Have electric cars from mainstream brands finally caught up with the watermark that is a Tesla?
Finally, the Australian subsidiaries of global mainstream car brands have played catch-up.
There are now multiple electric car offerings on the Australian market that make sense. Ones with good range, relatively affordable pricing and more than “just a few units” of availability.
With that, it makes sense to begin comparing Australia’s leading electric car brand – Tesla – against one of those new contenders from an established brand.
Today, we’ve lined up the all-new and fully electric 2023 Kia Niro GT-Line against the unflappable and ever-good 2023 Tesla Model Y.
Which electric car should you be considering?
How much does the Tesla Model Y cost in Australia?
Ironically, Tesla’s Australian pricing has gone up and down like a yo-yo since launch.
Our test car’s Deep Blue Metallic paintwork adds another $1500 to its basic list price. According to Tesla’s price configurator, the Model Y tested here costs $73,257 drive-away in New South Wales, but with an EV stamp duty rebate applied drops back to $71,059.
A Pearl White one costs less as it’s the only colour offered without an additional premium paint charge. The two other physical options available at this trim level are fancy 20-inch Induction alloy wheels for $2900 (19-inch wheels are standard), and a ‘black and white’ interior – that really means white faux-leather seats – for another $1500. Our press car has neither option.
Although not ‘official’, the brand has submitted data to the Government stating the 2022 Tesla Model Y features 220kW of power. But what’s for sure is a 62.3kWh-sized battery pack with lithium-ion cells, a 0–100km/h time of 6.9 seconds, and a WLTP-certified driving range of 455km.
How much does the Kia Niro EV GT-Line cost in Australia?
The Niro range is pretty simple – two hybrids and two fully electric variants. The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is gone, which is a shame really, because Aussie buyers don’t give PHEVs the credit they probably deserve as a real-world step between internal combustion and electric.
The Niro EV is also available in S and GT-Line grades, starting from $65,300 and $72,100 respectively, also before on-road costs. Here, we’re testing the range-topping GT-Line as the example of what you get if you can afford all the fruit. Its drive-away price with optional metallic paint – Mineral Blue in the case of our test car – is $78,466.
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Yes, the Niro EV is expensive in relation to the hybrid Niro or internal combustion SUVs of the same size, but this new model is smack bang in line with the likes of the Polestar 2 and Tesla Model 3.
Kia’s design team have still been a little bold with some of the details, but overall the silhouette is more readily identifiable as an SUV. Exterior highlights include 17-inch alloy wheels – much better for poor urban roads – auto LED headlights with auto high beam, power mirrors, a sunroof and powered tailgate.
|Key details||2023 Tesla Model Y||2023 Kia Niro EV GT-Line|
|Price (MSRP)||$68,900 plus on-road costs||$72,100 plus on-road costs|
|Colour of test car||Deep Blue Metallic||Mineral Blue|
|Options||Metallic paint – $1500||Metallic paint – $520|
|Price as tested||$70,400 plus on-road costs||$72,620 plus on-road costs|
|Drive-away price||$73,257 (NSW)||$78,257 (NSW)|
It’s true everything is different with a Tesla, as opening one involves the act simply known as ‘pay-passing’.
That’s waving a credit card over something plastic until it beeps. It’s literally what you do to open a 2023 Tesla Model Y, as you wave its cool credit-card-looking car key over the B-pillar in between its side windows.
Of course, the card is really more of a back-up. Owners can set up their compatible phone to function as the vehicle’s key, with no need to remove it from your pocket or bag on approach.
It continues to work well in a wallet jammed full of NFC-laden bank cards, so neither interference from those nor a thick barrier of Australia’s finest kangaroo leather gets in the way of how it functions. Excellent.
While you’re there, you’ll also notice the clever placement of a camera in the same plastic trim, unlike any other car brand currently on sale. It’s a smart place to put a camera, but also sets the high-tech scene for the interior that’s to come inside.
Which is artful, minimal, and quite beautiful. Other than some ergonomic faux pas, like a lack of traditional speedo or instrument cluster, it’s pretty special for the money.
