Kia e-Niro review
|Car type||Official range||Wallbox charge time||Fast charge time|
|Electric||282 miles (WLTP)||9 hours approx (7.2kW)||1 hour 15 mins (50kW, 0-80%)|
The Kia e-Niro is a compact family SUV with a claimed 282-mile range (on the WLTP cycle) from a 64kWh lithium-ion battery pack, and single electric motor that powers its front wheels.
If any of this is ringing any bells, that’s because it’s a non-identical twin to the Hyundai Kona Electric, which has shaken up the electric-car market by offering virtually double the driving range of almost any other model in the £30-£35,000 price range. That range is no hollow marketing line, either; we saw 250-260 miles in varied driving, including regular stints on the motorway.
The Kia e-Niro differs from its Hyundai sibling in that it’s a fraction larger and more spacious in the rear seats and boot, and is also only available in one high-spec trim that includes everything from leather seats to a full suite of advanced driver aids. It’s also only available with this large battery pack, whereas the Hyundai offers the choice of a cheaper, 200-mile-range car.
Charging is done using a CCS or Type 2 cable that fits into the port in the car’s nose, hidden behind that conspicuously vent-free, solid nose that’s becoming a telltale sign of many electric cars. Standard cables include a Type 2 public charging cable and a three-pin plug for charging from a wall socket at home. As with any car featuring a large-capacity battery like this, the latter method will be torturously slow, with a full top-up taking some 29 hours. A dedicated 7.2kW charger of the sort that most electric-car drivers will have fitted at home, and are often found in car parks and town centres, will do the same in around nine hours.
Find a 50kW rapid charger in a motorway services and you’ll get an 80% charge in 75 minutes, while the e-Niro is also capable of taking a 100kW charge (chargers of this performance will start to appear in 2019), which will do the same top-up in under an hour.
One of the great things about the e-Niro, if we’re to put the electric aspect aside for a moment, is that it’s a great compact family SUV. Certainly, a conventional petrol or diesel alternative like the bigger Nissan Qashqai or Skoda Karoq are still more spacious and versatile, but the e-Niro has a lot going for it even in that company
There’s only one trim on offer – a very high-spec one that includes a heated steering wheel and heated leather seats with electric adjustment for the driver to make it comfortable for the arduous wait outside the football/swimming/ballet club. Keyless entry, a high roof and decent rear door apertures make it easy to lean in and faff about with child seats. The 451-litre boot is also a good size, and there’s convenient cable storage beneath the boot floor, so the space is free for the dog to lounge about in.
On top of that, the e-Niro has a logical dashboard that, while a bit button-heavy in areas, benefits from a solid feel, nice damping to most of the switches and a smart look and layout that makes it easy to find what you’re looking for. The standard eight-inch colour touchscreen is as well equipped as the rest of the car and includes DAB, Bluetooth, sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Continuing the ‘bells-and-whistles’ approach, the e-Niro also gets a full array of safety kit including automatic lights and wipers, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance. Only blind-spot monitoring is conspicuously missing, and not available to add.
What’s it like to drive? Exactly how you’d want it to be. Comfortable, smooth and easy-going, although it’s worth mentioning that it also has 201bhp and plenty of torque. This (particularly if you switch to Sport mode) makes the e-Niro an unlikely hot-hatch slayer up to about 40mph.
Don’t get us wrong: the real joy of this car is in sitting back and letting it whirr you around with impressive nonchalance, but if you want to prove a point at the traffic lights, it’s entertainingly capable of doing so. Likely to be more useful are the standard steering-wheel-mounted paddles that make it easy to toggle up or down the brake-regeneration levels.
The e-Niro is very competitively priced, starting at £32,995 after the plug-in car grant – about the same as the Hyundai Kona 64kWh Electric Premium, despite a more generous standard equipment list. This, plus the extra interior space and smarter-looking dashboard, is what leads us to favour of the Kia over the still-excellent Hyundai.
Monthly PCP payments on the Kia are also expected to come in at well below £400 if you’ve got a decent deposit or part-ex worth around £8,000. Of course, company-car tax is lower than an equivalent diesel or petrol alternative, at less than £200 per month in BiK for a 40% taxpayer in the 2019/20 tax year.
As an overall prospect, the e-Niro is currently the best electric family car going. It’s great to drive, comfortable to sit in, easy to live with as a family and – crucially – offers the sort of range that should finally put the dreaded range anxiety to bed. Of course, you get Kia’s famous seven-year/100,000-mile warranty as well. It’s electric motoring made even easier, and at an affordable price.