Kia Australia has launched into its electric future with a three-pronged strategy featuring Hybrid (HEV), Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) and full-electric (EV) versions of the stylish Niro crossover.
The arrival of the Niro in three variants of advanced electric technology represents the end of a long and determined campaign to bring alternate fuel vehicles to Australia, but just the beginning of a much more comprehensive future for electric propulsion in the Kia Australia garage.
Globally, Kia has declared a development program to deliver a comprehensive range of electric vehicles to satisfy the requirements of a wide spectrum of buyers.
“Kia is thrilled to start its electric vehicle journey in Australia with the new Niro,” Kia Australia Chief Operating Officer Damien Meredith said.
“The technically advanced and fun to drive Niro range demonstrates Kia’s research and development in this area is second to none and along with the recent announcement of the exciting EV6, these products are just a hint of what else Kia will be offering when it comes to zero-emissions driving.
“And it doesn’t stop with the product. Kia Australia has been rolling out an extensive network of training and infrastructure to service and maintain the new technology. Every service centre will have staff trained in the management and service of electric vehicles, and every dealership will have the ability to recharge customer vehicles.” Meredith added.
Each of the three powertrains _ Hybrid, Plug-In Hybrid and Electric _ will be available in two trims, S and Sport. Pricing for the Hybrid starts at $39,990 for the S with Sport at $43,890. The PHEV is priced from $46,590 for the S and $50,490 for Sport while the range-topping Electric model starts at $62,590 for the S and $65,990 for Sport.
The Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid drivetrains both feature the Kappa 1.6 GDI internal combustion engine (77.2kW and 147Nm) coupled to a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor _ an additional maximum output of 32kW for the Hybrid and 44.5kW for the PHEV with torque of 170Nm in both cases. Combined system output for both Hybrid and PHEV is 104kW and 265Nm.
The electric motor is transmission mounted, sitting between the engine and the transmission to provide the most efficient and versatile use of the combined power of both engine and motor. The arrangement allows for the full output of both the petrol engine and electric motor to be transferred in parallel through the transmission with minimal loss of energy.
The parallel application avoids the need to convert engine output for delivery through the electric motor which would reduce energy efficiency. It also allows for the electric motor to drive the front wheels independent of the engine.
Energy storage in the Hybrid model is managed by a 240 Volt Lithium-Ion polymer battery under the rear seat. The battery has a capacity of 6.5Ah and 1.56kWh and weighs 38.5kg.
For the Plug-In Hybrid energy is stored in a pair of Lithium-Ion polymer batteries with 360 Volts combined, one under the rear seat and an additional battery under the boot panel. They have a combined capacity of 24.7Ah and 8.9kWh with a weight of 117kg.
Both models drive the front wheels through a 6-speed DCT gearbox with the engine/motor workload share determined by driving conditions and the drive mode selections by the driver. The HEV will return fuel efficiency of 3.8L/100km in normal operations while the PHEV (with wider call on the electric motor) returns a combined efficiency of 1.3L/100km.
In normal operating conditions the Hybrid system will use pure electric drive from launch and during gentle acceleration, such as in stop-start city traffic, while 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.
For PHEV models the driver can select one of three operating modes. Automatic will select either pure electric or hybrid as the most appropriate setting according to driving conditions. Selecting full EV mode will see full application of the battery power but with the ability of the petrol motor to kick in and assist when additional power is required _ such as when overtaking. The third option is the Hybrid mode in which the engine and electric motor work in concert as per the Hybrid model. The PHEV has a pure electric range of 58kms (NEDC)
The dedicated fully electric Niro runs a similar but more powerful permanent magnetic electric motor (150kW and 395Nm) powered by a larger capacity 356 Volt Lithium-Ion battery. Stored under the vehicle floor to give optimum centre of gravity and balance, the 457kg battery pack is capable of a range of 455km (WLTP) with capacity of 180Ah and 64kWh.
The EV Niro can be driven in four selectable Drive Modes, each of which changes certain characteristics including air-conditioning function and the electric motor torque profile.
The driver can choose default settings for climate control and energy recuperation level for each mode through the infotainment screen.
Kia’s 7-Year unlimited kilometre warranty, 7-Year capped price servicing and 7-Year roadside assist will apply across the Niro range with the exception of the high voltage battery and electric motor which are covered by a 7-Year 150,000km warranty.
As with all Kia models the Niro family will come highly-specced across all three drivetrains in both S and Sport models.
