Written by Justin Delaney, an Independent Reviewer, Journalist, and Motor expert.
Frankfurt was to be the chose location for Kia to unveil the all-new Niro to the Irish press. This latest car is an important model in Kia’s expansive eco-focused line-up, which is set to include 14 battery electric models by 2027. The Niro crossover has been completely redesigned from the ground up to incorporate a trio of state-of-the-art electrified powertrains to include hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric. Irish customers look set to get the pug-in hybrid and full EV so when we got up close with all three models, we naturally diverted our attention to the two destined for the Irish market. The PHEV model is powered by Kia’s tried and tested super frugal Smartstream 1.6-litre GDI petrol engine. Meanwhile the much anticipate new battery electric Niro EV will have a staggering 460km of electric-only range. Kia believes these choices of low and zero-emission powertrains will help Irish customers smooth the transition to sustainable mobility.
So what is it like up close and how different really is it? Well let’s start with the design. No doubt heavily influenced by its family members with the EV6 and new Sportage, the Niro has grown up to look more purposeful and commanding in such a busy sector. The nose now wears the new Kia badge with pride and the sides of the vehicle are attractive with new optional Aero Blades towards the rear reminiscent of a certain German supercar. These blades are functional in the sense that they help channel air for less road noise and better efficiency. Painted in a contrasting colour, the blade runs from the top of the rear door all the way down and into the wheel cladding. Overall dimensions have grown also. Sitting at 4,420mm long, 1,825mm wide, and 1,570mm tall, the fresh new design is generous in proportions and looks great on the road. With 2,720mm wheelbase and clever interior design, the cabin will reward you and your family with great interior space and storage capacity. In terms of trim levels Kia continue to use K2, K3 and K4 designation but the Irish market is set to get K3 and K4 launching with the top of the range K4 initially.
For Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid variants, the K3 grade gets you 18-inch alloy wheels with Continental rubber, a large 10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation system, cloth and vegan leather upholstery. Add to this a 4.2-inch TFT instrument cluster, front parking sensors, keyless smart entry and start, and heated seats/steering wheel. You can also expect rear privacy glass, driver lumbar support, Highway Driving Assist (HDA), Blind Spot Collision Avoidance (BCA) for the rear, a wireless smartphone charger, and adjustable multi-angle rear seats. Our test cars in Frankfurt were of K4 specification which adds twin 10.25-inch touchscreen and instrument cluster display, heated rear seats and ventilated front seats, front passenger premium relaxation seating, a power operated tailgate, electric sunroof, an uprated Harman Kardon premium sound system, driver’s side memory seating, and front passenger lumbar support. Additional technologies include Remote Smart Parking Assist (RSPA), and Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist (PCA) to save you scratching those lovely bumpers.
As mentioned above the Plug-in Hybrid is powered by a Smartstream 1.6-litre GDi petrol engine, which is mated to a larger 62 kW (83 bhp) electric motor to give a combined power output of 180bhp. The presentation revealed that Kia engineers are targeting an electric-only driving range of up to 59 kilometers but this is pending certification from WLTP. If they succeed, this should be more than enough for a driver to complete the average daily commute here in Ireland. Kia were also keen to point out the Niro Plug-in Hybrid is also able to tow a small trailer with weight up to 1,300kg. This means a dog/bike trailer or even a small caravan could be towed with ease!
Moving over to the Niro EV and its get a long-range 64.8 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack and a 201bhp electric motor. Torque is rated at 255 Nm, and the car is capable of accelerating from 0-to-100 km/h in just 7.8 seconds. Recharging from 10 to 80% takes as little as 45 minutes, which makes it nine minutes faster than the outgoing model. In the winter months, when temperatures are typically low, the Niro EV uses navigation-based conditioning to pre-heat the battery when you select a charge point as your destination. This prepares the battery for that faster charge. Like the PHEV, the EV can tow also albeit at a smaller payload. Still, 750kg should be sufficient to haul a small trailer!
Kia give every model standard driver assistance technologies to include Forward Collision Avoidance with car, pedestrian and cyclist recognition, junction crossing and Smart Cruise Control but the K3 cars coming to Ireland also have Highway Driving Assist and Blind Spot Collision Avoidance for the rear. The K4 version adds Highway Driver Assist 2 and Forward Collision Avoidance 2 with additional functionality. As mentioned previously the Remote Smart Parking Assist and Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist are also included.
Kia Ireland will launch with two PHEV models K3 and K4 with K3 model kicking off from €38,500 and K4 at €41,500. Initially the Niro EV will only be available in K4 specification priced at €45,715 including grants. Naturally a range of finance and PCP options will be available from your local Kia dealer.
Kia is a brand that’s moving at an incredible pace! Looking at the timeline and how far they have come since their entry into the Irish market is nothing short of phenomenal. Getting the opportunity to take an initial test drive in the new Niro gave us the chance to see just how future proof the brand is. The quality of the build both inside and out is second to none and to drive, both the PHEV and EV felt fantastic. Our first route was enjoyed with the EV variant and it was super smooth managing range particularly well regardless of how hard you pushed on. It reminded us very much of the award winning EV6 in how it goes about transporting occupants in sheer silence. The PHEV is rather capable also and doesn’t suffer from that disconnected feeling that some hybrid powertrains have where you get an earful of engine noise, followed by just a hint of momentum!
The engineers have done a great job making the gearbox silky smooth and even removed reverse gear in its entirety to save weight. Now the battery reserves the power to motion you backwards when needed! It’s all very clever and a massive step forward from the outgoing Niro. Going back a few years I found the Niro not as easy on the eye as the quirky Kia Soul but now I think it has found its place in the Irish market and this latest offering is no doubt destined for great things. At the time of writing the Niro PHEV is filtering into the Irish dealer network showrooms whilst the EV will arrive in late August, early September. Don’t miss an opportunity to take a test drive!
PHEV Boot Space compromised
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