IF you’re looking for a family-sized electric vehicle that is both affordable and capable of clocking up many miles between charges, then you may have given up the search by now and gone for a hybrid instead.
However, Kia are about to change all that with the introduction of their all-electric e-Niro model which not only has a real-world range of over 280 miles from a single charge but is also practical to live with and won’t cost you the earth (literally).
With a similar range to the £63,000 Jaguar I-Pace – but costing almost half as much – the Kia e-Niro 64 kWh “First Edition” can be yours for £32,995 on the road (after subtracting the government’s £3,500 grant).
A spacious, mid-sized family SUV, the Niro is already available as a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) but with the introduction of the zero-emission e-Niro you can ask yourself the question: “How green do you want to go?”
Outwardly, the new e-Niro is only distinguishable from its siblings by way of a closed-off tiger-face grille, new alloy wheels and some electric blue highlighting. The Niro was always a smart-looking mid-sized SUV but now it’s extremely smart under the bonnet too.
Kia are keeping things simple by offering just the one trim level: “First Edition” which is very well specced indeed and shouldn’t leave you wanting more. Highlights include Roof Rails, Rear Spoiler, Solar Glass with Rear Privacy Glass, Black Leather Upholstery, Heated Front Seats, Heated Steering Wheel, Auto Lights and Auto Wipers, Adaptive Cruise Control, 8-Speaker JBL Premium Sound System with subwoofer, 8in Touchscreen with Sat Nav and Kia Connected Services, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, Wireless phone-charging, Lane-Keep Assist, Forward Collision Avoidance Assist and Drive Mode Select – Eco and Sport.
The interior of the e-Niro impresses too and feels more upmarket than the Nissan Leaf or Hyundai Kona electric (with which is shares its EV tech). It’s cabin and rear passenger space is also more generous than those rivals and is vastly superior to the more-expensive VW e-Golf.
Impressively, at 451 litres, the e-Niro’s boot capacity is 128 litres MORE than the Niro PHEV due to the batteries being mounted under the floor.
The e-Golf may just about have the upper-hand when it comes to the quality of materials and lay-out; but the e-Niro is very close indeed with soft-touch plastics aplenty, some piano black polished surfaces with satin-finished highlights and an impressive 8in touchscreen that is clear as well as responsive. There’s also a powered, 8-way adjustable driving seat with lumbar-support that feels as comfortable as anything the Germans may produce.
That all sounds well and good but the real highlight is driving the Kia e-Niro as, being a fully-electric vehicle, the whole experience feels so relaxing and civilised from the moment you push the start-button – and nothing happens other than a (slightly annoying) jingle plays and the dash lights up.
Select ‘D’ from the large rotary gear-selector between the front seats, give the accelerator a push and off you waft, silently and without fuss. If you’ve selected reverse then you’ll notice the touchscreen shows the view behind and you’ll also hear some subtle reversing beeps to warn pedestrians that this silent car is about to move off.
Out on the open road the electric Niro is no slouch; it can hit 60mph from a standing start in just 7.5 seconds – enough to put many hot hatchbacks to shame.
Don’t expect sports car handling though; the e-Niro is a family SUV after all and as such is damped for comfort rather than blasting along A-roads. That’s not to say the e-Niro can’t put a smile on your face though because the way it lays down its 201 bhp is quite addictive.
With just one gear for the automatic transmission to worry about and all that power being available instantly, you’ll marvel at just how quickly the e-Niro goes about its business – whether that be cruising along the motorway with just the soft sound of the tyres and some wind noise to accompany you, or darting around town where that instant acceleration makes a lot of decisions very simple indeed.
There is an ‘other-worldly’ whine from the drivetrain that you can hear occasionally but it’s never intrusive and is something common to all EVs. The overall impression you’ll get is a serenity that you won’t find in anything but an electric vehicle.
Okay, so what about the greatest bugbear of all when it comes to electric vehicles? – range anxiety. For combined driving the official figure for the e-Niro is 282 miles. I did a lot of miles in the week I had the e-Niro and I managed over 260 miles from a full-charge – and I wasn’t fixating on using the car’s abilities to re-charge itself when braking, descending hills, etc. If you want to play around eeking the maximum number of miles from the e-Niro I’m sure you could match (or even better) the official figures.
And what about fear of the battery degrading? Well, happily, most of these fears have proved largely unfounded from even the very early electric/hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius. Remember, these are not smart-phone batteries we’re talking about; besides, Kia have their class-leading 7-year, 100,000-mile warranty which fully covers the battery pack and electric motor. It’s also fully-transferable should you sell the car on.
Having the car during a cold-snap I was grateful for the e-Niro’s ability to set a time for pre-heating the car to a desired temperature – an absolute boon if you don’t have a lovely, warm garage.
The Sat Nav includes routes to all available charging points so there shouldn’t be any need to panic and charge-level, along with range is clearly displayed on the 8in screen, if you wish.
Charging technology has moved on greatly in the last few years and will continue to do so with 100kw Fast Charge points now available which can take the e-Niro from zero to 80% charge in just 54 minutes. The more-available 50kW chargers take 75 minutes while plugging into your domestic supply will take 9 hours and 50 minutes. I would imagine most owners would take advantage of a government-subsidised Home Charger which the dealership will be able to advise on.
The Kia e-Niro took the What Car? Overall Winner prize for 2019 so it’s no surprise that those in the know think this is a game-changer. It’s accepted that electric vehicles (EVs) won’t work for everyone but, with the e-Niro, Kia have put practical, affordable EV-ownership within the grasp of many, many more drivers and for that they should be applauded.
AT A GLANCE:
Kia e-Niro First Edition
OTR Price: £32,995 (after Gov grant)
Engine: 64 kWh Electric Motor
Power: 201 bhp
Transmission: Single-speed Automatic
0-62mph: 7.5 secs
Top Speed: 104 mph
Combined Range: 282 miles
C02: 0 g/km