All S models will feature Motor Driven Power Steering, electronic parking brake with autohold function, regenerative braking, 16-inch aerodynamic alloy wheels for Hybrid and PHEV (space saver spare in Hybrid and temporary mobility kit in PHEV), Roof rails, Halogen headlights, LED Daytime Running lights, Halogen front fog lights, LED high mounted stop light, LED rear combination lights, LED rear fog light, auto light control and solar glass for the windshield and doors.
Technology highlights include 8-inch touchscreen infotainment, wireless Android Auto and Apple Carplay, Bluetooth multi-connection functionality, AM/FM tuner with Digital radio and six-speaker sound system, 4.2-inch supervision driver’s instrument cluster and drive mode select for Eco/Sport.
Comfort and convenience features are abundant with partial cloth and leather seats (eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support and six-way passenger seat adjustment including height), keyless entry, electric powered and folding mirrors, rear parking sensors, rear view camera with dynamic guidelines, tilt and telescopic adjustable steering, auto temperature control and leather steering wheel.
Specific to the EV S model are 17-inch aerodynamic alloy wheels with temporary mobility kit, a dial type shifter, 7-inch supervision driver’s instrument cluster, expanded drive mode select with Eco/Eco+/Normal/Sport, steering wheel paddle shifters, electro chromatic rear-view mirror and single zone air conditioning.
Across the range there are seven airbags, including driver’s knee bag, along with Autonomous Emergency Braking (car/pedestrian/cyclist), Lane Keep Assist, Lane Follow Assist, Smart Cruise Control, Driver Attention Alert.
Stepping up to the Sport model will add LED headlights, a 10.25-inch touchscreen with inbuilt navigation, paddle shifters on all levels, premium seats, alloy sports pedals, auto up and down front windows, electro chromatic rear-view mirror, Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.
Specific to the Hybrid will be 18-inch alloy wheels with a space saver spare; the PHEV will feature 16-inch aerodynamic alloy wheels with a temporary mobility kit while the EV gains an 8-speaker JBL Premium sound system (four speakers, two tweeters, centre speaker and sub-woofer in the boot).
The Hybrid model will be available in eight colours _ Clear White, Aurora Black Pearl, Runway Red, Snow White Pearl, Silky Silver, Sunset Orange, Platinum Graphite and Deep Cerulean Blue with the latter three being exclusive to HEV and PHEV variants_ while EV owners can elect to have their vehicle in the exclusive Yacht Blue.
Premium paint (all except Clear White) is an additional $520.
Kia has settled on the Type 2 (Mennekes) connection for AC charging on the PHEV and EV and the CCS Type 2 Combo connector for DC charging on the pure Electric Vehicle.
The PHEV‘s charge time from empty to 100 per cent on a 3.3kW AC charger is approximately two hours and 15 minutes.
For the EV an ICCB Trickle Charger will take 29 hours to fully charge the battery from empty while using a 7.2kW AC charger will replenish an empty battery in nine hours and 35 minutes. DC Fast charging (0-80 per cent) will take one hour and 15 minutes using a 50kW unit with a 100kW unit reducing that to 54 minutes.
Range is maximised for all models by utilising regenerative braking to harvest kinetic energy for storage in the batteries. The energy is collected when the vehicle is decelerating, either through direct braking or by the use of the steering wheel paddles.
On Sport variants three levels of regenerative braking can be selected through the steering wheel paddles; the left paddle increases regenerative braking and deceleration while the right paddle decreases it.
EV models also have the option of the Smart Regenerative System activated by an extended pressure on the right steering wheel paddle. The system controls the regenerative braking level automatically according to road gradient and driving style of the vehicle in front through use of the front radar. When operative the system helps minimise use of the brake and accelerator pedal to improve efficiency.
A feature unique to the EV is One Pedal Braking which is activated by holding the left paddle in for more than half a second while coasting. Continuing to hold the paddle in can effectively bring the car to a halt.
A Cable Lock function on PHEV and EV models allows the user to select when the charging connector can be locked and unlocked in the charging inlet. Activation of the cable lock function through the button on the dashboard means the charging cable is locked only when charging is in progress and the cable will automatically unlock when charging is completed.
With the function deactivated the charger will be locked at any time a cable is connected. To unlock it the user will need to unlock the car door using the remote.
Charge management is aided by a scheduled charging function on PHEV and EV models. Users can set the date and time of when to charge the battery (enable to specific use of off-peak tariffs), set the climate control temperature (EV) as well as location-based charging options in Navigation equipped models.
The charging status for PHEV and EV is communicated to the driver through the instrument cluster or via a three-light bar on the dashboard visible from the outside.
Ride and handling
The Niro range features an optimised suspension system with McPherson Strut front and a fully independent multi-link rear end, made possible by the packaging of the battery packs under the rear seats and beneath the body of the EV.
