Kia's latest EV offering presents itself as an idyllic fuel-free daily driver, which it is, but there are a few small things which could be improved on.

When Kia first brought the original Niro – its first fully-electric model, but one also available as a conventional or plug-in hybrid – to Australia in 2021, it was a case of too little, too late. It may have offered an impressive amount of range for an EV at its price point, but it felt like it was already five years out of date – chiefly because it was, having been available internationally from 2016.

However, Kia now has an all-new Niro on its hands for 2023, and this time it looks like it means business. While the slow-selling plug-in hybrid has been dropped, it is still offered in hybrid and electric guises, with two trim levels for each.

Prices start at $44,380 before on-road costs for the entry-level Niro Hybrid S, but we’ve gone straight to the top of the range for our first taste of it with the $72,100 EV GT-Line. For context, that marks a $6100 increase over its equivalent in the old Niro range; there’s no nationwide drive-away pricing to cut down the price either due to the varying EV subsidies in different states.

With Kia undergoing a big rebrand last year, the 2023 Niro wears the latest iteration of the brand’s design language – Kia describes it as ‘Opposite United’ – and it must be said that it’s rather a smart looking thing. With a slim and modern take on the ‘tiger nose’ grille, cubic daytime running lights at the front, and thin upright taillights, there’s no doubt that it looks thoroughly modern. It also looks smaller than its predecessor despite being larger in length, width, and wheelbase – chalk that up to clever design.

GT-Line models are also treated to a contrasting C-pillar which gives off a bit of an Audi R8 vibe and really sets off the modern styling. There’s an aerodynamic air duct running through the C-pillar as well, just to emphasise the lengths Kia has gone to in enhancing the Niro’s range. It should be noted that all EV models come with 17-inch wheels also chosen for their aerodynamics, while Hybrid S models have 16-inch wheels and Hybrid GT-Line models have 18-inch alloys.

Inside the 2023 Niro GT-Line, the technology you’ll find is the same as in most other Kia models which is certainly a good thing. Ahead of the driver is a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, while there’s also a 10.25-inch infotainment screen in the centre of the cockpit which is helpfully angled slightly towards the driver. The digital climate control-come-radio control panel seen in the EV6 and Sportage also makes its way into this cabin – it looks good and frees up some space, but it is more fiddly than proper buttons.

GT-Line models also come packed with luxuries including heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a sunroof, an eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, wireless phone charging, 64-colour ambient interior lighting, and even the ability to be driven forwards and backwards remotely from the key fob for getting out of tight parking spaces (or for showing off to your mates).

It’s worth noting that it isn’t the most luxurious cabin in terms of materials, however, as there’s far too much plastic to be found in here – be it scratchy textured plastic or scratch-prone gloss black. Sure, there artificial leather on the seats and some other regularly-touched surfaces, but it’s still a bit dour in here for a car at this price point; were it less costly, I wouldn’t complain.

Do consider, though, that the base S models skimp so much with a smaller 8.0-inch screen surrounded by a rather unsightly bezel and a gauge cluster with only a small 4.2-inch display in the middle and microwave-oven numerals for the speedometer and tachometer, so the GT-Line is the one to have without question should money be no object.

Fortunately, the cabin ergonomics are far more commendable, with the design itself feeling open and roomy, but with a driver-focused touch thanks to the wrap-around dashboard and sloping door cards. The driving position was something the old Niro got wrong, which this new model manages to get very right – where you were sat too high in the old model and left unsupported by its seating, this new one sits you lower down and helps you feel far better held in place. Spot on.

There’s an abundance of storage as well, with Niro EV models featuring a 475-litre boot, along with a 20-litre ‘frunk’. Hybrid models only have a 425-litre boot, but they do have a temporary spare wheel while the EV makes do with a can of fix-a-flat. Cabin storage is also good with nifty hangers for coats, bags, or even a tablet back of the front seats along with USB-C port in the side of the seat for charging the latter. There’s also a big centre console cubby in which you can fold the cupholders away to fit larger items.

Under the skin, the 2023 Kia Niro EV is powered by a single electric motor making 150kW and 255Nm which drives the front wheels alone through a single-speed reduction gear with a 10.65:1 ratio. That power figure is identical to that of the old model, but torque is down a rather noteworthy 140Nm, while the gearing is far more aggressive than that of its predecessor.