There’s a smart upward-facing wireless charging station for two phones that works first time, every time (like a Model 3), a large central storage area with two USB ports, and beautiful timber cladding to its dashboard.
If it looks similar to your friend’s 2023 Tesla Model 3, that’s because it is. From this vantage point, there’s no real difference between the pair, other than a wider array of speakers, which only the keenest trainspotter will notice.
The standard-fit premium audio system – with 13 speakers, one subwoofer, and two amplifiers – is a nice get over the standard system found in the cheaper entry-level 2023 Tesla Model 3, but we’ll talk about its sound system later in the infotainment section.
The only other thing you may notice is that you sit slightly higher. Aside from the seat bases being mounted higher, the roof has been lifted, too, which means headroom with the epic and standard-fit panoramic glass roof is improved over the Model 3.
My biggest and most genuine gripe with the interior are those flatter-than-usual A-pillars that can make visibility trivial at certain intersections. I’m sure you’ll learn to drive around it in time, but there’s no denying other similar-sized vehicles have better visibility.
It’s honestly clutching at straws, though. The simple touch-to-open interior door action, singular air vent on the dash that both looks invisible and flows decently, and overall quality of its build are top-shelf for the money.
Before we get to the back row, it’s worth noting that all 2023 Tesla Model Ys feature a HEPA air filter, or as the brand likes to attempt to market, “Bioweapon Defense Mode”.
I guess that means my old, now nearly 20-year-old 2004 Nissan Cube with HEPA filter and air ioniser would’ve done the same thing.
In the second row, space is decent for the type of vehicle. I’m 183cm tall and with a rather lanky frame – meaning I sit quite far back in the driver’s seat – found that sitting behind my own seating position in the back yielded good results.
My knees were 3–4cm from the seat backs, feet able to kick out a little in front, shoulders well supported by the upper section of the seat base, and felt genuinely comfortable in the back.
The smart design of the front centre console means the middle passenger not only has a flat floor to indulge in, but can almost stretch their legs out further than the two people in the outbound seats.
Speaking of which, they’re decently bolstered and supportive under your thighs, and the higher hip point will suit those with frail joints, or those who simply prefer better ergonomics. I also fitted a Britax Graphene convertible child seat, and found it easy to load children into given the height of the seat base.
The space offered by the Model Y’s cabin is also good for kids in both forward-facing and rearward-facing child support seats. In either position, both front occupants need not worry about adjusting their seat to allow room for bub’s seat – given there’s now an abundance of space in the back.
I also fitted an Infasecure Rally 2 booster seat – one that has caught out other SUVs with its taller-than-average headrest – finding it fit with ease, meaning slightly older kids are equally well catered for in the back of a 2023 Tesla Model Y.
Three adults can fit across the back seat, but it’ll be a bit squashy if they’re average-sized. Other niceties in the back include rear air vents, two more USB-C ports, large flocked bottle holders in the doors, a fold-down armrest with two cupholders, and that massive glass roof to gaze out of.
Officially, and measuring the whole space including the underfloor storage, the 2023 Tesla Model Y’s boot space is a claimed 854L. Although far greater than other brands on paper, those other brands only measure to the parcel shelf and with proper foam blocks (VDA), so factor that into your comparison.
Either way, it’s large and wide, with a precisely one-metre-wide load aperture enabling an easy fitment of a mid-sized Redsbaby stroller alongside groceries and a handbag. Alternatively, you could easily leave a compact stroller inside the boot permanently, as you’ll never fill the thing alongside it on the day-to-day.
Or you can put it in the underfloor storage, as the most foldable of foldable strollers would fit down there I reckon. If I were to take a guess, I’d say there’s about 550L of storage above the boot floor, and around 300L in the storage tubs underneath the boot floor.
It does make the space feel genuinely massive, and the boot floor partition is a handy thing to have. Another improvement versus older Tesla vehicles is how the seats now fold completely flat, making it handy for moving bulky objects.
Tesla claims 2158L in total with the second row folded, which is plenty of space for whatever flat-pack thingo you want from the furniture store famous for its meatballs.