The use of aluminium for the lower arm, knuckle (front) and carrier (rear) helps counter a degree of the extra weight imposed by the battery packs with subsequent fuel and energy efficiency.
The Niro’s suspension tune delivers good on-centre steering feel with fast reaction to inputs, high-speed stability, comfortable ride, good cornering grip and composed ride over bumps and broken surfaces.
Michelin tyres, in various specifications, have been selected across the Niro range for the excellent energy efficiency properties they deliver with minimum compromise.
For Hybrid S and all PHEV variants, the choice is the Michelin Energy Saver +, selected for its excellent fuel economy and comfortable ride on higher-profile tyres. Hybrid Sport models are shod with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber to provide good steering feedback and road feel with excellent grip levels in both wet and dry conditions. Niro EV will ride on Michelin Primacy 3 tyres offering excellent wet weather performance, the ability to handle the motor’s 395Nm while providing an uncompromised quiet and smooth ride.
Working in concert with the suspension and tyre technology is Niro’s refined aerodynamic exterior design targeted to provide maximum efficiency through the air with minimum drag to optimise fuel and energy efficiency.
The underbody dynamics of the Hybrid and PHEV all major components _ chassis, drivetrain, exhaust and exposed body elements _ are styled to reduce drag producing a coefficient of drag of just 0.30 Cd.
Going a step further, the underside of the Niro EV is almost completely flat due to the large battery and underbody covers, resulting in an 0.29 Cd.
Other aerodynamic features include an active air flap situated behind the grille which allows directed airflow to cool the motor. The flap is closed at higher speeds to reduce drag and improve efficiency.
A spoiler panel below the rear of the Niro HEV and PHEV is styled with longitudinal ridges for stability and aerodynamic control; a rear spoiler above the tailgate window helps direct airflow while the aerodynamic wheel designs work with the low rolling resistance tyres to help conserve energy.
As with all Kia models, safety is a priority in the new Niro with a host of active and passive systems offering protection for driver and passengers across all models.
Active safety systems include Autonomous Emergency Braking for vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist using the front view camera and front radar to identify collision potentiaI. It will then give an audio-visual warning to the driver and brake to avoid or minimise a collision. Along with Lane Keep Assist (LKA) and Lane Follow Assist (LFA), when cruise control is activated LFA uses camera and radar to control acceleration, braking and steering dependent on the car in front while maintaining safe vehicle separation.
Also included are Blind Spot Detection (BSD) and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Alert (RCTA) on Sport variants while Parking Distance Warning Reverse, Rear View Camera (with Dynamic Guidelines), Smart Cruise Control (SCC), Driver Attention Alert and Emergency Stop Signal (ESS) are standard across the range.
Additional active safety features are Virtual Engine Sound System (VESS) which generates an engine sound to alert pedestrians while the vehicle is moving at low speeds _ less than 28km/h. The feature can be switched off for PHEV and EV models.
Passive safety starts with Niro’s exceptionally strong and rigid body construction. Using 53 per cent of Advanced High Strength Steel the passenger cell is inherently stronger, further enhanced by hot stamping of 24 parts in high-stress areas.
Inside the cabin there are seven airbags providing protection for driver and passengers. The driver and front passenger airbags are depowered to provide maximum protection with minimum risk of injury, there is a driver knee bag, front side airbags and curtain airbags.
Design and Style
For the Hybrid and PHEV models the front displays a gloss black tiger nose grille, silver skid plates (front and rear) and double chevron styled DRLs. The PHEV is further distinguished by a fender-integrated charging port and chrome lower door trims.
The EV’s smooth front end is defined by the body-coloured tiger nose grille representation with integrated charging port, Electric Blue coloured highlights on the lower grille and single chevron DRLs.
All S models have Halogen bi-function projector headlights while Sport models have dual LED headlights and LED front turn signals.
From the side the crossover cues continue with roof rails adding style and practicality with black wheel arch cladding giving a more rugged appearance while retaining the aerodynamic benefits of the overall design.
There are three distinct wheel and tyre packages. The Hybrid S and PHEV S and Sport ride on aerodynamic 16-inch alloys shod with 205/60 R16 Michelin Energy Saver + tyres. The Hybrid Sport has 18-inch alloys with 225/45 R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber while the EV’s unique aerodynamic 17-inch alloys sport 215/55 R17 Michelin Primacy 3 tyres.
Viewed from the rear the Hybrid and PHEV models display LED taillights with separate reverse lights and reflector. For EV models there are specific reverse lights and reflector design while the Electric Blue highlights from the front of the car are replicated on the lower bumper.
