Kia Niro EV: Kia’s first electric car is headed for Singapore

Kia Niro EV Singapore

The Kia Niro EV, an electric car, is headed for Singapore. Its arrival means EVs are slowly but surely entering the mainstream 

SINGAPORE — A battery-powered version of the Kia Niro went on sale in Korea this month, and the good news for fans of Electric Vehicles (EVs) is that it’s going on sale in Singapore, too.

At the earliest, you’ll get your hands on one by the end of this year, but early next year would be more realistic — EVs have traditionally taken extra time to be inspected and approved for sale by the Land Transport Authority.

Here are the headline numbers for the car: the Niro EV comes in two versions with different battery sizes, and can either cover 450km or 300km on a single charge. That’s according to the more stringent new WLTP (Worldwide harmonized Light vehicle emissions Test Procedure) regime.

An electric motor with 204 horsepower drives the front wheels. It produces 395Nm of torque instantly, helping the Niro EV scramble to 100km/h in just 7.8 seconds.

That makes it quite a bit more peppy than its mechanical sister, the Hyundai Ioniq Electric, with its 280km range, 120hp motor and 9.9 seconds sprint to 100km/h.

Most of the Niro’s superiority is down to a bigger battery pack. The long-range model has a 64 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery while the 300km version has a 39.2kWh pack. The Ioniq’s battery is a 28kWh one.

With a fast charger, the long-range model can be topped up from 0 to 80 percent in 54 minutes.

Kia says the Niro EV’s batteries are located low (under the boot floor), which gives the crossover car the centre-of-gravity more akin to a hatchback’s. That in turn should make for more stable handling, it says. The boot still offers 451 litres of space.

To make it look different from a normal Niro (pictured above), Kia gave the electric version a different front grille (albeit one still in the shape of the brand’s “tiger nose”), behind which the charging port for the car is hidden.

Kia put a blinking lamp on top of the dashboard so owners can tell the battery’s state of charge from the outside at a glance.

There’s some light blue trim on the exterior, which is also inside the car, while the dashboard has been mildly redesigned to free up space in the centre console to accommodate a wireless charging pad for compatible smartphones.

EVs have yet to seriously take off in Singapore, but the Niro will join two existing battery-powered cars from non-premium brand in the market here, in the form of the Ioniq and Renault’s Zoe.

It’s set to be the largest, fastest and longest-ranging of the lot, so its success will be down to keeping pricing low enough to have it deemed attractive.

It will be helped, too, by SP Group’s decision to build a public EV charging network with 500 points around the island by 2020.

Most of the installed chargers could top up a long-range Niro EV fully in a little over three hours, while the 100 or so fast chargers that the nation’s grid operator is installing would take around 80 minutes.

Meanwhile, the Niro hybrid, a petrol-electric version of the eco crossover, has dropped off the local Kia price list. The car would have been hobbled by the Vehicular Emissions Scheme requirements for particulate matter emissions that came into force in July.

CarBuyer understands that Kia is working on a fix, most likely to come in the form of a Gasoline Particulate Filter that sifts out the offending soot. If successful, that effort could see the Niro hybrid return to our market by the end of the year, just in time to reappear alongside its cleaner, more glamorous new electric sister.

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Cycle & Carriage Kia, which imports the Korean brand here, is more likely to retail the long-range version of the car here, and will probably count on fleet operators to make up meaningful sales numbers.

450km on a single charge is more than enough for the Niro to make a good taxi, after all.

Of course, retail customers will still be welcome. But no EV has found a wide audience amongst ordinary car buyers in Singapore yet.

Nevertheless, there are good reasons for importing the Niro EV even if it doesn’t add much to overall sales. For one thing, it’s good for Kia’s image. EVs are seen as futuristic, clean, fun to drive and a mark of social awareness. A car like the Niro EV could help Kia to enjoy some of the brand cachet enjoyed by Korea’s smartphone makers.

It would not be surprising if Kia Motors were quietly pressuring Cycle & Carriage to launch the car here, whatever its prospects.

On the other hand, Cycle’s parent Jardine Matheson could well take the view that importing the Niro EV would give the company a headstart on understanding how to sell electric cars. The rulebook concerning how to engage with customers, how to explain the technology and what points to highlight and so on has yet to be written for EVs, and importing the Niro would give Cycle & Carriage a chance to fill some pages now.

That way, when (not if) EVs become the mainstream, key people within the company will be good and ready. Electric cars are considered forward-thinking machines, but the people who sell them are looking ahead, as well.


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about the author

Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.