A final note is that you can fold the seats remotely from the boot, and there’s sadly no spare wheel under the boot floor.
How much space does the Kia Niro EV GT-Line have inside?
There are benefits to an electric vehicle that sits on a conventional platform and some downsides. The positives are that you know what you’re getting and the cabin especially feels like a familiar environment.
The negatives are that the engineers haven’t been able to package the vehicle the way they otherwise might in a dedicated EV platform. Think transmission tunnel or provision for driveshafts and axles for example. You don’t need them in an EV and could therefore use that space differently.
So, while the Niro doesn’t have the cabin smarts of the EV6, for example, it is still a comfortable and practical place to be, whether it’s a long drive or a short drive. Similar to the TARDIS-like cabin confines of the Seltos, the Niro actually feels bigger than it is.
The front seats are firm, but firm in a good way. They aren’t uncomfortable even with a few hours under the tyres, so if you can work out your stops, the Niro EV can do the SUV road trip thing quite well.
There’s a heap of storage up front, too, with cupholders that have retractable retainers within them to work with a small cup or no cup at all. There’s also the wireless charging pad, which keeps your smartphone secure into the bargain, and the standard storage bin under the centre console.
The second row will work nicely for family buyers, with plenty of leg and head room even for tall adults. You might be pushing it to sit three adults across the back for too long, but two will ride in comfort. The floor is nearly flat, too, so there’s comfort to be had in the way your feet sit under the front pews.
Back seat occupants get USB-C sockets – in the sides of the backrest rather than low down in the centre console – as well as air vents, a fold-down armrest with cupholders, and bottle holders in the compact door pockets.
Boot space is useful, with 475L available, and when you fold the second row down that expands out to 1392L. There’s also a small storage section up front for charge cables and the like with 20L available there. The powered tailgate makes access to the luggage area easy, and it’s not one of those painfully slow ones either.
|2023 Tesla Model Y||2023 Kia Niro EV GT-Line|
|Boot volume||117L under bonnet
854L seats up
2158L seats folded
|475L seats up
1392L seats folded
20L under bonnet
Does the Tesla Model Y have Apple CarPlay?
Like others in its range, the 2023 Tesla Model Y has one single 15.0-inch display in the centre of the car.
No gauge cluster, no head-up display, nothing, this screen does everything from making the blinkers play farting noises to telling you how fast you’re going, and even where you are going.
It’s powered by solid hardware, and the touchscreen ‘swipe-y’ tactility and general user-friendliness are up there with the likes of Apple. I love the simple things, like touching the blinker arrow when it’s on to reveal vision of where you’re going.
There are no prompts to do such a thing, but you feel compelled, or at least I did, to tap the blinking icon and see. Another is a simple tap of the battery percentage to turn it into range instead.
That same trick works when you’re buried anywhere in the submenu, too, meaning if you have the range or consumption chart open, the data in there will also adjust as you flick from battery percentage to range remaining.
It’s properly intuitive and clearly had hours of scrutiny to get to this point. Although overwhelming at the start, you learn the simple commands and tricks to make navigation easy enough.
Another reason to opt for the 2023 Tesla Model Y could be its sound system, as it receives the 14-speaker, single subwoofer and dual-amplifier premium system that’s unavailable in the entry-level Model 3.
It’s pretty fantastic, with a soundbar-style array of speakers across its dash providing a big and bright sound stage. Classics like Faith No More’s Album Of The Year sounded huge, with The Last Cup Of Sorrow being intense, bright, and all-in-your-face like it should be.
Canadian Jazz act BadBadNotGood’s album III came across twinkly, ambient, and with clear space between each of the three members in the band. The drum licks are pretty sensational, and are characterised fully and accurately through the cabin as they roll along the dash with clarity and verve.
It has a pretty good EQ to play with natively, too, in the Spotify app, so bonus points there. Speaking of which, there’s no Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but everything you want on your phone works natively here, so there’s genuinely no need for it.
Does the Kia Niro GT-Line have Apple CarPlay?
