’t as eye-watering, either, being just $44,380, before on-road costs.

Our base model, the S, has a price tag of $65,300, before on-road costs. (Image: Dean McCartney) Our base model, the S, has a price tag of $65,300, before on-road costs. (Image: Dean McCartney)

The Niro is well-specified, though, and the driver will enjoy an electric seat with adjustable lumbar support while the passenger side remains manual.

The regenerative braking is customisable (levels 0-3), there’s an 'iPedal' function, a dual-zone climate system, reversing camera and the backs of the front seats even double as coat hangers.

The tech is also good, with an 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system, 10.25-inch digital instrument panel plus wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto all coming as standard equipment. More on the tech below.

Design – Is there anything interesting about its design?

It’s a compact SUV with a footprint that's 4420mm long, 1825mm wide and 1570mm tall. But while small, I wouldn’t call it cute. It’s boxier than its sibling and without any of the swoopy design elements that make the EV6 look cool. 

I do like the way the two-tone body panelling, which is seen most prominently on the C-pillar, breaks up the ‘blocky-ness’ and creates areas of interest. As do the high-mounted rear LED lights

Speaking of lights, the base model makes do with halogen headlights, which unfortunately stand out against the LED daytime-running lights. You’ll notice the dimmer light at night, too.

The Niro is a compact SUV with a footprint that's 4420mm long. (Image: Dean McCartney) The Niro is a compact SUV with a footprint that's 4420mm long. (Image: Dean McCartney)

The 17-inch alloy wheels are thick for better aerodynamics but the clever two-tone colouring stops them from looking unfashionable.

The interior has a lot style cred with the curvature of the door panelling blending in almost seamlessly with the dashboard.

The gently sloping panelling that houses the multimedia systems and switchable touchscreen interface for the controls creates a very pleasing cabin space.

There are some harder plastics mixed in here but enough soft touchpoints that you won’t be bothered by them. 

The Niro's door panelling blends in almost seamlessly with the dashboard. (Image: Dean McCartney) The Niro's door panelling blends in almost seamlessly with the dashboard. (Image: Dean McCartney)

Practicality – How practical is its space and tech inside?

It’s surprisingly roomy inside and all passengers will enjoy decent leg and headroom, but taller passengers will find the backseat cosier than the front.

As such, two child seats will fit best but you do have ISOFIX child seat mounts on the outboard positions and three top-tether points, if you need them.

The synthetic leather/cloth seat trim cleans well and is nice to touch. The seats themselves, front and rear, are well-padded and super comfortable.

The backs of the front seats can double as coat hangers and have hardened kickplates, which are always practical for little feet.

There is plenty of storage options upfront of the Niro. (Image: Dean McCartney) There is plenty of storage options upfront of the Niro. (Image: Dean McCartney)

The front row gets the most amenities and tech. The 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system has clear graphics but is different to other Kia’s I’ve sampled recently. It seems to have been simplified but you’ll get used to it quickly.

There are plenty of charging options available, too, with a USB-A and C port, plus a 12-volt socket. Not needing a cable for the wireless Apple CarPlay is a bonus, too!

The front row also has the most storage space with two retractable cupholders, dedicated phone tray, glove box, middle console and skinny drink bottle holders in each door.

Back seat passengers enjoy two USB-C ports, reading lights, drink bottle holders in each door plus an armrest with two cupholders. As well as, a standard three-pin socket in case you need to run electrical gear or charge anything up on the go.

The Niro's synthetic leather/cloth seat trim cleans well. (Image: Dean McCartney) The Niro's synthetic leather/cloth seat trim cleans well. (Image: Dean McCartney)

The windows are wide and offer good visibility but I really like the 150mm ground clearance. It was super easy for my six-year old to climb in and out, plus he got a good view this week!

The boot is good for this size SUV with 475L of capacity available. It does look more like a hatchback, because while you can readjust the floor to sit lower, the back still slopes up.

However, it was fine for my weekly grocery and school run. The 'frunk' storage is small at 20L, which is just big enough for a charging cable.

You don’t get a spare wheel but you do get a puncture repair kit. And being the base model, it’s not a powered tailgate but it’s not heavy to close.

The Niro has 475L of boot capacity available. (Image: Dean McCartney) The Niro has 475L of boot capacity available. (Image: Dean McCartney)

Under the bonnet – What are the key stats for its engine and transmission?

The Niro is a full EV and has a front-wheel drive drivetrain with a maximum output of 150kW/255Nm. It’s not as powerful as its stablemate and only has the single-motor which is powered by a 64.8kWh lithium-ion battery but going from 0-100km/h can still be achieved in 7.8 seconds. With specs like those, this is most suited for an urban setting.

The Niro has a maximum output of 150kW/255Nm. (Image: Dean McCartney) The Niro has a maximum output of 150kW/255Nm. (Image: Dean McCartney)

Efficiency - How much energy does it consume?

Such is the EV life but you can’t escape the charging.

The onboard DC charger has up to 85kW of capacity and that means on a 50kW fast charger station, you can get from 10 to 80 per cent in 65 minutes.

However, if plugged into a 350kW ultra-fast charger, you’ll only save 22 minutes because it can’t accept that faster speed.

