KIA NIRO SPORT PHEV

Kia Australia has launched into its electric future in a big way with Hybrid, Plug-In Hybrid and full-electric versions of the Niro crossover SUV.

Each of the three powertrains is offered in two trims, S and Sport. Our road test review was of the Hybrid version in Sport trim. We feel it’s the one we feel is most likely to appeal to typical folks concerned about minimising air pollution, but unable, or unwilling to pay the almost $17,000 more for the full electric version.

Again, it’s time for me to launch into my criticism of our governments who are more interested in keeping coal miners happy than in providing clean air. Indeed, some of our elected officials who are still denying the facts that our climate is warming.

Another reason for me not testing the full electric is that we live in an apartment and there’s no power point within cooee of our parking spot.

STYLING
The shape is neat and tidy and – unlike too many in this class – it has a rear end that put luggage capacity ahead of style. We like that.

Interestingly, the radiator grille closes to improve aerodynamics when full engine cooling isn’t required, such as during cold weather. Somewhat oddly the full electric model has a grille when none is required. It seems like people don’t like to have vehicles’ fronts without a grille, but Kia certainly not the only company to do this.

The grille has Kia’s traditional ‘tiger nose’ styling, which is integrated neatly into the frontal shape.

INTERIOR
Part-leather/part-cloth seat trim give it an upmarket look and feel.

Dual zone air-conditioning is handy because it gets the complete interior down to a decent temperature faster – which is very handy in Australia as we head into what may be a hotter than average summer.

INFOTAINMENT
An 8.0-inch touchscreen media system controls wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a six speaker DAB digital radio. Which isn’t as fashionable as multi-multi speaker systems in some car these days, but is sound fine.

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid drivetrains both have a 1.6 petrol engine with outputs of 77.2kW of peak power and 147 of torque. It works alongside a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor.

There’s an additional maximum output of 32kW for the Hybrid and 44.5kW for the plug-in model with torque of 170Nm in both cases. Combined system output for both the Hybrid and PHEV is 104kW and 265Nm.

For the Plug-In Hybrid energy is stored in a pair of Lithium-Ion polymer batteries with 360 Volts combined. One battery is under the rear seat and one under a panel in the boot floor. They have a combined capacity of 24.7Ah and 8.9kWh with a weight of 117kg.

Both models drive the front wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic with the ICE and electric motor use determined by driving conditions and the drive mode selections by the driver.

In normal operating conditions the Hybrid system uses electric drive from a standstill and during gentle acceleration, such as in stop-start city traffic. Under full acceleration the engine works with the electric motor to provide optimum drive.

At constant cruising speeds the default is power assist mode with the petrol engine providing the main drive. Excess torque created in these circumstances can be stored by the battery. During deceleration the regenerative braking system harvests energy and stores it in the battery.

SAFETY
The Niro has been given a crash safety rating of five. Features that assist you to avoid, or at least mitigate injuries to occupants include forward braking that can detect and brake for cars at speed from eight km/h to 180km/h.

It has pedestrian and cyclist detection that works between 8.0km/h and 70km/h.

To make life simpler for the driver there is lane keep assist that works from 55km/h to 180km/h. It doesn’t just warn the driver but also by actively steering the car back into its lane. There’s also lane-follow assist, which will keep the car in the centre of the lane, this does depend on the lane marking are easy for the cars to ‘see’. Again, it works from zero to 180km/h but only works when active cruise control is on.

DRIVING
The Kia Niro is getting on in years, having been launched overseas in 2017 though it didn’t reach Australia until 2021. Its handling doesn’t feel as though it’s had the extensive mods that are often made by local Kia engineers.

It’s competent enough but don’t expect anything exciting in the way it handles. There’s more steering wheel free play than we like.

The instant reaction to the accelerator which is such a feature of any electric vehicle is fun. Obviously, this disappears when the electric motor isn’t operating when the batteries are flat. However, the batteries do sometimes pick up a bit of charge when your slowing down or descending hills so there’s a little extra punch off the line at times.

We found it came close to the officially recorded electric-only driving range of 58 kilometres. Petrol consumption is pretty good the overall range sitting around 500 to 800 km when we ran the Kia without the assistance of the battery.

Kia’s seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty, seven-year capped price servicing and seven-year roadside assist apply across the Niro range with the exception of the high voltage battery and electric motor which are covered by a seven-year 150,000km warranty.

AT A GLANCE

MODEL RANGE
Niro 1.6 S Hybrid: $39,990
Niro 1.6 Sport Hybrid: $43,890
Niro 1.6 S Plug-In Hybrid: $46,590
Niro 1.6 Sport Plug-In Hybrid:$50,490
Niro Electric S: $62,590
Niro Electric Sport: $65,990
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Kia dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Kia Niro 1.6-litre petrol / electric five-door wagon)

ENGINE:
Capacity: 1.580 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 77 kW @ 5700 rpm
Maximum Torque: 147 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Fuel Type: 91 RON petrol
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 1.3 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 29 g/km

DRIVELINE: Six-speed automatic

DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4355 mm
Wheelbase: 2700 mm
Width: 1805 mm
Height: 1545 mm
Turning Circle: 10.6 metres
Kerb Mass: 1564 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 43 litres

BRAKES:
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc

STANDARD WARRANTY:
Seven years / unlimited kilometres

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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