The following is a discussion with Aussie electric vehicle (EV) owner Davi Mai, who has a Kia Niro EV GT-Line 2023.
He very generously wrote really detailed answers to all my questions and contributed extra sections so he could share a honest in-depth view of his experience with the car.
EDITOR: I’m going to publish a regular series of articles with the views of Australian EV owners about their purchase, driving, servicing, charging etc experience.
This will help fill an information gap as the majority of electric car news articles are about new car launches and there’s relatively little published about the longer term Australian ownership experience after you’ve paid for your electric car. Hopefully this shared information helps other Aussies make their own EV purchase decision.
TLDR — its good!
This is an everyman’s review of the latest Kia Niro EV electric car. The GT line version sold in Australia. It’s not a technical review, and I’m not a motoring journalist. Nor do I have experience with other EVs. But if the Niro is on your watchlist and you’d like to read one person’s honest experience with no hidden agenda… then here it is. (photos are of the actual car)
The electric car market is a strange one at the moment. Even after years of development, it’s still a volatile and somewhat confusing scene for the newcomer. Here in Australia, its nearly impossible to walk into a dealership and drive away in an EV.
Choices are limited and waiting times are long. I signed up for a Polestar 2 but grew impatient. All the while consuming YouTube content and driving my fossil powered Mazda with increased annoyance.
Was your electric car bought or leased?
A local dealer got hold of a couple of Niro demonstrators and I bought a steel grey one from him in late 2022. It’s not my first colour choice, but its grown on me. The black accents look the business. The car isn’t a head turner, although it has a fairly aggressive nose that might create some interest. For sportier looks, you might prefer Kia’s EV6.
Please describe your purchasing / lease process experience … Easy, Mediocre, Frustrating..?
At $74,000 including on-road costs (a hike of $7k over the base model Niro) this puts it in the mid-range bracket and the high end of what most people would pay for a fossil car I’d imagine? My rationale was based on a comparison with the Polestar 2. I believe the Niro is better value, and more practical.
For the GT line, you pay about $7k more. That buys you interior and driver upgrades across the board. But the motor, long range battery, and great performance are all the same in the entry level Niro EV.
What do you get? A very well polished, well built little SUV. Emphasis on little. This is not for a family of five. Nor is it for a family of four going on really long road trips.
As with most cars, the front two seats enjoy more comfort than the rear. And its very comfortable up front. I came from a 2018 Mazda CX8. The top Asaki variant. That car was top of the line, almost luxury, as Mazda owners will attest to. It’s very well built.
The Niro, in this regard, is comparable. The driver’s seat and space are as comfortable. The materials used inside are not on a par though. There is no leather on the dash or doors. But there is fake (vegan) leather on the seats, and that feels as good as the real thing. Better in fact, because it doesn’t stick to you in the summer. The dash and doors — plastic reigns supreme.
But there’s plastic and plastic right? Kia have used the best (don’t laugh). It’s a combination of different textures that are tactile to the touch. Some will cringe at the piano black stuff in abundance, but when nicely polished (you’ll be doing a lot of polishing — its all a fingerprint magnet in here), it creates the illusion of more space.
The interior grows on you. It doesn’t feel cheap. The lines are tight, and someone thought a lot about the design. It all makes sense. This is a space you look forward to being in.
This is all sounding too sales-pitchy, so here are my gripes with the interior and comfort of the Niro.
I’d like a little more leg room for my left leg. I find it pushed against the centre console, and that console needn’t be so wide in an EV. It’s not hiding anything?
Of the three or four different plastics, the material used on the switchgear part of the doors isn’t great. They should have continued the softer dash material into the doors.
The driver’s seat, while fully electric, has no memory (I understand in other markets it does). This is a pain. I like to program a reclined position into it for when I’m waiting somewhere.
The rear passengers do not enjoy the same comfort and space. Their seats are not adjustable, they have limited air-conditioning controls, and no seat heating or ventilation.
I’ll give two scores here. One for driver/front passenger interior and comfort — 8/10. And one for rear passenger interior and comfort 6/10
How do you regularly charge your car for day to day usage?
