Kia EV6 VS Kia Niro
- Rich power supply
- Plenty of backseat space
- Modern, clean cabin feels bang on
- USB set-up is quirky
- Steering not as good as the ride and handling balance
- EVs are still expensive
- Really smooth, easy drive experience
- Cabin tech in top-tier models is fun and functional
- Design is fresh without being over the top
- The price will be hard to swallow
- Can feel EV's extra weight on the road
- Cabin tech underwhelming in entry-level models
Strap in, folks. This one is going to be electrifying.
Gawd, that's a terrible pun. But don't give up on me yet, because this really is pretty exciting. I promise.
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It's new, it's exciting, and there's already a waiting list as long as your arm for it in Australia. So let's not waste time, shall we? Let's go figure out exactly what we're dealing with here.
The first Niro was Kia's kind of breakfast-buffet entry into the low-emissions space.
That one was more of a toe-into-electrified-waters for Kia, released to gather customer feedback as much as anything else. For one, it was getting on in years before Kia Australia could get its hands on it. And even then, it couldn't actually get that many.
But this new one? The buffet is gone, replaced by a smaller a-la-carte menu. And you won't find a plug-in hybrid on it, with the new Niro now only available as a hybrid, or as an all-electric version.
So, what does it cost? How far can you drive it? And how do they measure up against the best electrified SUVs in the business?
Let's find out, shall we?
At first glance, the EV6 deserves its many accolades, and its lengthy – and growing – waiting list.
Part spacious, family friendly cruiser, part potent and pretty sporty weekender, it sits in both camps comfortable, and performs both roles admirably.
Honestly, it's the kind of EV that will encourage more people to make the all-electric switch. And that can only be a good thing.
If you can overcome the price – and that might be a pretty big if – the Kia Niro is a lovely-to-drive EV that makes the leap from an ICE vehicle seem very manageable indeed.
The hybrid, too, is a nice drive, but the pricing here could prove and even bigger challenge when compared to the all-conquering RAV4 Hybrid.
The EV6 is destined to be constantly compared to the Ioniq 5, but which one looks better is a matter entirely for you. One thing is certain, though - the two sure look different.
Bizarrely, the EV6 is actually considered a large SUV (based solely on its dimensions), but it sure doesn't look like one. In GT-Line spec, especially, it cuts a handsome on-road figure, with its wide-and-low front end, raked-style roofline and fat-bottom rear-end - accentuated by the cool light bar that stretches from brake light to brake light.
The real highlight is the cabin experience, both front and back. Kia's twin-screen set-up looks clean and modern, but you don't have to rely on it to control the car's key functions. Instead, an active bar below with a dial at each end controls the air-con, or the stereo, depending on which you're using.
The eco materials that span the dash feel high-quality to the touch, as do the seat materials, and the entire experience feels modern and new.
Downsides? The cabin in the EV6 Air is a noticeable downgrade (reminder, it's a $68k entry-level model), with lesser materials and design flourishes. And I know this is going to sound petty, but the use of Kia's traditional graphics and fonts simply don't do the new screens justice.
First things first — it's not quite as out-there in the looks department as the Kia EV6, is it?
In fact, the Niro looks a lot like, well, any Kia. Up front, there's the latest version of Kia's Tiger front-end treatment, and there are LED DRLs and rear taillights, and even a nod to adventure - though don't expect to be going too far off road in a front-drive crossover - with the silver exterior cladding. There's also the coloured cladding at the C-Pillar, which can be had in contrasting colours to help stand out.
The Niro is predictably wrapped in eco-friendly materials — like recycled bottles in the headliners, and eucalyptus tree fibres in the seats — but how nice an experience you have depends very much on how much you spend.
The entry-level S Hybrid makes do with the most basic cabin tech, the S EV gets a little better, but the GT-Line cars get a genuinely impressive tech offering, with this kind of wall of screens that link the driver's binnacle to the centre screen. Also cool is the integrated touch sensitive infotainment and climate control, which helps pare back the busy in here a bit.
Still, it's a nice, comfy and fairly premium-feeling space — even if it's not as space-age as the EV6.
It's pretty practical in the cabin, a little less so in the boot. Simple.
The EV6 is a sizeable beast, riding on the Hyundai Group's E-GMP platform and stretching 4695mm in length, 1890mm in width and 1550mm in height, and it rides on a big 2900mm wheelbase – all of which is good news for cabin space.
