Kia e-Niro review
|Car type||Official range||Wallbox charge time||Fast charge time|
|Electric||282 miles||9hrs 50mins (7.2kW, 0-100%)||1hr 15mins (50kW, 0-80%)|
The Kia e-Niro is a compact family SUV with a claimed 282-mile range from a 64kWh lithium-ion battery pack, and single electric motor that powers its front wheels.
If any of this is ringing bells, that’s because the e-Niro is 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 most other models in the £35,000 price range - with the Kia Soul being a notable exception, and the Tesla Model 3 if you can stretch to £40,000.
That range is no hollow marketing line, either; we lived with the Kia e-Niro and routinely saw 280 miles or more in the summer months, while the worst-case conditions saw around 180 miles on a constant motorway journey in very cold and windy, winter conditions.
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 7.4kW 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 up to 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 – the very high-spec 4 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, which combines to give it a very effective semi-autonomous driving mode. Only blind-spot monitoring is missing.
What’s it like to drive? Exactly how you’d want. 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, at £34,995 after the plug-in car grant. However, monthly PCP payments on the Kia can be expensive and there are long wait times on the car. If you don't want the wait, or you want to save even more money and aren't fussed about a much shorter range of around 160 miles, the MG ZS EV is well worth considering instead, while rivals like the Peugeot e-208 offer a grown-up, compact four-door hatchback with a circa 200 mile range for much less than the e-Niro if you don't need the space in the Kia.
Of course, company-car tax is comically low for the 2020/21 tax year, with BiK costs down to zero, and then rising to only a few hundred pounds per year for a 40% tax payer in the two years following.
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.
For more on the Kia e-Niro, check out our report on running one for several months, or read on for the rest of our in-depth review.