Folding e-scooter: Niu KQi3 Sport - Robust for the last mile

E-scooters have established themselves as a practical alternative to cycling for short distances.

Folding e-scooter: Niu KQi3 Sport - Robust for the last mile

E-scooters have established themselves as a practical alternative to cycling for short distances. If you don't want to rent, but want to drive your own device, there is a huge range on offer. And the technology and design of the electric scooters are now very mature, as the example of the Niu KQi3 Sport shows.

Electric scooters are now part of the street scene in many cities. If you want to drive your own scooter instead of renting one, you can choose from an almost unmanageable range. The Chinese manufacturer Niu wants to set itself apart from the competition with a well-known name, robust quality and clever networking. This works for the most part - but the KQi3 Sport is not without its weaknesses.

In this country, Niu is best known for its large e-scooters in Vespa format. With the scooters of the KQi series, the Chinese company is also competing in a size smaller. The latest KQi3 model is available as a "Sport" model with prices starting at 700 euros. If you choose the 800-euro "Pro" variant or the "Max" model for 1000 euros, you get more motor power and a larger battery. But the smallest brother has to suffice for the test. Its motor is 300 watts strong, the 365 Wh battery should last for 40 kilometers.

Apart from the drive technology, the differences between the two expansion stages of the KQi3 are small. Even the cheaper model pleases with its valuable appearance and very solid design. The central element is the wide (17 centimetres) and comfortable running board, which also looks good thanks to the curved design. At the back is the drive wheel under a solid cover, at the front is the slightly sloping handlebar with a joint for folding.

The cables for the brakes and accelerator disappear in the handlebars after just a short open route and the - pleasingly bright - headlight is integrated flush into the bar, which further reinforces the solid impression of the complete construction. This makes the KQi3 appear as robust as one of the sharing devices, but it is significantly slimmer and lighter.

However, you do not want to transport the scooter permanently. The foolproof folding mechanism on the handlebars, which can be operated with one hand, at least helps to fold the KQi into a trunk or luggage net format. However, the handles cannot also be folded or dismantled, so that the overall package remains quite bulky.

On its own axis, the Niu scooter is extremely manoeuvrable and fast. Despite the massive construction and the comparatively weak engine. But at least in the rather level test environment, the 300 watts of continuous power and the 600 watts of peak power are usually sufficient. If you live in a hilly area, you should prefer the more powerful "Pro" model. The acceleration is also superior with the "Sport" variant, although not as snappy as with some other e-scooters, the top speed is limited to exactly 20 km/h.

The manufacturer specifies a range of 40 kilometers, around 25 to 30 seem more realistic under non-ideal conditions. However, the 365 watt hours are definitely enough for typical usage scenarios. It is then charged via an easily accessible connection on the running board that is also adequately protected against dirt. Five hours are enough for a full battery.

When it comes to operation, the Niu is demonstratively simple. All functions are controlled via the one central button. Depending on the number of operations, it turns on, activates the front and rear lights or switches to a sliding mode. All important information such as battery charge status or speed can be seen on a display that is easy to read in all lighting conditions. You accelerate with an easily controllable thumb lever, which, like the brake, is located on the right handlebar grip. Anyone who decelerates only gently only activates the electric motor brake, with a more courageous grip a disc brake is added.

Niu does not have a suspension, so the work on driving comfort is left to the thick rubber tires alone, which do their job properly. Overall, the scooter feels solid and safe on the road, steering and gas are always easy to control, no rattling or crunching disturbs confidence in the technology.

If you want, you can network the KQi with your smartphone using a free app. Then, among other things, routes driven can be saved and various statistics can be called up, which are more of a gimmick than an indispensable feature. On the other hand, the immobilizer, which can be activated by mobile phone, is very practical. Also because there is no metal eyelet or something similar for securely connecting the scooter. Unfortunately, only one account can be used with the Niu at a time, which makes sharing the vehicle unnecessarily difficult.

The KQi scores above all with its very robust and high-quality design. When it comes to operation, driving behavior and - with reservations about engine performance - it doesn't show any weaknesses. However, a more flexible smartphone connection and better anti-theft protection would be desirable. If you live in a rather hilly area, you should also think about buying the stronger version.

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