The front seats are spacious and airy, but the big win is for backseat riders, where there was miles of leg-room behind my 175cm driving position, and , thanks to the lack of a tunnel, enough room for three passengers. The raked roofline does impact headroom a little. Not enough to trouble me, mind, but perhaps taller people might find it a little tight.
More numbers? Kia reckons the EV6 will tow 1600kg braked, and 750kg unbraked, with a 100kg downball. Cleverly, the EV6 will automatically detect the weight of the trailer, and then adjust your range estimate accordingly.
There are some slight quirks in the cabin, though. I counted four USB-C connections - two in the front, and two in the sides of the front seats for rear passengers - but the only port that allows you to access Apple CarPlay is the sole USB-A connection. Which means, if you use a new iPhone and MacBook, then you'll be packing an older-style cord just to connect your phone to the car.
A wireless connection would solve that, of course, but it's missing from the EV6 inclusion list, though there is a wireless charge pad.
I do love the traditional house-style power point for backseat riders, which means you can run bigger laptops or gadgets, and I love the external V2L port in the GT-Line which allows you to power your campsite, or even trickle-charge someone else's EV. There's the usual array of cupholders and bottle holders, too.
Open the boot and you'll find a wide space that will swallow between 480 and 490L of cargo, depending on your trim level. It's joined by a frunk (or froot?) storage space under the bonnet that will store another 52L in rear-drive variants, or 20L in the twin-motor GT-Line.
This Kia Niro is bigger than the one it replaces, stretching some 4420mm in length, 1825mm in width and between 1545mm and 1570mm in height. It rides on a 2720mm wheelbase, too.
In the boot, you'll find 425 litres (VDA) in the hybrid, and 475 litres (VDA) in the electric model, with those numbers swelling to between 1392 and 1419 litres with second row folded flat.
While there was enough room in the backseat for my 175cm frame, it's not exactly a celebration of space back there. Adults can ride in relative comfort when riding four-up, but squeezing an extra human in the middle could be stretching the friendship a little.
You'll find cupholders up front and for backseat riders, as well as bottle-holder storage in each of the doors. Also very cool is, in the All Electric model, a V2L plug (which is a traditional Australian plug socket) meaning you can charge bigger devices on the fly by simply plugging in.
Also new this time around is Kia Connect, allowing you all sorts of remote access to your Niro from your mobile phone, so you can do things like pre-load navigation instructions, pre-heat or cool the cabin, or find your Kia should you have lost it in a carpark (don't laugh, I have genuinely done that...).
Price and features
When it comes to EVs, pricing is comparative, and bargains are relative, which is my convoluted way of saying the near-$70k asking price for the cheapest EV6 actually isn't quite as steep as it sounds.
The EV6 arrives in Australia in two trim levels - the entry-level Air ($67,990) and the GT-Line ($74,990 RWD, $82,990 AWD) - and all share the same battery and platform, but with differing levels of performance and range.
The Air rides on 19-inch alloys, gets LED headlights and taillights, flush-fitting door handles and power folding mirrors. In the cabin, you get a round gear selector, paddle shifters (that actually control the regen-braking), part vegan leather seats, LED interior lighting and a clever V2L power point that helps keep devices topped up.
On-board tech is handled by twin 12.3-inch curved displays, and there's dual-zone climate, on-board navigation, wireless phone charging and USB charging.
Step up to the EV6 GT-Line and you'll get bigger, 20-inch alloys, and you get the GT-Line body kit with an external V2L power point. The seats are trimmed in suede and vegan leather, there's a stainless steel luggage sill, and you get Active Sound Design that allows you to dial up or down the driving soundtrack.
You then add an augmented-reality Head-Up Display, a 14-speaker Meridian sound system, a smart tailgate, a more advanced version of Kia's Remote Smart Park Assist, a heated steering wheel and heated and ventilated front seats - which also have a leaned-back relaxation mode for when you're recharging.
Kia also homologated a smaller (which means cheaper) battery version of the EV6 for Australia, but with the brand holding some 25,000 registrations of interest, and with only around 500 vehicles to be delivered this year, there's little chance of them adding it anytime soon. If you want an EV6 now, then it will be one of these ones.