The Niro EV’s smartest party trick in GT-Line guise is Kia Connect – which provides owners with remote access to functionality like door locks, climate control, charging information and live traffic updates. It’s also free for seven years.
Further technological wizardry extends to the remote control, which allows you to start the Niro and roll it forward and back. While that latter technology might be a bridge too far for some, it does allow you to squeeze the Niro EV into and out of extremely tight parking garages.
Driver tech is well catered to also, with a 10.0-inch head-up display that we found to be clear in any light and customisable to display what you want to look at. The digital driver’s display is neatly executed, too, and viewable in any light. The head-up display is the highlight, though. It’s a quality addition that makes the driver’s position feel even more premium than it otherwise might.
We liked the eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, and the wireless phone charging worked well also.
The 10.25-inch infotainment screen is set neatly into the GT-Line’s dash and it’s feature-laden with an easy to use menu system, as well as a display that shows what’s going on with the electrical system beneath the skin. There’s wired apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which seems at odds with the wireless charger given you need to connect the phone with the cable to access mirroring anyway.
I prefer a cabled connection, so I didn’t use the wireless charger after testing it early on. On test, the infotainment was, as we’ve come to expect from Kia, reliable and stable.
Is the Tesla Model Y a safe car?
The 2023 Tesla Model Y features a five-star ANCAP safety rating. It scored extremely well for adult occupant protection (97 per cent) and great for child occupant protection (89 per cent).
Standard safety systems include blind-spot warning, automatic braking, semi-autonomous lane-keeping assist (it is semi-autonomous), adaptive cruise, and speed sign recognition as just the beginning.
Enhanced Autopilot is available as a $5100 option, adding automatic lane changes on freeways, hands-free automatic parking, the Summon feature (which lets the car manoeuvre itself around car parks in certain scenarios), and Navigate on Autopilot, billed as “automatic driving from highway on-ramp to off-ramp”.
Tesla’s Full Self Driving can also be added ($10,100), which brings the function of Enhanced Autopilot along with the traffic signal control and the promise of autosteer on city streets coming in a future update.
Is the Kia Niro GT-Line a safe car?
Kia has hung its hat on safety for a while now, and it’s no surprise the Niro EV scored a full, five-star ANCAP safety rating after local testing. Adult occupant protection rated at 88 per cent, child occupant protection at 84 per cent, vulnerable road user protection at 76 per cent, and safety assist systems at 87 per cent.
So, let’s start with lane-keep assist, which it has standard, and which works well. It can be annoying if you’re trying to avoid a pothole, for example, and it’s trying to drag you back into the direction of it.
You don’t get a five-star safety rating without plenty of standard equipment, and the Niro EV has plenty in GT-Line specification. Seven airbags are standard along with ABS, stability control, traction control, forward collision warning, forward autonomous emergency braking with junction collision avoidance, reverse AEB (not standard on the base S), blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, a rear-view camera, forward cross-traffic alert, reverse cross-traffic alert, exit warning, and a rear seat occupant warning.
How much does the 2023 Tesla Model Y cost to run?
Tesla works with a condition-based service model.
The brand recommends that a cabin filter and tyre rotation should be carried out every two years. It also recommends that brake fluid should be inspected every two years and replaced if contaminated.
The cost for a cabin filter replacement and tyre rotation in NSW starts from $60 for metro-based owners.
How much does the Kia Niro GT-Line cost to run?
As with all Kia models in the line-up in Australia, the Niro comes with a seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty – the equal longest of any electric car in Australia, and a continued point of interest for buyers.
Servicing is required every 12 months or 15,000km. Buyers can choose to pay as they go or buy a service plan upfront (helpfully for buyers on a budget, the servicing costs amount to the same price in the end, no matter which option is chosen).
Over five years, the Niro EV costs $1186 to maintain, with an ask of $500 for services in the second, fourth and sixth years – or $1754 for seven years, for an average of $250/year.
