A photo shoot leaves our petrol-electric hybrid feeling a bit flat
Photo shoots are part and parcel of being on our fleet. Our cars are shot in detail when they first arrive and again before they leave, and it’s a chance for us to catalogue everything about our new car.
For the Kia Niro, we decided to do part of the shoot outside, around our offices near Twickenham. But for the ‘detail’ pictures we moved to the security and warmth of our studio, where the car sat with its lights on and the ignition off for perhaps half an hour. And in the process we managed to completely flatten the 12V battery and leave the car stranded.
I received a call from snapper Will Williams, initially to say that, having finished with the car, it was showing a brake error message and wouldn’t start – and therefore couldn’t be moved. After giving the Niro some time to ‘reset’ itself, Will called back to say he’d managed to roll it out of the studio, but the interior lights and other electrics were playing up; even the door locks wouldn’t work. Before long, the car was completely dead, and no one was quite sure whether trying to jump start a hybrid was a good idea.
A call to Kia resulted in our Niro being towed away by the RAC to be diagnosed professionally. The explanation we received from Kia later that day confirmed a drained 12V battery, which was duly recharged. Kia’s diagnostics system revealed no further issues.
Now that we’ve got the car back, I’m slowly learning to adapt to running a hybrid car: how to use the regenerative brakes to pump friction energy back into the battery, and learning where the acceleration cut-off between fully electric and electric/petrol engine power lies.
We’re still working on our fuel economy, though, because the 45.6mpg we’re seeing at the moment isn’t particularly impressive. We’ll see if a couple of motorway runs to see family and friends in the next few weeks can improve that number, and I’ll be taking a leaf out of resident frugal driving expert Tim Dickson’s big book of hyper-miling tips to find out what’s achievable.
Kia could have a surprise hit on its hands with the Niro EV, as it offers a big range in a usable package. If Kia can deliver on the price and the generous kit levels of other Niros to go with it, then the Niro EV’s case is strengthened more so.
It is more endearing than fun in the way it drives – the chassis sees to that – but even the most po-faced of individuals bemoaning the soullessness of a future filled with electric cars would raise a smile at how it goes down the road.
Kia Niro EV specification
Where South Korea Price £30,000 (est) On sale February 2019 Engine Electric motor plus 64kWh lithium ion polymer battery Power 201bhp Torque 291lb ft at 4000rpm Gearbox Single-speed automatic Kerb weight 1755kg Top speed 104mph 0-62mph 7.8sec Range 301 miles (WLTP) CO2 0g/km Rivals Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Kona Electric
The all-new Kia e-Niro is the first fully electric crossover utility vehicle produced by Kia. With a range of 301 miles (485 kilometres) on the WLTP combined cycle, the all-electric e-Niro combines driving enjoyment, eye-catching design, crossover utility and a zero-emissions powertrain - to create one of the most capable electric vehicles on-sale worldwide.
The Kia e-Niro occupies a unique position in the market as an all-electric crossover, with intelligent packaging, high practicality, and a long-distance driving range. Buyers will also benefit from a range of dedicated electric vehicle (EV) in-car technologies, new safety features, and stand-out exterior and interior design.
Emilio Herrera, Chief Operating Officer of Kia Motors Europe, commented: "A combination of cool crossover design and advanced powertrains led to more than 33,000 Niro sales across Europe in 2017, and more than 30,000 year-to-date in 2018, making it one of our best-selling models. Annual sales of electric vehicles across Europe are expected to reach 200,000 this year, rising to nearly one million units by the end of 2022, while the crossover market is also forecast to continue expanding in the coming years. The e-Niro is a clear demonstration of the progress Kia has made in delivering comfortable, practical and fun-to-drive vehicles that lead the way in zero-emissions driving."
The Kia e-Niro joins existing Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid variants of the car - of which more than 200,000 have sold globally since the Niro's introduction in 2016. To date, Europe has accounted for more than 65,000 sales of the hybrid crossover.
Ultimately, the e-Niro proposition is more compelling than the execution, but it is some proposition and one that moves the game on. On the cost-range continuum, there's nothing to touch it.
In fact, the aggressive price goes a long way to democratising long-range electric driving, so much so that the car’s practicality and stout performance almost feel like a bonus. The e-Niro's inconspicuous packaging of a cutting-edge powertrain will also appeal to many – the sense of familiarity very much welcome in relation to a novel ownership experience.
Like we say, you really have to hand it to Kia.
Kia e-Niro 64kWh specification
Where South Korea Price £32,995 On sale April 2019 Engine Electric motor plus 64kWh lithium ion polymer battery Power 201bhp at 3800-8000rpm Torque 291lb ft at 4000rpm Gearbox Single-speed, direct drive Kerb weight 1812kg Top speed 104mph 0-62mph 7.8sec Range 282mpg (WLTP) CO2 0g/km Rivals Hyundai Kona Electric, Nissan Leaf
2019 Kia Niro revealed ahead of Geneva with fresh design, new technology
Always-connected Hybrid and PHEV crossovers also gain uprated active safety systems from e-Niro
Revised versions of the Kia Niro will debut at the Geneva motor show next week, adding greater connectivity and a tweaked exterior design to the hybrid crossover.
Both the hybrid and plug-in hybrid Niro receive new front and rear bumpers inspired by the electric e-Niro, with new LED daytime running lights as standard and Kia's 'ice cube'-styled projection headlights. LED headlights and foglights will be available as options. New paint colours and alloy wheel designs have also been added to the range.
Bigger changes can be found inside, where Kia has upgraded the dashboard with soft-touch materials, and added red-orange and plum colour trim packs. The manual handbrake has been replaced with an electronic parking brake, while the steering wheel gains paddle shifters to take manual control of the six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
The 8in touchscreen infotainment system can now be upgraded to a 10.25in widescreen, and the 4.2in instrument cluster can be exchanged for a larger 7.0in Supervision display. Kia's UVO Connect telematics system has also been added to the range, providing always-connected functionality such as live traffic information, fuel prices and charging station information through an integrated SIM card.
The updated Niro can also now be optioned with stop and go cruise control and active lane keep assist functionality for the first time.
“The Niro has become a key growth driver for Kia in Europe, and is a cornerstone of our electrified product strategy," Emilio Herrera, Kia Europe CEO, said. "New enhancements to quality and design, and the adoption of our ‘connected’ UVO system, will make the Niro family an even more compelling proposition.”
Both Niro models are powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine, paired with a 1.56kWh battery pack in the hybrid and an 8.9kWh pack in the plug-in hybrid. It is now one of Kia's best-selling European models, with almost 13,000 hybrid and PHEV models sold in the UK alone since its introduction in 2016.
The facelifted Niro is expected to go on sale by the summer, with prices set to be confirmed after its debut next week.