UK Drive: Little time at the plug makes the Kia e-Niro a compelling EV choice
What is it?
Kia has been one of the manufacturers right at the forefront of the switch to electrification.
It had one of the first electric cars to come to market with the Soul EV in 2014, and since then has kept expanding its range of conventional hybrid and plug-in hybrid models, with more on the way imminently.
But it has been the Niro that has heralded electrification the most for the firm. This hatchback-turned-SUV is interesting as it’s one of very few models available with two different hybrid powertrains, and with no option of conventional petrol and diesel.
But recently the Niro is taking the electrification game a step further with a pure EV option — the e-Niro. How does it stack up on UK roads? We get behind the wheel to find out.
The e-Niro might be an all-new model for Kia, but it’s underpinnings have already been seen on the Hyundai Kona Electric — an arguably game-changing model that showed long electric range didn’t need to mean a luxurious £50,000 plus asking price.
To stand out from the other Niro models, the key difference is a closed-off front grille with the e-Niro. In the cabin, it features a new rotary gear selector and a huge storage area appearing where you would normally find the transmission tunnel. A series of specific EV features – such as charge point locators – also help to make it stand out as an EV.
What’s under the bonnet?
The e-Niro’s underpinnings are what makes this car all the more surprising, with the model offering a claimed range of 282 miles. That’s class-leading and it means this affordable South Korean crossover has one of the longest ranges of any electric cars, with the exception of Tesla.
It’s powered by a 64kWh lithium-ion battery pack paired to an electric motor producing 201bhp and 395Nm of torque. With no gearbox to contend with, as EVs just deliver one seamless burst of power, the acceleration is remarkable for a non-sporty crossover. The sprint to 0-60mph takes just 7.5 seconds, with the car topping out at 104mph.
What’s it like to drive?
To many buyers of the e-Niro, this will be their first EV, and there are few better ways of promoting a new technology than with something this good.
The instant torque and acceleration are addictive — safe overtakes are carried out seamlessly, while the buzz of putting your foot down away from a set of traffic lights never tires. It doesn’t quite fall into place so well once you get to a corner, with the e-Niro’s rather large battery adding plenty of kilos to the kerbweight, resulting in more body roll than normal.
But aside from the zing, the e-Niro is a comfortable car that makes a great long-distance cruiser, with its standard-fit adaptive cruise control coming in particularly handy on motorways. We were also seriously impressed at just how little impact motorway miles had on the claimed 282-mile range, which is about as accurate a range you’ll find from an EV.
How does it look?
Kia is not going down the styling route of ‘We have an EV and we want everyone to know about it’ with the e-Niro.
This means this crossover looks quite unremarkable, quietly going about its business without the lurid paint colours and gimmicky technology. In fact, it’s quite hard to distinguish from the other Niro hybrid models.
But what you do find with the e-Niro is the closed ‘tiger nose’ front grille, new 17-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels and a redesigned rear bumper that takes on board blue accents. Therefore this is an electric car for those who don’t want to show off about their eco credentials.
What’s it like inside?
Kia has done an impressive job of ensuring that no cabin space is lost with the addition of a large battery pack, with the e-Niro benefitting from a good-sized boot and plenty of space in the rear seats for adults.
The absence of a gearbox also eradicates the need for a transmission tunnel – something which has a positive impact on the interior. Kia has utilised the area with a huge storage space in the centre of the car, while the absence of a chunky gear selector is a welcome addition. Specific EV dials and live charging information are both very useful features in day-to-day driving, too.
As is customary with most modern Kias, the fit-and-finish of the e-Niro is hard to criticise, and it makes the e-Niro a fantastic place to spend time.
What’s the spec like?
So far with the e-Niro, Kia has just offered it with just one high-spec trim level – the First Edition. Despite its comprehensive standard equipment levels, it undercuts its Hyundai Kona Electric sibling by several thousand pounds in top-spec form. It’s also nearly £4,000 cheaper than the new Nissan Leaf E+, despite the Kia offering a 40-mile longer range.
Prices for the e-Niro start from £32,995, which is after the government’s £3,500 electric car grant has been taken into account. Standard equipment includes black leather seats, a JBL sound system and an eight-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and a reversing camera, to name but a few features.
The e-Niro is exactly the EV that’s needed right now to drive the general public towards electric cars, their benefits and why in many cases, they are so much more convincing than their petrol or diesel equivalent.
While we’ve come blasé to manufacturers boasting about their (often unachievable) 300-mile electric ranges, the e-Niro proves that a long EV range is possible without having to overhaul your driving style. What’s even more impressive is that this number of miles between charges comes from an electric car costing half that of other SUVs with similar ranges, and all without compromising creature comforts or practicality.