That compares favourably to rivals: a BYD Atto 3 costs $1384 over five years/100,000km, and a Hyundai Kona Electric costs $1445 over five years/75,000km – though an MG ZS EV costs $804 over six years/60,000km, or $1611 over eight years/80,000km.
A year of comprehensive insurance coverage will cost about $1825 based on a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.
|At a glance||2023 Tesla Model Y||2023 Kia Niro EV GT-Line|
|Warranty||Four years / 80,000km (vehicle)
Eight years / 160,000km (battery and drive unit)
|Seven years/ unlimited km (vehicle)
Seven years / 150,000km (battery and high voltage system)
|Service intervals||Condition based (up to two years)||12 months or 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||Not provided||$621 (3 years)
$1186 (5 years)
|Energy cons. (claimed)||13.7kWh/100km||16.2kWh/100km|
|Energy cons. (on test)||14.2kWh/100km||16.4kWh/100km|
|Driving range claim (WLTP)||455km||460km|
What is the Tesla Model Y like to drive?
Like the pay-pass methodology to open the 2023 Tesla Model Y, it’s the same way to start one.
Wave your wallet – equipped with a Tesla credit card key – in front of the armrest, wait for the ‘bong’, then throw it in the centre console.
It’s a simple affair and one you get used to really quickly. A quick tap of the column-mounted ‘gearshifter’ is the last thing you do before setting off and quickly noticing that the one-pedal drive system is actually rather intuitive.
That’s an accelerator pedal that brakes the car and captures energy when you lift off, meaning you can effectively drive the car without using the brake pedal next to it.
Every other electric car has this form of energy recovery, with most able to change the amount of braking effort applied as you lift. However, Tesla’s e-pedal is easily the most intuitive I’ve experienced so far, and its single and only setting gets it spot on.
After all, Tesla’s had the time now to get it right. You wouldn’t want to drive it any other way after a few minutes behind the wheel, especially as it harvests energy pretty well too.
The performance from the 220kW single rear electric motor is gutsy, too, with throttle stomps met with strong pulls of acceleration. However, it’s the sustainment of the performance that gives it the edge over its competitors.
Other EVs – like the 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 – do not deliver their power in the same way. They first appear quick, with the performance fizzling as the car’s speed increases.
It’s that sustainment behind the 2023 Tesla Model Y that makes it feel far pokier than the figures suggest, as even the entry-level can accelerate in a relentless fashion and spook your passenger.
Not that it matters, but it hopefully gives you an idea of its performance. Ride and handling are great, too, like the Model 3, which is simple and honest.
It’ll tuck into corners nicely, never really feel ‘rear-driven’ or as if it’s going to spit you into the weeds, and the sheer silence of it all means you can focus on how much (or little) work the tyres are doing.
Over a quick jaunt up and down my favourite roads it felt great, if not a little top heavy at times. Around town it’s pleasant, too, but the weight of the thing does mean it needs some firmness to remain controlled.
Over rippled sections of road it’ll get a little busy and bumpy inside, but that’s genuinely as bad as it gets. Another colleague of mine commented on how they liked this “controlled” feeling and didn’t find its stiffness as much of an issue as I did.
We both agreed that taking the 20-inch wheel option would probably push it over the edge for both of us; however, we’ll conduct testing in due time to see whether that’s legitimate or not.
Aside from some firmness over road joins and the odd imperfection, the cabin is a really nice place to soak up miles in. The cabin is well insulated, the funky map display does a good job of keeping you aware of your surroundings, and the steering okay to use.
If anything, the steering is slightly too hyperactive, and is very short lock-to-lock. Coupled with its turning circle of 12.1m, it means tight carparks require some adjustment, but you’ll overcome this in due time.
In terms of efficiency, the car hovered around 20.0kWh/100km during performance testing, later coming down to 14kWh/100km in traffic, then finally culminating at 14.2kWh/100km after some more recuperation and inner-city driving.
You couldn’t write this if you tried, but if we work out 14.2kWh(usage per 100km)/62.3kWh(battery size)*100( for total mileage), you’ll find the number to be 438.7km, give or take 11.3km off the official claim.