The hybrid version comes in S or GT-Line trims, and it will set you back $44,380 or $50,030 respectively. And yes, you can buy a lot of RAV4 Hybrid for that money, should you be lucky enough to actually get one.
Then there's the Full Electric model. It too is available in S or GT-Line, and it's priced at $65,300 or $72,100. For reference, the brand's flagship electric vehicle, the EV6, can be yours (for now, at least) for around $2.5k more for the Air or for the GT-Line in RWD version respectively.
Why? The short answer is that Kia says costs have soared since the launch of the EV6, so much so that — if that model was launched today — it would be considerably more expensive. That and the fact that Kia Australia can only secure 75 examples of the Niro a month, shared between hybrid and EV, so they don't exactly have bulk-buying negotiating power with HQ.
So, what do you get for your investment?
The range starts with the Hybrid S, which gets cloth and artificial leather seat trim, LED DRL's and LED rear taillights (but halogen headlights), a 4.2-inch digital driver display and and 8.0-inch central touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a six-speaker stereo. You also get dual-zone climate, 16-inch alloys and electric mirrors and windows.
Stepping up to the Hybrid GT-Line adds a whole bunch of nice stuff, including twin 10.25-inch screens (one for the driver, the other for infotainment), bigger 18-inch alloys, perforated bio-leather seats, LED headlights, a better steering wheel and heated and ventilated front seats.
The Full Electric trim levels largely match the hybrid's specifications, except both ride on 17-inch alloys, and even the S model gets the twin-screen infotainment set-up.
The All Electric GT-Line also gets a better eight-speaker stereo, a sunroof, and what the brand calls a Premium Relaxation Front Passenger Seat — which tilts back so you can get comfy while charging.
Engine & trans
The Air and the GT-Line RWD are powered by a single electric motor at the rear axle, good for 168kW, 350Nm and a 7.3-second dash to 100km/h.
The GT-Line AWD adds a second electric motor, and produces a total 239kW and 605Nm - enough to deliver a sprint to 100km/h in just 5.2 seconds.
The Hybrid is pretty conventional, pairing a 1.6-litre engine with a 1.32kwH battery and electric motor for a combined output of 104kW and 265Nm. It gets a six-speed DCT auto and front-wheel drive. A sprint to 100km/h is pretty leisurely, taking more than 10 seconds.
But the EV is a bit different. It gets a big 64.8kWh battery and a front-mounted motor that produces 150kW and 255Nm, the latter of which arrives instantaneously, helping drop the sprint to 100km/h to just 7.8secs - and that's despite carrying almost half a tonne of battery with you.
Energy consumption here is measured in Wh/km, and the Air needs 165, the GT-Line RWD requires 172 and the GT-Line AWD needs 180. More commonly, we state these in kWh/100km, because that's what is more understandable. Thankfully, the maths is easy: Air - 16.5kWh/100km; GT-Line RWD - 17.2kWh/100km; GT-Line AWD - 18.0kWh/100km.
But what does that actually mean? Well, the Air will give you the best driving range, at a claimed 528km between charges. Interestingly, the GT-Line RWD shares the same battery and motor, but will travel 24km less, at 504km. Finally, the GT-Line AWD will travel 484km between charges.
When it does come time to plug in, Kia reckons a 50kW charger will take you from 10-80 per cent in around one hour and 13 minutes. A 350kW charger will do the same in around 18 minutes. Using an at-home wall box will take you to full in around 11 hours.
Kia reckons the hybrid car will sip 4.0-litres per hundred kilometres on the combined cycle, and GOOD NEWS, the 42-litre tank will sip cheap 91RON fuel.
No fuel needed for the electric one, though. Kia reckons the Niro EV will deliver 460kms in driving range when fully charged. And when it does come time to plug in, a 7kW Wall Box at home will take nine hours and 25 minutes to go from empty to full, or a 100kW DC charger (also the charging max), will take 45 minutes to go from 10 to 80 percent.
The mark of a sorted car is often how well it hides its size and weight. Some vehicles seem bigger from behind the wheel, but the good ones seem to shrink around you.
The EV6, then, is definitely in the "good ones" camp. Despite lugging two-tonne-plus with it wherever it goes, it somehow manages to feel constantly eager, mostly lithe and impressively sorted.
Yes, there are moments when the weight makes itself known (especially on the outside-front tyres when you're getting carried away in corners), but most of the time it's up to you to remember you're driving something pretty big and heavy, and to adjust your brake points accordingly.
