Kia Niro EV Review - Select Car Leasing
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Kia Niro EV Review 2022

Introduction

The outgoing Kia Niro EV is a thoroughly sensible car, blending SUV practicality with an electric vehicle's environmental and cost benefits, but it was so frustratingly dull. The new electric Kia Niro, renamed Niro EV, keeps all the good bits, and remains eminently sensible but adds a touch of style and technology to boost its appeal. And it does that exceptionally well.

Select's rating score* - 4.1 / 5

At a Glance

It might share the same battery pack and electric motor as the outgoing model, but this second-generation Niro EV is about as far removed from the old model as possible. Gone is the rather dour styling, replaced by something sharp and modern that should age well.

There’s nothing particularly ground-breaking about the car. It’s got a decent 204hp electric motor powered by a 64.8kWh battery pack, but other manufacturers provide a similar package. Kia has brought together the different elements required in a family car, though, and created a package that’ll appeal to huge swathes of the population.

That means there’s no divisive styling, unfathomable technology, or compromised cabin spaces. It just gets on with being a sensible family car without introducing anything to interrupt the experience.

But does it strike the right balance between brilliant and boring? Let’s find out…


Key Features

Let’s talk about that odd panel towards the back of the car. You might think it’s there just for show, and the contrasting colours it’s painted in on many models back up that view, but there’s more to it.

It’s a clever aerodynamic device, channelling air from the sides of the car around to the rear to reduce the vacuum that occurs behind a vehicle travelling at speed. While the front of a car is relatively easy to design in a slippery way, the back is always troublesome, with manufacturers coming up with all sorts of tricks to minimise drag and increase efficiency.

Most turn to a simple spoiler, but Kia’s effort makes the car's lines look cleaner. It also allows them to create a stylistic talking point, one which, to these humble eyes, doesn’t entirely work. Fortunately, if you’re not keen to highlight what is a posh spoiler bolted to the side of the car, then Kia will happily paint it in the same colour as the rest of the vehicle.


Performance & Drive

In the nicest possible way, the Niro EV is entirely forgettable. There’s no criticism implied there; it’s just so competent and easy to use that there’s no steep learning curve, no harsh elements to break the ambience, and no electric shenanigans that create headaches along your journey.

Kia has forgone the opportunity to create a hard-accelerating model, so you won’t find sub-five-second 0-62mph times (it takes 7.8 seconds to do that, incidentally). There’s no high-performance mode available either, even one that requires multiple button presses and an age to precondition the battery.

Instead, you get in, select drive, and just get on with your day.


Power is available immediately, all 204hp of it, which makes progress as swift as most will want, but also makes urban driving a cinch. Darting out of junctions and squeezing into gaps is easier when you’ve got a bit of poke, and a day spent shuffling around the centre of London proved that. Excellent visibility made it easier to spot road rivals, too.

Kia’s new K3 platform is pleasingly refined. The Niro EV sits on this new chassis, providing it with soft, quiet and supple suspension, absorbing most bumps in the road without drama. There is an issue with small cracks in the road surface that filter through to the cabin at urban speeds, leaving the ride feeling quite choppy on slower roads.

The Niro EV is stable and secure on the open road, on both twisty roads and motorway lanes. It’s not sportscar-sharp in the handling stakes, but there’s plenty of grip from the tyres, and the low position of the battery helps the car to feel well planted. The easy nature of the vehicle does count against it when pressing on, though, as there’s a complete lack of communication from the front of the car through the steering wheel, so everything feels very remote.


Running Costs

Kia claims the Niro EV will run for 285 miles, according to official WLTP testing. That puts it right up with the best in class, although these figures shouldn’t be relied upon as everything from road conditions to weather conditions can play their part in sapping energy.

However, Kia’s have historically done pretty well in real-world use when measured against their official figures. The Niro EV is no different, with our entirely unscientific testing suggesting that 250 miles is easily achievable.


We know that, as that’s precisely what we did. That journey included a fair chunk of battery-draining motorway driving, some cross-country roads and a couple of hours in the city. The result was an average economy of 4.3 miles per kWh. The Niro EV’s 64.8kWh battery pack is, therefore, good enough for 278 miles, which will be enough for more than 90% of drivers. You can find out more about EV range in our guide explaining electric car range.

At the rates I get charged for electricity at home (35p/kWh), it’ll cost about £22 to fully charge the Niro EV, which works out at (very roughly) 95mpg if you spend that money on petrol instead. If you’re out and about, it’ll take just 43 minutes to charge to 80% from empty, assuming you’re hooked up to a rapid 350kW charger. Make sure you're getting the most out of every charge, and be sure to consult our guide on picking your ideal electric car charger.


As with other electric cars, there’s no car tax to pay, and company car drivers will face a BIK burden of just 2% for 2022/23.

