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Kia finally launches three-pronged Niro Down Under

Electrification hits Kia’s local line-up with Niro priced from $39,990 plus on-roads

21 May 2021

AFTER quenching an almost insatiable demand in Europe, Kia Australia’s (KAU) first-ever foray into electrification has finally landed Down Under in the form of the Niro; a compact family hauler offering local SUV buyers the choice of hybrid, plug-in hybrid (PHEV) or battery-electric (BEV) motoring.


Resembling something of a mix between the outgoing Cerato and a Sportage, six Niro variants are being offered here across two different trim levels with the range opening from $39,990 plus on-road costs for the Hybrid S and extending up to $65,990 for the EV Sport.


With initial estimates sitting at around 100 sales per month across the board, KAU is expecting the hybrid variants to be the volume-sellers and account for around 70 per cent of total Niro sales with the BEVs (20) and PHEVs (10) making up the rest, in that order.


Speaking to GoAuto at the virtual media launch of the Niro, KAU chief operating officer Damien Meredith said it was important to show consumers the depth of technology the brand has at its disposal.


“It was really important for us to make a statement that we’ve got the broadness of technology to go ‘bang, bang, bang’ and bring those into market straight away,” he said.


“What Niro does is it gives us a flow into what’s going to occur with EVs, so that’s really, really important.


“It’s helped us over the last couple of years, prepare our dealer network because they knew EVs were coming, they knew Niro was coming … it’s a really important car and it does prepare us for the future of EVs.”


Laying at the heart of both the hybrid and PHEV variants is a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine developing a modest 77kW/147Nm which is then supplemented by a ‘permanent magnetic’ electric motor, with drive sent exclusively to the front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.


In the hybrids, the electric motor develops 32kW of power and 170Nm of torque, drawing its power from a 1.56kWh lithium-ion battery.


The PHEVs up the ante both in terms of contributed power and battery capacity; generating 45kW/170Nm courtesy of an 8.9kWh battery pack.


Despite the extra power generated by the PHEV’s electric motor, both powertrains develop a combined 104kW/265Nm when all is said and done.


Claimed fuel economy for the hybrid sits at 3.8 litres per 100km on the combined cycle while the PHEV powertrain will reportedly sip just 1.3L/100km.


To help make the most of the drivetrain’s versatility, the PHEVs have been fitted with three distinct drive modes – automatic, EV and hybrid – as well as the usual sport setting for the transmission.


Automatic mode leaves the choice of EV and Hybrid mode up to the car dependent on the driving conditions, EV mode predictably uses electric power only (however the petrol engine will chime in if a heap more power is needed) while Hybrid mode is dedicated to sustaining battery charge.


KAU claims the PHEV will cover up to 58km on pure electric power according the NEDC cycle.


Given it shares the same basic architecture and BEV drivetrain, it should come as no surprise to find the Niro EV matches the Kona Electric tit for tat in terms of battery capacity (64kWh) as well as peak power and torque (150kW/395Nm).


One area the Niro cannot quite compete with its Hyundai cousin however is effective range – KAU is claiming the Niro will cover up to 455km (WLTP) on a single charge whereas the recently updated Kona will cover up to 484km.


This range deficit can be chalked up to the Niro EV’s drastically larger proportions, being 215mm longer (4375mm), 5mm wider (1805mm) and 5mm taller (1570mm), all of which inevitably leads to a greater kerb weight.


While it loses out on range, the bigger body means the Niro offers a fair bit more room inside the cabin than the Kona Electric, with 451 litres of boot space and up to 1405L when the rear seats are folded down thanks to the underfloor packaging of the battery.


Just like the hybrid and PHEV powertrains, the BEV Niro channels its power exclusively to the front wheels however in classic EV style, it utilises a single reduction gear to send the motor’s power to the ground.


When the time comes to recharge, KAU says the Niro EV will charge from empty to 80 per cent in around 54 minutes when hooked up to a 100kW DC fast charger or an hour and 15 minutes when using a 50kW unit.


For those who like to charge their vehicles at home, a full charge will take 29 hours when plugged into the mains via an ICCB Trickle Charger while a 7.2kW AC home charger will reportedly slash that time down to nine hours and 35 minutes.


Unlike the vast majority of KAU’s line-up, the Niro range has not been gifted an Australian-specific suspension and chassis tune with product planning general manager Roland Rivero citing how deep the Niro is into its model lifecycle, with a new model due in around 12 months.


“Being brought fairly late in its model life, it (a local chassis tune) just wasn’t feasible from an engineering resource perspective,” he said.


“In this instance, we’ve adopted the European tune.”


Mr Rivero added that the delay in the Niro’s arrival in Australia was down to the prioritising of other global markets with more stringent emissions regulations.


“Global demand was exceeding production capacity and in that instance, headquarters prioritised the regions that have CO2 regulations, being Europe, North America as well as the Korean domestic market itself, but we’ve been fortunate enough as of late to open it up and get some more supply,” he said.


Like other brands, KAU is still scrambling to source more stock with wait times for members of the SUV line-up in particular still approaching the six-month mark, however it assured GoAuto there was around two months’ worth of Niro stock already here on Aussie soil.


In terms of standard equipment, the two trim levels remain fairly consistent across the three powertrains however there are a few variations here and there, especially when it comes to the EV.


Commonalities across all of the S variants include regenerative braking, keyless entry, leather-accented seats with eight-way power adjustment for the driver, leather steering wheel, automatic headlights, LED daytime running and tail-lights, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, multi-connection Bluetooth, digital radio, a reversing camera, climate control, six-speaker sound system, solar glass and a 4.2-inch instrument cluster display.


As for the differences, the hybrid and PHEV variants both roll on aerodynamically optimised 16-inch alloy wheels whereas the EV flaunts 17s and has a rotary gear selector instead of the traditional lever fitted to the others.


The EV continues standing apart with four drive modes (normal, eco, eco+ and sport), paddle shifters for the adjustable regenerative braking system, an electrochromatic rearview mirror and single-zone air conditioning.


Befitting of their higher price tags, the Sports up the ante with LED headlights, a bigger 10.25-inch infotainment system with satellite navigation, paddle shifters for the hybrid and PHEV, premium seats, alloy sports pedals and express front windows.


Once again there are a few differences between the powertrains with the Hybrid Sport scoring 18-inch alloys and the EV Sport nabbing an eight-speaker JBL premium sound system.


Standard safety gear across the range consists of seven airbags, autonomous emergency braking with car, pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane keep assist, lane follow assist, smart cruise control and driver attention alert with the Sports adding blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert.


All Niros boast 15,000km service intervals and are covered by KAU’s national seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, however the batteries and electric motors are only covered up to 150,000km.


2021 Kia Niro pricing*

Hybrid S (a) $39,990
Hybrid Sport (a) $43,890
PHEV S (a) $46,590
PHEV Sport (a) $50,490
EV S (a) $62,590
EV Sport (a) $65,990

*Excludes on-road costs

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