For the money it’s hard to fault, but the lack of a speedo in the driver’s line of sight (even a head-up one!) is baffling, as they nailed everything else.
What is the 2023 Kia Niro EV GT-Line like to drive?
The Niro EV’s unassuming, SUV-like demeanour continues when you get behind the wheel and start driving. That is, it’s a pleasant and entirely inoffensive Kia SUV – it just happens to have an electric powertrain. First up, let’s commend Kia again for the driving range, because a real-world range beyond 400km makes a lot of sense for a lot of buyers.
The single electric motor drives the front wheels and puts out 150kW and 255Nm. Overall power remains the same as the old Niro, but torque has been cut by a hefty 140Nm, and methinks that might be due to the old model’s propensity to light the front tyres up with the merest breath on the accelerator pedal.
Despite the reduction in torque, the Niro doesn’t feel slow. Plus, it’s significantly more sedate out of corners, uphill out of a driveway or cross street, and on a wet road.
The 0–100km/h claim is a spritely 7.8 seconds, and the Niro feels more than fast enough on any road no matter how you drive. If you need to get cracking, it can do so, and the EV speciality of effortless roll-on overtaking is in play at all times. Instant response, and seamless response specifically, is an addictive thing.
You’ll notice the difference between Eco, Normal and Sport. We left the Niro in Normal for almost all of our testing as noted above, but it’s a lot sharper in Sport, and dulled right down in Eco. As expected, then.
I’m not a big fan of Sport modes in electric vehicles, where the goal is to stretch out as much range as you can get, but I guess if you’re trundling mainly around town and you know you’re going home to charge, it doesn’t hurt to have some fun in Sport mode.
As ever, we like the one-pedal driving mode, with the caveat that you’ll need to get used to it if you haven’t tested it before. It means you won’t go through brake pads as quickly either. You can also work your way through three other regenerative braking modes via the paddles on the steering wheel. All of these tweaks are things you’ll work out as you spend time with the Niro and decide what you prefer.
Niro was tuned and fettled to suit our local roads by Kia’s engineers here, and that tuning extends to the weight and response of the steering. Whether they are subtle differences from the global tune, or significant, there’s a lot to be said for a vehicle that is designed to be used here. The ride is firm, especially if you’re on a really choppy surface, but it’s not uncomfortable.
The Niro is a heavy little thing – it does carry a chunky battery pack after all – so you can’t hide 1727kg completely. That’s where some of the firmness on poor surfaces comes from. It is therefore not as light on its feet as either the hybrid would feel or a comparative petrol-engined SUV. That said, you’re not driving this type of vehicle like a sports car either.
The steering tune is excellent, light at low speed and firm up to motorway speeds, with a tight turning circle making for effortless city work. It’s quite manoeuvrable in tight spaces, especially when parking, and that’s a bonus. We also noted that there wasn’t too much road or wind noise, at any speed, even on coarse-chip sections of freeway, which means the cabin ambience isn’t impacted.
|Key details||2023 Tesla Model Y||2023 Kia Niro EV GT-Line|
|Engine||Single permanent magnet synchronous electric||Single permanent magnet synchronous electric|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive||Front-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Single-speed automatic||Single-speed automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||115kW/t||87kW/t|
|Spare tyre type||None||Tyre repair kit|
|Tow rating||1600kg braked,
Should I buy a Tesla Model Y or a Kia Niro EV GT-Line?
Both cars offer a great step into electric car ownership. Whichever way you buy, you’ll still get an EV with over 400km of range for less than $75,000.
However, it’s the 2023 Tesla Model Y that makes the most sense and wins this comparison today. Not only is it cheaper to run and own, but the on-board technology package is still a cut above what mainstream brand Kia can offer the Australian market.
We found the Tesla to be more electron-efficient than the Kia, meaning you’ll go further per charge in the real world. If you’re considering things like cabin space and habitability, we reckon you’re still better off too.
The Model Y offers greater cabin space in the areas that count – second row as one – and also features a far larger cargo area.
It’s the most resolved package of the pair and earns its win fair and square.