Kia’s newly redesigned Niro has hit showrooms, and in GT-Line trim is nothing less than a letter to the big guns that they have a new rival. We’re pitting the full EV against its Hybrid (HEV) sibling for something different.
The GT-Line interior is top notch in terms of trim, layout and technological prowess. There is more than enough room in the back for two adults (but definitely not three – it’s borderline a four-seater), as well as some USB-C ports built into the front seats.
The cabin has a lovely futuristic feel, right down to the front seats, which offer plenty of adjustment. The dash showcases a premium look, with ambient lighting, a dial shifter and a minimalist design.
A wireless charging bay is tucked nicely under the air conditioning controls. The screen style button display that can switch from air con to navigation buttons in a single press is premium, and works better than it sounds on paper.
Kia have provided an elegant example of how well this idea can be well executed, but if that doesn’t work for you, there’s a menu on the infotainment screen that will do the same thing. You can even control it from your phone with Kia Connect.
A customisable digital instrument cluster and an infotainment system that is one of the most intuitive we have used to date spans two 10.25-inch displays. Among the highlights are the ability to see navigation, audio and the clock, all in one space.
You can also split the screen into multiple panels, which was especially handy on the Hybrid variant, allowing us to see how the two motors were working together to power the car, charge the battery and save petrol.
Navigation shows up in the head-up display too, along with your speed, and a host of driver assist information. On the EV variant, you get additional information on the infotainment system, including the location of the nearest charge station.
This was especially handy when planning routes with the EV, and you could add and show charge spots along the way. Proving how good these screens, and the software behind them are, we found ourselves not needing to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Boot space is 425-litres in the Hybrid and 475-litres in the EV. A Harman Kardon sound system features in both, and offers great sound. Other features the GT-Line packs are heated and cooled front seats, smart tailgate assist, and safe exit assist.
The EV adds a sunroof and the addition of extra power sockets for rear passengers. Both variants have premium alloy wheels. The Hybrid has 18-inch wheels while its sibling sports 17-inch offerings.
The GT-Line models also feature a unique exterior design touch. Towards the rear quarter of the car you’ll find a secondary colour, allowing this variant to stand out from the crowd, and differentiate it from the S model. Now let’s talk about the differences under the hood.
The EV packs a 64.8kwh electric motor that’s good for 150kW of power and 255Nm of torque. This equates to a 0-100km/h in 7.8 seconds. Range is about 460km. Its Hybrid sibling has less power, but the backup capability of a petrol engine.
It’s loaded with a 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine, mated to a transmission mounted electric motor to deliver 104kW of power and 265Nm of torque. That translates to 10.8 seconds for the sprint to 100km/h.
Both models have a regenerative braking system, with the EV having a more advanced, adjustable level of friction to enable short but heavy-duty power surges back to the battery on big hills or during vigorous driving.
What’s clear when you drive either is just how far EV technology has come in a short space of time. Cruise at low speed or in a car park, and both offer pure quietness from battery only running, delivering a near deathly silent experience when the windows are up.
Even when the petrol engine kicked in on the Hybrid, it was super quiet, often going un-noticed unless you’re paying attention to the information screens. The petrol engine also lends itself to charging the battery during certain conditions, which is nice.
We did find that at high revs the little 1.6-litre threw up some noise, but you’re hardly going to give it that many beans on a regular basis, especially if it’s a daily driver or you spend a lot of time in the city.
The Hybrid runs two drive modes, ECO and Sport, with one optimising fuel efficiency, and the other focused on responsiveness and get up and go. The upside is the latter will use the petrol engine to charge the battery.
There were a few points where the tech seemed undecided about whether we should be all-EV or the petrol/EV combo, but it’s something you’ll get used to and it wasn’t a real problem. It’s more likely a quirk of the way motoring writers test cars.
Kia claims 4.0-litres/100km in terms of fuel economy for the Hybrid version of the Niro GT-Line, and we managed 4.6-litres, which is pretty close. Conversely, the EV model takes a little getting used to.
At first you feel a little conscious of making sure it’s always got plenty of juice (aka there’s a bit of range anxiety), but once you adjust, it really is a great place to be. Once you learn how to use the paddle adjustable regenerative braking, it can be a bit of fun too.
You’ll find you’ll challenge yourself to see if you can both slow down and charge the car with just the regenerative KERS system, which is particularly smile inducing through corners. Anything like range anxiety disappears quickly too.
Owning an EV is about routine, like remembering to plug it in when you get home. With DC fast charging times as low as 40 minutes, and up to 11kwh power from a home socket, you never really have to fret about running out of power.
Nightly 9-hour charges were netting us around 110km of range, and the on-board system give you full details of how you’ve gone. Kia Connect on your phone can also keep you informed. The EV version has three drive modes too, ECO, Normal and Sport.
Both variants have an outstanding lane keep and lane steer system, backed up with adaptive cruise control for an almost effortless driving experience. There is a big price gap between the two though.
The Hybrid is priced at $50,030 while the EV is $72,100 – both plus on-roads. Now while price shock has just dropped you to the floor, when you crunch the numbers, it’s actually not so bad, if you are keen on the EV.
Servicing costs and the petrol bill (on current horrid prices) are both higher on the Hybrid versus the cost of maintaining the EV and the price of charging it (add a solar setup and that gap widens even further in favour of the pure electric offering).
We reckon the latter drives a little nicer too, with the EV the pick of the two. Yes that means a vastly higher initial outlay, but it rewards over the life of ownership. If the Hybrid is more your style, it’s got a nicer front end and cooler wheels anyway.
Our test vehicles were provided by Kia Australia. To find out more about the 2022 Kia Niro EV and HEV GT-Line, contact your local Kia dealer.