Individual use-case is super important here. I’m not going into convoluted explanations of battery charging scenarios. They are all so different.
Australia is yet to build an extensive charging network (outside of Tesla) It’s one thing holding people back. But for me, its irrelevant.
I have only ever charged my Niro at work, or at home, plugged into the AC wall socket with no special hardware. (the AC cable is included with your car). Its all I need. Even charging at just the 2.2kw from the wall. If I plug it in all day at work (Yes, my situation might be a little unique — the boss doesn’t care) and my commute is 25k each way, its all I need to do.
I am yet to use the DC charging network. But the Niro will charge up to 80% in about 30–40 minutes at a DC charging station. Apparently that’s slow. It wouldn’t worry me. Who wants to drive all those hundreds of kilometers without a decent break? But planning is everything here.
Some reviewers give the Niro a low score on charging speed. Fair enough. Again, for me, it’s irrelevant. The money shot then — IF I had to pay to charge it via AC (and I do sometimes plug it in at home, for long weekends away from the office). I pay 22cents a kw for electricity to the house. So it would cost me less than $15 to “fill” it. Compared with over $100 for the diesel to drive the same distance.
Does your EV have any special features like V2L reverse charging from the car to your portable/home appliances? If yes please share your experience using this special feature
Let’s talk interface, or infotainment ie. the screens. Every EV, and even new fossil cars have fancy touch screens in them. Tesla’s being the most famous.
The Niro makes use of two, but they’re nicely set into a sweeping black piece of glass that gives the illusion of one whole seamless interface. I’ve seen other maker’s attempts at displaying information to the driver, and I think Kia have nailed it the best. In front is a customizable cluster of the usual speed, range and driving information. To the left is the interactive screen with all the settings, radio, navigation and media etc.
On the GT line, you also have the HUD projected onto the windscreen. This software is top notch. Everything is intuitive and in the right place. After 3,000ks I have not seen a glitch. No, you can’t watch Netflix like you can in a Tesla, but you can watch movies from a USB stick. And you can access your youtube music library via your phone. Every bit of information you need is in here. I can’t think of anything missing. There’s also lots of options for customising the display.
One added feature of the GT-line is Kia’s “Connect” app, to give you certain control from your phone (locking, unlocking, starting the aircon), and access your calendar. And of course, there’s both Apple Car Play and Android Auto — if you prefer those platforms to Kia’s for functions like map guidance and to access your media.
The Niro’s party trick here, is the control bar below the left screen. Its almost a third screen, because you can change it between radio, nav settings, and AC controls. Even the traditional knobs at each end change functionality.
Those knobs are a nice segue into what I think Kia has balanced correctly — the mix of touchscreen controls and physical buttons with a tactile response. Some people like me, want something to press, switch, and twiddle. Tesla are ahead of their time putting it all into a single screen or tablet. Maybe Kia realised some of us still want something in 3D?
Of all the elements in the Niro, I think the driver interface is the best and I score it 9/10
Kia Underpromise and Overdeliver on EV Range
Perhaps the main thing holding up the transition to EVs is range anxiety. Kia claim 460 “WLTP”.
Here’s a major reason why I’m becoming a bit of a Kia fan. They seem to be modest! I’ve charged my Niro to 100% and seen a range of 530k. While I haven’t driven it down to zero to test that, I think its “real”. I can achieve 12 kwh per 100k if I’m light footed. And it’s a 64.8kWH battery. Simple maths suggests its real. That’s a lot of range. Heck, my diesel CX8 would only give me 600k from a full tank.
Its an EV, its significantly cheaper to run, but quite a bit costlier to buy in the first place. You’ll need to do your own maths. But if you’re fortunate enough to be in a position to help the planet, and reverse some of the mess we’ve caused with burning fossil fuels, then that’s a major factor. Fossil cars must die!
I’m not a car freak. I don’t race them, I don’t lust after super cars and I don’t care too much about performance numbers. But I still enjoy driving. And I know a car that handles well compared to one that doesn’t.
