Niro EV on wish list but mid-2019 at earliest

Kia NZ has its eye on an electric car superior to its Ioniq EV donor.


CONFIRMATION out of Kia that an electric edition of its Niro crossover will go into production has triggered the NZ distributor to acknowledge interest, though not to the point of giving an absolute green light to sale.

The Niro EV, officially revealed at the International Electric Vehicle Expo held in South Korea last week is, platform-wise, a sister ship to the Ioniq EV out of parent brand Hyundai, but with enhanced technology and different styling.

The Hyundai edition has been on sale in New Zealand since last year and has risen to become the most popular NZ-new full electric available to Kiwis, though the title of most popular EV overall still goes to the Nissan Leaf, only now available as a used import.

The Niro has recently come on sale here in hybrid and plug-in electric formats, also matched in the Ioniq lineup, though the Kia product is cheaper.

The sub-brand has also seemingly striven to put as much space as possible between the cars by claiming theirs is a sports utility – regardless that it does not meet any of the standard requisites for being in that category. Most tellingly, it has no four-wheel-drive format, not off-road application and the ride height difference to an Ioniq is negligible.

Kia NZ’s claim that the all-electric Niro will be able to “drive at least 380 kilometres on a single charge” gives the model a leg up over the Ioniq, which in present form achieves slightly more than 200kms’ operation between charging.

However, that claim applies to just one version of the Niro EV, which makes its full global debut at the Paris motor show in October, as it comes with two battery pack sizes - a smaller, cheaper 39.2kWh version alongside the long range 64kWh car that has been getting the spotlight. The less powerful battery set is envisaged to provide a maximum of 240kms’ range.

Hyundai for now puts a 28kWh unit in Ioniq but is expected to upgrade its model next year to the same status as Niro. Chances are that, in both models, only the more powerful edition will be exported.

The impending Kona EV will likely be the first Hyundai to use the 64kWh battery pack – it’s coming here later in the year and could be seen as a Niro challenger since it is a crossover.

The range estimate for the Niro also comes from it being subjected to a new international standard, WTLP. The Kona has slightly less range under that same regime.

Maximum power for both is put at 150kW. The NZ-market Ioniq EV runs an 89kW motor.

The Niro EV is little different to a concept Kia revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas at the start of the year.

The most obvious design difference between it and the Niro hybrid and PHEV is the absence of a grille, which has been blanked off and is now home to a charging socket. The vibrant teal highlights on the Niro's front apron are new too, as are the arrowhead style daytime running lights. 

The Niro EV concept included what it’s maker described as ‘beyond autonomous’ driving technology, with a unique human-machine interface making its debut with Kia.

The concept also debuts an 'Active Pedestrian Warning System' which combines front-mounted cameras with objection recognition tech to warn pedestrians or cyclists audibly that the car is approaching. 

The Niro EV is one of 31 electrified vehicles Kia says it plans to launch by 2020.

Kia NZ general manager Todd McDonald says the Niro Hybrid and PHEV editions are being well-received, without providing any registrations counts. He suggests strong anticipation for an EV edition.

“The acceptance of the Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid Niro models … has been exceptional.

“It has proved to us that there is a place in the regular market for a well-designed SUV that delivers astonishingly low fuel consumption. With petrol prices set to jump as a result of the incoming fuel taxes there is every expectation that demand will continue to climb for all variants of Niro.”

Kia NZ says that if it does decide to take the car, the earliest availability will be in the second half of 2019.