Helping massively in that department is the rich flow of power generated by the EV6's electric motor, or motors. We took on a whole heap of roads and conditions, and never discovered any kind of flat spot in the power delivery, with the EV6 happy to keep accumulating speed in a refreshingly quiet and dignified manner.
I would argue that, for most people, most of the time, the single-motor models produce more than enough grunt for everyday driving. Not lighting fast, perhaps, but the power delivery feels so constant, so plentiful, that you never feel like you're really stretching its limits.
Yes, the AWD GT-Line is more fun powering out of corners, but it's also more to think about as your barreling towards one, too, with speed arriving pretty quickly whenever you plant your right foot.
There are no ludicrous modes or anything like that — just a rich seam of power ready to be mined when you need it. And for mine, it's a better car for it.
What is fun, though, is the Sport Mode, which doesn't just unlock more power (which is super noticeable when you swap from Normal to Sport with your foot flat), but also a much louder Jetson's style soundtrack.
Praise must once again be heaped on Kia's localisation program. We piloted some seriously dodgy road surfaces, and it's only the really major imperfections that make themselves known in the cabin.
The steering, however, isn't as brilliant. It's not terrible, either, it just doesn't feel all that linear, and it's super-sharp when you first turn the wheel, which can actually catch you off guard, before becoming a little more vague as the corner continues.
Honestly, I had just jumped out of another brand's hybrid before climbing into the EV6, and the all-electric drive was a much smoother and satisfying experience all around.
No point in keeping you waiting here, is there? I really like the way the Niro drives.
Want more? Sure. We spent most of our time behind the wheel of the All Electric model, which offers this treacle-smooth and gear-change-free acceleration (which occurs in near silence), which only really reminds you how easy good EVs are to drive.
We're not talking the lightning-fast acceleration some EVs have become famed for. In fact, 7.8 seconds is pretty leisurely, but it doesn't overly detract from the experience here. Instead, it just adds to the easy-going nature of the drive experience.
Also strong is the ride and handling balance, with Kia's local wizards working their magic to create a ride that feels connected to the road surface below, but still manages to soak up all but the worst road imperfections. All of which pairs nicely with well-weighted steering.
If it sound like I'm waxing lyrical a bit here, it's because I am. But there are some downsides here, too.
For one, you can't just magic away the extra weight of those batteries, and while the Niro goes around tight corners will little in the way of tyre squeal, it can feel like you're willing something pretty heavy to go where you want it to.
Mostly, though, this is an easy, fuss-free drive experience. There's nothing to scream from the rafters, but little to complain about, too.
The safety story here starts with driver and passenger airbags, along with front-side, curtain and a centre-side airbag.
The Air then adds clever stuff like a reverse camera, AEB, blind-spot collision with rear cross-traffic alert, Lane Keep Assist and Lane Following Assist, multi-collision braking, front and rear parking sensors, active cruise with speed limit assistance, and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
The GT-Line models build on that again, adding a Blind Spot View Monitor, a 3D surround-view camera and powered child locks.
No ANCAP rating yet, but Kia will adopt the European crash scores in its bid for a five-star rating.
I won't bore you with a long list of safety kit here. Instead, I'll tell you what's new.
This time around Kia has added a centre side airbag, multi-collision braking, Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist,, Rear Cross Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist and an intelligent speed limiter - all of which are standard fit.
They join a pretty comprehensive suite of safety kit, with the even more advanced stuff — like parking collision avoidance assist and safe exit assist — reserved for the GT Line cars.
The outgoing Kia Niro was crash-tested in 2016 and got a full five-star mark.
Have you heard EVs are cheaper to service than ICE cars? They are.
The EV6 is covered by Kia's seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, with its "high-voltage" bits covered for the same time, but the kilometres are capped at 150,000km. The battery, by the way, is guaranteed to maintain 70 per cent capacity at the seven-year mark.
Servicing costs are pretty impressive, with Kia inviting owners to pre-pay their maintenance costs for three years at $594, five years at $1089 package, or $1584 for seven years. That comes out at around $226 per year.
The Niro is covered by Kia's seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and the old car needed servicing every 12 months or 15,000kms.
Capped price servicing also appears, and again, based on the outgoing model, you can expect to pay around $3500 over the full warranty period, averaging out to $500 per annum.