The interior is highlighted by a clean and simple fascia design with a luxurious gloss black finish. Sport variants feature a subtle hydrographic design on the passenger side, adding a sophisticated touch.
In keeping with the modern sophistication of the cabin the infotainment system is flush-integrated into the dash fascia and the slim horizontal chrome air vents are complemented by the satin silver feature strip spanning the width of the car.
For the EV the interior is differentiated by the floating centre console, with sliding cover and fold-away cupholders, and by the dial-type shift-by-wire selector. Seats in the Sport models across the range are artificial leather while the S variants are trimmed in cloth and leather.
Efficient and innovative
Designed to fit comfortably into an urban environment and still provide competitive useable space, the Niro offers owners all the functionality and presence of a dedicated SUV.
With an overall length of 4355mm (4375 for the EV), width of 1805mm and height of 1545 (1570 for EV) the Niro rides on a wheelbase of 2700mm.
Interior dimensions are comparable to the Kia Seltos with impressive leg, head and shoulder room for both front and rear passengers.
Intelligent packaging of the battery packs allows for a very useable luggage space with (VDA) 410 litres (Hybrid), 324 litres (PHEV) and 451 litres (EV) with all seats deployed. With rear seats folded that space increases to 1408 litres, 1322 litres and 1405 litres for Hybrid, PHEV and EV respectively.
Comfort and Convenience
Monitoring the various functions of the Niro’s electric drive systems is made easy by the clear displays of the battery and charging status across the range.
Current speed, drive mode, average fuel economy, fuel range, driver attention level and Lane Keep Assist status are all clearly displayed on the 4.2-inch TFT LCD Supervision Cluster. In addition, the Hybrid System Gauge indicates Charge, Eco or Power reflecting the current driving conditions.
In Charge the regenerative energy created by the vehicle is being harvested; Eco indicates the vehicle is being driven in an ecofriendly manner and if Power is indicated the vehicle is exceeding the optimal eco power range.
The Hybrid State Of Charge (SOC) gauge indicates the remaining hybrid battery power. When it nears the zero level the engine is automatically engaged to charge the battery.
For the PHEV models the pure electric range and battery charge status are displayed in blue while Hybrid battery status is indicated in white. There is also an energy flow indicator displaying energy harvesting or use in various operating modes and a Charge Cable Connection Indicator.
The pure electric Niro EV features a 7-inch TFT LCD Supervision Cluster which features the Power/Charge gauge, speedometer, warning and indicator lights, LCD display (including trip computer), battery SOC gauge and distance to empty and Charge Cable Connection Indicator.
The entry level S models will feature an 8-inch audio visual unit with touch screen, multi-Bluetooth connection, wireless and wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, USB connectivity with MP3 playback and the range of Eco Drive displays.
For the Sport models the AV Navigation Unit is a 10.25-inch touch screen with split screen functionality. The navigation unit will display charging station locations and information (PHEV & EV) and features multi-Bluetooth connection, wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and eco driving displays.
EV Sport owners enjoy an 8-speaker JBL Premium Sound System with the high-performance speakers specifically tuned for the Kia Niro to deliver a full immersive sound experience. The patented Harmon Clari-Fi technology works in real time to rebuild audio details lost in digitally compressed music, restoring full depth and warmth to the sound.
Across the Niro range owners will find surprise and delight features designed to make the journey safer, more enjoyable and more relaxing.
The 8-way power driver’s seat works in concert with the tilt and telescopic steering wheel to ensure the ideal driving position, no matter how long the journey. Adjustable height front seat belts add an additional touch of comfort.
Hybrid and PHEV models have dual-zone climate control (EV has single zone) with a driver-only air conditioning option limiting output to the vents nearest the driver to reduce energy consumption. All models have a rear console air vent for rear seat passenger comfort.
Rain sensor windscreen wipers, an auto light control _ monitoring brightness in the surrounding area and turning the headlights and taillights on and off as necessary _ an auto window defog system and electric chromatic mirror (Sport plus all EV models).
Steering wheel mounted buttons allow the driver to control music and the adaptive cruise control system without removing their hands from the wheel. Similarly mounted paddle shifters for Sport and all EV models assist with a sportier drive experience or can be used to adjust the regenerative braking operation.
All models have an electronic park brake with Hill Hold function. PHEV Sport and all EV models have push button start with all models featuring a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System.
The 60:40 folding rear seat aids in flexibility for maximum cargo convenience and a cargo screen helps protects items in the rear of the vehicle.
Across the range there is a rear occupant alert function which uses the door open history to remind drivers to check the rear seats when exiting the vehicle to avoid children, pets and other items being left in the vehicle.