Auto123 puts the Kia Niro EV to the long-term test. Today, Part 1.
For the past 30 years, every Monday with few exceptions I've been picking up the ‘new vehicle of the week’ for a test drive. This past Monday, something a little unusual happened. I parked an electric Kia Niro in my driveway.
You might say: “So what? It's not the first time, Mr. Columnist, that you've gotten your hands on an electric car.”
You're right, this isn't the first time I've tried an EV, and I've learned a few things about the format along the way. But this Niro is going to give up many more secrets to me than the average electric car, because Kia Canada has agreed to lend it to me for a year. Now that's special.
Over the next 12 months, this Niro and I will build a relationship that regular seven-day test drives never allow.
I'm as excited as I was when I first started in this business, back when the Industrial Revolution was in its infancy. To be able to test the same vehicle through four seasons, especially an EV, that’s a rare opportunity. More and more Canadians – and particularly Quebecers – are turning to electricity for their transportation needs; others remain wary of it. I'll be able to find out why the all-electric converts are such believers, and I'll be able to get to the heart of the main questions that worry those other motorists.
So many questions
Does the vehicle's autonomy really take a hit when winter cloaks Canada in its white coat?
Even when we're not shivering, how many forced coffee breaks in the middle of nowhere will I have to take to recharge the car before arriving at my more or less distant destination?
What kind of mechanical or maintenance problems does an EV owner face?
There are plenty more where those came from. In short, I’m thrilled Kia Canada has accepted this challenge. I don't doubt for a second that the company's accountants did some precise calculations to weigh the profitability of this long-term loan, i.e. the visibility generated by my series for Auto123 versus the depreciation of the vehicle when I hand back over the fob in the summer of 2022. Also, there’s no guarantee the press it generates will always be positive - I might well come up with something negative at some point.
On the other hand, I’m rarely the meanie. I'm more of a constructive commentator.
It was at that point in my reveries when Emiliano came along.
My precocious consultant
Emiliano lives two blocks away and is often at my house. More precisely, he loves to lurk around my garage. He knows that my job as an automotive journalist requires me to change cars frequently. And Emiliano loves cars.
For that there are all sorts of reasons that likely mix and mash together in the febrile brain of an 11-year-old boy, but the main one seems obvious to me: it’s a way for the lad to feel closer to his father, a service technician at a Ford dealership.
I've learned, bit by bit, that that father's name is Manuel, and that he is raising three children alone, Emiliano being the youngest. His mother died of cancer a few years after the family moved from Chile to Quebec. It took me a long time to learn all of this because Emiliano is not one to confide in anyone. The only subject that brings him out of his shell is cars.
And since cars are always coming and going through the turnstiles of my garage, the young man decided that hanging around in the immediate vicinity was a great way to spend the time. Not a week goes by that he doesn't come see for himself which car I'll be putting to the test for the next few days.
Emiliano has a sixth sense for knowing when I'm out taking pictures of a car with my smartphone to accompany my texts. He arrives, watches me do it for a few minutes and then the peanut gallery activates:
“The grille looks like a sweeper.”
“Wow, what beautiful wheels!”
“What are the differences with the old model?”
“Good luck trying to see out the back!”
I'm always mindful not to interrupt him. Instead, I take mental notes. His sharp eyes detect details before I do.
Thinking of others
I believe that a good automotive reviewer should put themselves in the shoes of the consumer for whom the vehicle is primarily intended. For example, I don't apply the same criteria to a Toyota Sienna as I do to a Corvette. Apart from the fact that both vehicles have four wheels and a steering wheel, their objectives towards the customer are totally different and I have to take that into account. The minivan buyer doesn't need a torque vectoring system that will save them tenths of a second in a tight corner, and the sports car enthusiast doesn't care if they can’t move a Steinway.
With Emiliano, all the vehicles are judged with a young, enthusiastic eye, and his observations are raw, spontaneous. What he doesn't know, he Googles and tells me the answer the next time we meet.
With Emiliano as a consultant extraordinaire by my side, I hope to bring you relevant information about this Kia Niro in particular and everyday EV life in general over the months. Won’t you join me?