Move Electric rating: four stars out of five
Sell it to me in a sentence…
The Niu KQi3 Sport is a trendy and stylish e-scooter that offers both neat handling and a sophisticated ride, wrapped up in a well-dimensioned package.
Niu? Tell me more about the brand…
Chinese firm Niu was founded in 2014 and since its inception has produced a number of two-wheeled electric vehicles, including the Niu MQi GT Evo electric motorbike.
Making up the Niu e-scooter range is the KQi2 – the firm’s entry level model – which starts from £450 and offers a range of up to 25 miles. Moving up the range is the KQi3 Sport, which is almost identical to the KQi2, barring a few differences in wheel size and footboard.
The KQi3 Pro and KQi3 Max complete the model line-up, offering 31 miles) and 40 miles of range respectively.
What is it like to ride?
Thanks to its set-up, the Niu affords a supple ride quality which is both confidence inspiring and enjoyable. The fizzy electric motor driving the rear-wheel is suitably torquey, propelling the KQi3 forwards quickly and yet still offering a good amount of control.
The footboard, which is neatly finished with a rubber-like material for extra grip, is adroitly proportioned, allowing for a number of riding positions to be adopted. Niu says the handlebars are 25 per cent wider when compared to other models. This was noticeable, but didn’t offer that much in terms of comfort.
Four riding modes are available to choose from: E-Save, Sport, Custom and Pedestrian. The default E-save mode limits the speed of the KQi3 and reigns in the torque of the electric motor to deliver a smoother ride aimed at increasing the battery life.
The thumb accelerator has a good feel in E-save mode, making it easier to modulate the throttle when negotiating tight turns. Switch to Sport mode and there’s a need to be more cautious when inputting the throttle.
Because of the added performance gained in Sport mode, there’s more torque, meaning the throttle is more sensitive to rider inputs and feels less manageable at slower speeds. This isn’t a serious concern but something to be wary of.
Custom modes allow you to set the top speed of the KQi3, which tops out at 17mph. Pedestrian mode meanwhile limits the e-scooter to around 5mph and is meant for use in built up areas (although a reminder, as ever, that in the UK it is illegal to use private e-scooters on public roads).
The ride quality is good and despite having smaller 10 inch wheels the KQi3 deals with unkempt road surfaces well. Larger potholes and rougher surfaces tend to unsettle the Niu somewhat, but not to the point where you fear the Niu lags behind its rivals. It just doesn't perform as well as an e-scooter with bigger wheels and tyres.
So how far can the Niu go?
A 365W battery sits under the footboard of the KQi3 and is paired with a rear-mounted electric motor which has a maximum output of 600W. The Niu has a range of up to 25 miles and can be charged in around five hours.
The KQi3 also has impressive hill climbing capabilities, with Niu promising the same level of performance on 15 per cent graded hills.
Is it legal to ride in the UK?
At the moment, you can’t ride a privately owned e-scooter on public roads or pavements in the UK. Rental e-scooter, such as those operated by firm’s like Tier, Dott and Lime, can be ridden on the road as they are part of government-approved trials.
Earlier this year the government revealed plans to fully legalise personal devices to be ridden in public. Until then, you can still buy your own e-scooter, but be aware of the rules: if you’re caught using it on the road you could be fined and have your device seized by the police.
The full technical regulations surrounding the legalisation of private e-scooters are yet to be confirmed by the UK government, so you’ll have to wait another year before you head out onto the highway.
What downsides does the Niu KQi3 have?
Rather frustratingly, the Niu’s riding modes can only be accessed through the Niu smartphone app. That means downloading the app, registering an account, pairing the app to the scooter via bluetooth and then pressing the power button on the KQi3 to cycle through its modes.
Effectively by pairing to the app, the various modes are unlocked, but this seems like a convoluted process when compared to other e-scooters we have tested, which can switch mode easily with the touch of a button.
At 18.5kg, the KQi3 isn’t light either. This has no impact on ride quality or handling but does make it too heavy to lift into the boot of a car, for example. Like many e-scooters the KQi3 can be folded, allowing for easier storage.
Are there any rivals I should consider?
With a £499 starting price, the Niu’s closest rival that we have tested would be the Eskuta KS-450, a robust and well-finished e-scooter. It has a great range of 31 miles and multiple riding modes which can help it along to a capped 15.5mph. And conveniently, the various riding modes can be cycled through by pressing a button on the LED operating panel..
Alternatively there is the Pure Electric Air Pro, which costs £100 more than the Niu. Equipped with a 500W motor, the Air Pro promises a range of up to 31 miles and features the same riding modes as its range-topping sibling, the Air Pro LR - which we’ve already tested.
Be in no doubt that the Niu KQi3 is a good e-scooter that delivers in all the right areas. Some of its idiosyncrasies, however, bring the overall package down. The software is too complicated and we found the app-based control system too fiddly, making the KQi3 less recommendable to prospective buyers.
Although a disappointing attribute, the Niu is a refined device that is good to ride, has impressive hardware and considering its build quality is good value, too.
Niu KQi3 Sport specification
Motor power: 300W
Range: 21 miles
Top speed: 17mph
Charge time: 5 hours
Max rider weight: 120kg