Certainly, that torque deficit can be felt when you plant the accelerator pedal, although it certainly doesn’t feel underpowered thanks to the aggressive gearing which helps it get from 0-100km/h in a fair 7.8 seconds. Rather than feeling punchy, the Niro feels smooth and relaxed in terms of how it delivers its power. If you want performance, go for its big brother – the EV6.

What is very impressive, however, is just how well the Niro handles. The first Kia model to receive both Australian-specific steering and suspension tuning since 2020, it serves as a reminder of just how good the brand’s team of local engineers is. With steering that feels direct, responsive, and perfectly weighted along with a chassis that keeps it surprisingly level in the bends, it’s a seriously fun thing to drive once you get past its power deficiencies.

The electric version of the Niro offers a few more driver-focused features than its hybrid counterpart, with four drive modes (Eco, Normal, Sport, and Snow) versus the hybrid’s two. There are also larger brakes on the EV (305mm ventilated discs up front, 284mm solid discs in the rear) and a slightly different steering ratio with 2.66 turns lock-to-lock, compared with 2.57 in the hybrid. At 1727kg, it isn’t even too heavy by EV standards, although it is a fair bit heftier than the 1454kg hybrid. Mind you, the 443kg battery pack does help keep its centre of gravity low down, only helping it more in the corners.

On city streets, meanwhile, the Niro rides smoothly and comfortably, ironing out the hits from potholes and speed bumps with ease. The relaxed power delivery also makes it feel particularly well suited to traffic, while the adaptive regenerative braking (you can choose between three set levels, three adaptive levels, or one-pedal driving using the paddles on the steering wheel) helps it not feel so harsh when coming to a stop as some EVs can.

Kia claims the 2023 Niro EV can cover 460km on a single charge – up 5km from its predecessor – thanks to its 64.8kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Over the course of 350km of driving in a mix of conditions, I managed an energy consumption return of 16.5kWh/100km – slightly up from its 16.2kWh/100km claim.

Charging takes an absolute eternity with the charger provided with the vehicle that connects to a household three-pin socket, but a 7kW home charger will brim it in 9.5 hours and an 11kW charger in 6.4 hours. Using a 50kW public fast charger will see it get from 10-80 percent in just over an hour, while a 100kW charger cuts that to 45 minutes.

Should you not want to go all out for the electric version, the much cheaper Niro Hybrid comes with a 1.6-litre petrol engine and a smaller electric motor that combine for just 104kW and 265Nm. There’ll be no need to worry about charging it as it simply uses a claimed 4.0L/100km of fuel, but you’ll be paying the price when it comes to performance.

Like all Kia models, the 2023 Niro is covered by a seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty, although the electric drivetrain in this EV model has its warranty capped at seven years or 150,000km. Servicing is required every 12 months/15,000km for the EV, and you can pre-pay it at a cost of $621 for three years, $1187 for five years, or $1754 for all seven years in the warranty period.

All told, the Niro EV is going to be a far more accessible EV for most people than the racy EV6 – both when it comes to price and when it comes to how it presents itself. Really, the Niro EV feels like your average Kia SUV – and a fine thing that is as the company continues to prove – but simply powered by electricity.

But with that said, it might be cheaper than the EV6 but it’s not that much cheaper than it – a car which is sportier and has more range. The EV GT-Line tested here is also more expensive than the equivalent Polestar 2, and comes awfully close to the single-motor variants of the Volvo C40 Recharge and XC40 Recharge.

With how conventional it feels alongside those Chinese-built Swedish offerings, I’m sure it will be a big success here regardless, especially with the rapid increase in the popularity of EVs. That popularity will certainly be deserved, as this EV GT-Line makes for one great (and fuel-free) daily driver.

2023 Kia Niro EV GT-Line List Price: $72,100
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Ride & Handling - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Tech & Features - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Practicality - 8/10
  • 7/10
    Value for Money - 7/10

Pros: Roomy and ergonomic interior, well-equipped in GT-Line specification, nimble handling and comfortable ride
Cons: Down on power compared with its predecessor, interior is a bit plasticky, could be priced more competitively

In a nutshell: The 2023 Kia Niro EV GT-Line makes for a fabulous daily driver that’s brimming with kit, but you’ll have to take the compromises of a plasticky interior and a price point that’s a bit questionable when you see what else is out there – even within Kia’s own lineup.

Principal photography by Tom Stuart. Additional photography by Patrick Jackson.

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Kia Motors Australia for one week with a full charge upon collection.

Patrick Jackson
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