The Niro handles very well. Its only a front wheel drive, but it feels like you’re driving an all-wheel drive. A lot of this will be down to the 440kg of battery slung under it. So, it has the feel of a low sedan, even though it’s a taller SUV (its not really tall, mind you).
The steering feels tight, it takes corners with confidence and the ride is smooth. What else can I tell you? I’m not Jeremy Clarkson. My CX8 was all wheel drive, and I reckon I have as much control, and I hug the road just as well.
Now, being a fossil car driver coming into his first EV, of course I’m going to be impressed with responsiveness. It’s instant 😊
You have three modes to drive in (Four, if you count “SNOW”). I drive in ECO. It seems to add about 3–4% to the range. In NORMAL, things are only slightly more responsive. In SPORT, it gets real fun. For me anyway. Other keener drivers will probably scoff, but SPORT mode is enough to have me thinking “Woah…that’s too much grunt”.
This car only has 201 horsepower. Plenty of EVs with twin motors would leave it behind. I’m not sure why you’d need that though. The Niro has more than enough legs to get you out of a tight squeeze or past a truck on the motorway.
All the usual driver assistance features are there (adaptive cruise control, lane assist, parking assist etc.) I was disappointed that for this money, you don’t get a 360 camera view.
There’s also four different regen braking settings. I use the max one that allows you to drive around town with just the accelerator. Releasing it brings the car to a halt sharp enough for most stops.
The paddles setting these are a gimmick in my opinion. Once you’ve chosen your setting, I don’t see the need to mess with it.
It’s annoying that between drives the car doesn’t remember your regen setting (but it does remember your drive mode).
Also, weirdly, because it doesn’t look like much — I find the steering wheel super easy to keep a grip of, and throw the car around with. It feels like you’re steering a race car.
For the overall driving experience (please remember I’m comparing with my fossil car history) I give the Niro 9/10.
Practicality and Summary
Its an SUV. There’s a decent amount of cargo space (50% more than a Tesla 3 apparently) , even before you fold the back seats down. There’s also more storage under the rear tray, and a little “Frunk” under the bonnet. You’ll probably put your charging cable in there.
Its small enough to easily manoeuvre around mall car parks, but big enough to feel safe and comfortable. I like being a little higher up than a sedan. Visibility is good for this reason too.
This is a great family car. Its not a tourer, unless you only have two or less kids, and they’re preteens. But the range is ample.
The driving experience is top notch. The interior doesn’t feel like $74k. It feels more like $50k. That’s the EV scene at the moment. We are still early adopters in this country. My feeling is your money is going into the battery, innovation and “early adopter tax”. A tax I don’t mind paying.
Overall, I give it 8/10.
Oh there’s a bit of road noise. More than I expected. More than my Mazda. It could be the Continental tyres the car ships with, I’m not sure.
The exterior from the back, its ho-hum. From the sides and front it’s “Hey, is that the full EV Niro?” (The front charging flap gives it away). I like the front lights too. They’re unique. This car is just different enough.
Do you have any other comments about your electric car brand, experience etc?
This car will be challenged by sub $50k options. I think in Australia, at the moment, the MG might be the best.
As I said at the beginning, most people feel the Niro is overpriced. I went into it knowing that, but I don’t regret my purchase. It’s a bloody good car, and I’m no longer paying for diesel or stuffing up the planet anymore than I already have.
I’ve fallen in love with my Kia Niro EV. You can probably tell. But thankfully, you’ll soon have a lot of options for this money. Choose the car that suits your use case the best. This is just one of them.
Please, if you can, make the move to an EV!
Epilogue : A list of the Pros and Cons.
- Top notch driver interface, very slick design.
- Great handling and ride comfort, A confident road hugger.
- Practical —nice long range, decent cargo space.
- Rear passenger comfort is average
- Lacks some features you’d expect at this price (eg. 360 camera)
- Some buyers will cringe at all the plastic.
- It recharges slower than other EVs
If you’re an Australian electric vehicle owner and would like to participate in this interview series by sharing your experience please contact me directly or add a comment below and let me know.