SINGAPORE – If you wake up, and you know you’re gonna be, you’re gonna be a man who drives 500km without fuel. Then you should know that, know that the Kia Niro EV, is probably the best EV for you.
No I haven’t suddenly become Yoda, it’s a reference to a song by The Proclaimers. The Kia Niro EV might not be able to run 500 miles (that is 804km) like the song says, but it can do 500km in Singapore, and that’s in real-life, mixed-conditions running.
The Niro itself isn’t new: Kia’s unique sport utility vehicle (SUV) debuted here in 2017 (pictured above) and like Hyundai’s Ioniq hatchback, is part of a sub family of electrified vehicles within its brand.
The Niro was unique in being one of the few mainstream, non-Japanese hybrid offerings that’s also very cost-effective, though the EV version isn’t quite as bang for buck as the hybrid.
Simply put, it’s friggin’ expensive, it launched at S$184k with COE in July and as usual for an EV here, the road tax is a nonsensical S$2,248 per year.
Accordingly Kia doesn’t expect to sell many to private customers and is instead targeting fleet sales. A pity, since owning one could mean never needing to visit a petrol station ever again – and hardly having to change your driving style or plans due to range anxiety.
As the ‘EV’ name suggests, this version loses its internal combustion engine entirely, instead receiving a 204hp electric motor that makes a hefty 395Nm of torque, drawing juice from a sizeable 64kWh battery pack.
Kia’s official range estimate is 455km, which spells out an efficiency of 14kWh/100km. However we covered 380km in Singapore in the car, with an efficiency score of 12.4kWh/100km, which means more than 500km if we’d emptied the whole charge.
That should come as no shock, considering the BMW i3 and Hyundai Ioniq Electric have proven that electric cars can do what they claim, and the Hyundai Kona Electric (the more expensive long-range model) can go up to 540km, on paper. The latter is a key competitor for the Niro EV, though it’s smaller, and thus less spacious, but slightly more efficient.
The combustion-less Niro makes clear its identity in a common fashion: the grille is replaced by dimpled plastic with a cut-out for the charging port. Charging time for the Niro is around nine hours with the included charging wallbox, assuming the maximum 7.2kW charge rate the box is capable of.
It can also handle DC fast charging (via the CC2 standard port) of up to 100kW, with that it can reach 80 percent in 54 minutes, according to Kia, but with local SP Group DC fast chargers (50kW charge rate) a full charge would take approximately two hours by our estimate.
While cars like the BMW i3 and Tesla Model X offer a very different, unconventional experience of motoring, the Niro eases drivers into the new world of BEVs (battery-powered electric vehicles) with familiar ergonomics and behaviour.
The top section of the cockpit is identical to the Niro hybrid – a slightly larger screen and infotainment system (now with Apple CarPlay and additional EV-centric data displays), same semi-active instrument panel, same wheel and switchgear.
However the lack of a gearbox means the gearshifter has now been replaced by a gear selector and additional stowage space.
Interior room is pretty much the same, that is decently good and five adults will fit fine, while boot space has actually increased to 451-litres, from 427-litres on the hybrid.
Three selectable drive modes (Eco, Normal, Sport) are available, but Eco is the best for those used to the gradual build-up of a gasoline engine, though obviously the extra power, and near 400Nm of torque, swooshes the car along with silent ease.
It’s also very enjoyable to lay on the gas (electron stream?) and feel the Niro EV surge forward with authority. Despite being approximately 320kg heavier – most of which is that huge battery pack structure that’s even visible underneath the car – the EV is much quicker on the uptake, and like other EVs, can even catch some performance cars napping.
For the inner city grind, it’s perfect for slipping quickly into gaps and neat overtakes, and while the anchor of the battery means the car’s surprisingly capable around corners, it’s still no performance vehicle itself – that near 1.8-tonne weight simply can’t be hidden. Also, a big battery and crossover body style means the Niro EV handles larger road undulations well, but pitter-patters over the small stuff.
No, what the Niro EV is really good at is getting from one place to another with silence, no fuss, and zero-emissions. Wafting along in relative quiet (aside from some tyre noise), cooled seats, adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitors taking some of the load off the driver, the car simply excels at zero-emissions mile-crushing.
A busy weekend of errands meant we covered nearly 400km in the car, far more than any other test car this year, but the Niro Ev’s relaxed nature made that a breeze.
EVs have proliferated to a stage where we can begin to sort the good from the bad, and the Niro EV is firmly in the ‘good’. Not every new EV is such a clear step forward – the Renault Zoe and BYD E6 are good examples.
On the other hand, EV nature aside, this is a Kia that costs S$184k with COE, so few consumers will ever lay down the cash for one.
But it’s yet another EV that presents a strong case for an electric future, and a Grab with its fleet of Hyundai Kona Electrics already prove, this might be one of the most important EVs in Singapore – even if you only ever experience it from the passenger seat.
Kia Niro EV
|Electric Motor||204hp, 395Nm|
|Battery||Lithium ion, 64kWh|
|Charge Time / Type||9 hours / 7.2kW Wallbox|
|VES Band / CO2||A1/ 58.8g/km LTA equivalent|
|Agent||Cycle & Carriage Kia|
|Price||S$183,888 with COE|