2021 Kia Niro review

By Kris Ashton for the Open Road magazine
2021 Kia Niro EV
2021 Kia Niro EV

Can good looks and refinement carry the 2021 Kia Niro EV to victory in the Australian electric vehicle market?

After a delay of several years, Kia is following its parent company Hyundai into the EV market and using a similar model line-up to Hyundai’s Ioniq sedan: hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full EV.

How much does the 2021 Kia Niro cost?

Each of the three powertrains in the 2021 Kia Niro is available in two trims, S and Sport. Pricing for the hybrid starts at $39,990 for the S and $43,890 for the Sport. The PHEV is priced from $46,590 for the S and $50,490 for Sport, while the range-topping EV starts at $62,590 for the S and $65,990 for Sport.

The hybrid and plug-in hybrid drivetrains have Kia’s 1.6-litre petrol engine (77.2kW/147Nm) running alongside an electric motor that offers an additional output of 32kW for the hybrid and 44kW for the PHEV, and 170Nm of torque. Combined system output for both the hybrid and PHEV is 104kW and 265Nm.

What is the driving range of the 2021 Kia Niro?

We spent a week in the 2021 Kia Niro EV Sport and it runs a similar, but more powerful, electric motor (150kW/395Nm) driving the front wheels. While it’s built on the same platform as the Hyundai Kona and offers the same 64kWh electric battery and 455km range, inside and out the styling is more in the vein of a Kia Rio (something very much in its favour) and the interior layout is designed to increase occupant space.

We took the 2021 Kia Niro EV on our regular economy run route and, interestingly, while the odometer showed 222km, the displayed range only dropped by 179km – suggesting the Niro could even exceed its theoretical 455km range in favourable conditions. Large payloads and long uphill sections are still the mortal enemy of EV range, however, as our jaunt up Macquarie Pass demonstrated.

The EV retains Kia’s common-sense dash layout and the only significant diversion from the norm is the gear selector dial on the centre console. The 10.25-inch infotainment screen in the dash offers split-screen functionality, allowing various functions to be visible at once or occupants can select a single function to dominate the screen.

Pleasant artificial leather clads the seats and steering wheel, and only some coarse plastics in out-of-the-way places and the sound system offer clues to the Niro’s more affordable origins. The rear seats are well-padded and foot and leg room are adequate, although the high floor (necessary to accommodate the batteries) means tall passengers might find long trips uncomfortable.

How does the 2021 Kia Niro drive?

Unlike its Kia stablemates, the 2021 Kia Niro’s ride and handling haven’t been ‘Australianised’, but the suspension soaks up bumps beautifully and the steering, while somewhat vague at lower speeds, is far from terrible. More regrettable is the indicator on the left side of the steering column, a concession to the much larger European and US EV markets.

Seat comfort and ergonomics are exceptional, as we’ve come to expect from Kia, and the learning curve for the EV controls is negligible. As with all pure EVs, the sense of silent acceleration is intoxicating, with all the motor’s 395Nm underfoot from zero rpm. The Sport has paddle shifters that operate the energy recuperation level for charging the battery while slowing, and there’s an active display showing how much additional distance is added to the range.

2021 Kia Niro EV

Is the 2021 Kia Niro a good car?

All the usual EV caveats stand: $60,000-plus is an awful lot for a small SUV and recharging isn’t as convenient as filling up with petrol. But, on looks, comfort, refinement and performance, the 2021 Kia Niro represents a bold first step into the electric market for Kia

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