Dealer visits will be infrequent; servicing is required just once every two years or 24,000 miles. A seven-year warranty covers the car for up to 100,000 miles if something goes awry between services.


Interior

Our ‘2’ grade Niro EV is the entry point to the range and has a small 8.0-inch infotainment screen slotted into the centre console, surrounded by swathes of matt black plastic. Move to the ‘3’, and you’ll receive a pair of 10.25-inch screens on the dashboard, one for the infotainment centre and one for the driver’s instrument panel. It’s worth the upgrade.

The safety-critical panel for the driver is customisable and provides all sorts of information, although you can't beat switching everything to a digital representation of traditional dials and just leaving it at that. It is crisp and clear, though, and follows every other Kia's simple design pattern, making it familiar to many.


The other screen dominates the centre stack and houses access to most of the car’s functions. It’s a good system if a little slow to react sometimes, but it won’t win any awards for its aesthetics. Crisp, clear and usable is all we need, though, so don’t worry about that.

For those that like buttons, there’s good news. Below the screen is a row of buttons to control the heating and ventilation systems or the car audio system. But not both. They’re touch-sensitive buttons, with another button to switch their designated purpose from one set of options to another. It’s a neat system and looks great, but it can leave you momentarily flummoxed as you wonder why it’s getting colder when all you want to do is turn the radio down.


The rest of the cabin is upholstered in a mix of fine fabrics - many of which are recycled - and high gloss plastics. The screen will gather fingerprints, but every other touch point is covered in something less shiny, and it all feels screwed together well. Kia can’t afford to make things too flimsy with a seven-year warranty to cover.

Space is plentiful for all, with the rear notably more spacious than the old model. The boot will swallow a 475-litre load (a little more than you'll get in a Ford Kuga and a little less than in a Nissan Qashqai) which extends to 1,392 litres once you’ve folded all the seats down.


Safety

Euro NCAP has thrown the Kia Niro EV down its test lane and into a series of crash barriers where it performed well. Occupant protection is rated very highly, with good scores for safety technology, leading to a full five-star rating.

Every Niro EV comes with a long list of safety technology, including automatic emergency braking that can detect pedestrians and cyclists and other vehicles, lane keeping and lane following assists, adaptive cruise control, and speed limit assist. Higher spec models add blind spot monitoring a Highway Driving Assist. The latter is an advanced cruise control that adds more autonomy allowing, for example, lane changes to be carried out by doing nothing more than indicating.


Options

Kia starts the range with the ‘2’ grade car, which is reasonably well equipped. You get LED headlights, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a reversing camera, and adaptive cruise control, but you miss out on the 10.25-inch infotainment screen. Instead, you’ll find an 8.0-inch unit surrounded by matte grey plastic. If you can stretch to it, it’s for this reason alone that you should move to the ‘3’.

Manage that, and on top of that infotainment centre, you’ll also get a heated steering wheel and heated seats, automatic wipers and wireless phone charging. Splash out on the ‘4’ trim, and you can add a head-up display, an electric tailgate, vegan leather upholstery and ventilated massage seats to the equipment list.

But what about options? There aren’t any beyond paint colours. Orange Flame is free, but you’ll pay £595 for something less divisive or £745 for a two-tone option.


Rival Cars

The family EV sector is booming right now, with no shortage of rivals. The granddaddy, the Nissan Leaf, is in the autumn of its life, with a dated cabin, limited range, and limited charging capability. It’s good value for money, though.


Volkswagen’s ID.3 offers a huge range from its battery pack, strong performance and lots of space. It’s not exactly a premium model, though - the Kia feels far nicer - and prices can reach worryingly high levels.

The Vauxhall Mokka-e is a little smaller but looks great and rides nicely. It’s got a limited range compared to rivals, though and is neither particularly pleasant to drive nor unusually practical.


Verdict

The Niro EV’s charms are simple, making it difficult not to fall for them. Kia has taken everything good about the e-Niro and improved on them while, at the same time, fixing all of the problems of the old car.

You end up with a car that offers plenty of space for a family, with practical touches to make living with the car easier. There’s enough space for four (and even five) and a lot of luggage, and they’ll each enjoy the impressive refinement and mostly comfortable ride.

The power available is sufficient for all but the most impatient, and the large battery pack will keep you going along the road far longer than most people will go in a day. Even then, charging is impressively rapid, quickly getting you back on the road.

The likes of the Genesis GV60 and Audi Q4 e-tron are far more luxurious but far more expensive, while the MG ZS might be cheaper but also feels it. As it often does, Kia has straddled a middle ground that works incredibly well, which is why it’s easy to love and hard to fault.

Where to next?

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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Kia Niro EV

**Correct as of 19/04/2023. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £3,516.84 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.

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