On a 50kW fast charger station, the Niro can get from 10 to 80 per cent in 65 minutes. (Image: Dean McCartney) On a 50kW fast charger station, the Niro can get from 10 to 80 per cent in 65 minutes. (Image: Dean McCartney)

On a 7.5kW system, you’ll go from 10 to 80 per cent in approximately nine hours, 25 minutes. On an 11kW, you’ll see that figure drop to six hours, 20 minutes.

The charging port is a Type 2 (CCS Combo2) and the car comes with an emergency charging cable that can plug into a standard three-pin domestic socket, if needed.

However, it’s slow going and you’re looking at a wait time of up to 27 hours, 30 minutes to get to a full charge. All other cables cost extra.

The Niro S has a driving range of up to 460km (WLTP). (Image: Dean McCartney) The Niro S has a driving range of up to 460km (WLTP). (Image: Dean McCartney)

The official kWh/100km consumption is 16.2kWh and my average on-test figure was 14.3kWh after a mix of urban and open-road driving.

However, I did see figures getting closer to 20kWh on longer trips. Still, I would consider my average to be efficient.

The Niro S has a driving range of up to 460km (WLTP).

Driving – What's it like to drive?

This is a pretty simple car to drive but it doesn’t feel as fun as some other EVs I’ve driven. It can even feel sluggish when you accelerate from a full stop and that makes it feel laggy in stop/start traffic.

Once you’re on your way, the acceleration is fairly responsive. You feel confident overtaking on the open road, too.

The car feels connected to the road with minimal shuddering through the steering wheel. The car responds in a timely manner when you have to make sudden moves, which I like.

Sometimes, the lane keeping aids make it feel jerky and I turned it off in some situations.

The Niro has a turning circle of 10.6m. (Image: Dean McCartney) The Niro has a turning circle of 10.6m. (Image: Dean McCartney)

The regen braking delivers a big physical presence like the EV6 but isn’t as refined and can feel almost ‘bunny hoppy’ at times.

You can customise it up to four levels, zero being low regen and four being the iPedal. I’m not overly fond of the iPedal, so didn’t use it that much this week and kept it at level 3.

You do have to change up how you drive an EV, so this wasn’t that surprising and something I’m sure you’d get used to.

The ride comfort is pretty mixed. Around town, it’s good but there’s quite a bit of passenger movement in this. You kinda feel like you’re bobbing along sometimes, which is jolting.

You also feel the road but the seats are so comfortable, they stop it from feeling too rough. 

The Niro is a good size for even a tight car park. (Image: Dean McCartney) The Niro is a good size for even a tight car park. (Image: Dean McCartney)

Surprisingly, the cabin gets very loud with wind and road noise. You can still chat but you won’t forget that it’s there, which is a shame.

I didn’t notice much difference between the drive modes, so it was kept on 'Normal', too. 

This is very easy to park! It’s a good size for even a tight car park with a 10.6m turning circle and the reversing camera is super clear, which is great. 

However, I would have liked to have seen front parking sensors, as well as the rear sensors. You can get them on the GT-line though.

The car feels connected to the road with minimal shuddering through the steering wheel. (Image: Dean McCartney) The car feels connected to the road with minimal shuddering through the steering wheel. (Image: Dean McCartney)

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What is its safety rating?

The Niro EV S has a good list of safety features, with the following being standard: LED daytime running lights, lane departure alert, lane keeping aid, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a reversing camera (with dynamic guidelines), rear parking sensors, driver fatigue alert, check rear occupant alert and adaptive cruise control (with stop/go function).

It has auto emergency braking with car, pedestrian and cyclist detection as well as junction turning assist, which is operational from 5.0-85km/h. 

The Niro was recently awarded a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2022. It has eight airbags and that does include the newer front centre airbag.

There are ISOFIX child seat mounts on the rear outboard seats and three top tethers, but two seats will fit best. And while there will be room for a 0-4 rearward facing child seat, it will encroach on front passenger comfort.

The Niro has a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating (tested in 2022). (Image: Dean McCartney) The Niro has a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating (tested in 2022). (Image: Dean McCartney)

Ownership – What warranty is offered? What are its service intervals? What are its running costs?

The ongoing costs are great on the Niro. It comes with Kia’s ‘better-than-average-for-the-market’ seven-year/150,000km warranty, which also covers the battery.

You get a seven-year capped-price servicing plan and services average $250 per year, which is good.

Servicing intervals are more in line with a petrol car at every 12 months or 15,000km. It’s usual to see those intervals doubled on an EV but it’s still reasonable.

The Niro comes with a seven-year/150,000km warranty. (Image: Dean McCartney) The Niro comes with a seven-year/150,000km warranty. (Image: Dean McCartney)


The Wrap

The Kia Niro S Electric is a solid little SUV that has decent space inside and some nice specs, but it's more expensive than its nearest rivals. The EV powertrain can take a little getting used to and I would have liked a smoother ride, but the 460km driving range is good.

For first-time EV owners, this wouldn’t be a bad option if you wanted to dip your toes in the water but it will suit urban dwellers and smaller families, like mine, best. This gets a 7.5/10 from me.

My son wasn’t in love with this one. Not enough buttons for him to press and he did comment on how bumpy the ride was in the back. He gives it a 6.0/10.

Likes

Decent driving range
Pleasant interior design
Easy-to-use tech

Dislikes

Rougher ride
Doughy acceleration from a full stop
Expensive compared to rivals

Scores

Emily:

3.5

The Kids:

3

$48,990 - $74,980

Based on 25 car listings in the last 6 months

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