Living with it: Kia e-Niro First Edition

The Kia e-Niro is a milestone electric car for its range and value for money, but how does it fare as a high-mileage family car?

Report 5: second opinion

With the Kia e-Niro’s regular custodian away on holiday, I took the opportunity to pounce on the keys and spent a couple of weeks seeing what all the fuss is about.

If you’ve still got doubts about the viability of electric cars, the DrivingElectric 2019 Car of the Year could well be the EV to extinguish them. Even putting the powertrain to one side for a moment, you’ve got a roomy compact SUV with space for adults in the rear and a respectable boot.

Perhaps the interior lacks a little of the polish and design flair you might get in some other £33,000 cars, but the amount of equipment fitted to this First Edition model can’t be faulted. There are some really well thought-out storage options, like the phone shelf positioned low at the base of the dash that keeps your USB cable out of the way, and the covered cup holders in the centre console.

The e-Niro is brilliantly easy to use overall, and that’s largely thanks to the electric powertrain. Amazingly, the 295 miles quoted by the dashboard display after a full charge turns out to be within a whisker of the truth, and the way the Kia goes about its business in town makes it a pleasure to use.

The real surprise for me, though, came on faster B-roads where the e-Niro can actually be good fun. We know electric cars are generally nippy, but the way the Kia steers and grips through a corner then squirts you up the road to the next is surprisingly enjoyable.

The downside is the way the body tends to lean and pitch around the car’s low centre of gravity, something you hardly notice in town or on the motorway, but the ride stays very smooth.

Enjoyable, practical and demanding so few of the compromises people imagine are involved in the switch to an electric car, the e-Niro is a fine piece of work from Kia. The little crossover is also probably a better standard-bearer for electric cars generally than lots of models costing twice the price. Do I have to give the keys back now?

Date: 23 July
Mileage: 8,352
Average efficiency: 5.1 miles/kWh

Report 4: Remarkable range

I really don't want to focus on range all the time when it comes to the Kia, yet I can't help but crow about how incredible it is. At the moment, even with air-con on and normally with a bit of faster motorway or b-road involved in my routine journeys, I'm seeing 290 miles to a charge and efficiency of around 5.0 miles per kWh. That's better than the Hyundai Kona and way better than a Nissan Leaf. It's genuinely proving to be the benchmark for real-world electric car efficiency. I even returned some 4.1 m/kWh on a clear 70-mile motorway run to Dorset recently, without changing my driving style at all. Impressive given that most electric cars will return more like 3.0 m/kWh on the motorway, where they're least efficient.

I did have some issues with the location mode, available in the charging settings. This allows you to set a particular address where you want the car to charge during off-peak charging times (you can ask it prioritise those times, or strictly only charge within those hours), which is great as I pay less between midnight and 5am at home, but anywhere else I just want the car to charge immediately.

However, initially the car failed to recognise when I was at the address I'd input and it took me a few days to figure out what the problem was. Clearing and re-inputting the address again seems to have solved it. Now I can just plug in at home, and the middle light of the three charging-indicator lights on the dash starts flashing to indicate that it's waiting for the preferred charging time. Perfect.  

I'd like to find some useful criticism to add here, but I really can't think of anything. The longer I spend with the Kia, the more it feels like a second- or third-generation electric car next to most of its rivals. It's just a cracking car on every front, and I'm already dreading the moment that Kia asks for it back. 

Date: 10th July 2019
Mileage: 5,872
Average efficiency: 4.9 miles/kWh

Report 3: Locking woes

The Kia is proving to be an absolutely brilliant family car, as well as a class-leading electric car. The interior plastics and materials are wearing very well and wipe up easily despite being under constant attack from a toddler and a big, unintentionally destructive dog.

My biggest gripe with its performance as a family motor is with the locking system. The child locks on the Kia are activated manually by sticking a key or screwdriver into the door and turning it to the lock position. The physical key tucked into the car's remote key fob does the job nicely.

This is fine, but I’ve had adult passengers locked in the back seats on a few occasions, and it seems foolish that Kia doesn’t offer electronic child-locks, as Peugeot, VW and various others do. In these rivals, you just press a button in the front and the child locks in the back activate or de-activate. Simple, but brilliantly convenient. It should be standard on all five-door cars, I reckon. 

It's also frustrating that the passenger and rear doors don't automatically unlock when you turn the car off and get out of the driver's door. I've lost count of the number of times I've got out of the car and walked around to open the back door to get Flo (the aforementioned toddler) out, only to find the door locked. Anyway, eventually I though to check the car's system settings and sure enough - toggle through the menus on the driver's readout (only accessed via the steering wheel switches) and you can set the doors to auto-unlock when you shift to 'P' or when you exit the car. Perfect. 

Date: 11th June 2019
Mileage: 5,032
Average efficiency: 4.3 miles/kWh

Report 2: Missing an App but gaining range

The e-Niro has been unflappably brilliant in its first few weeks. I love the serene way it drives, and it’s also proving to be a pretty faultless family car. Not only that, but with sensible battery charging (keeping it between 20-80% where possible) and warmer ambient temperatures, the indicated maximum range has increased to 270 miles, and I’m routinely seeing average efficiency of more than 4.0 miles per kWh, even on motorway drives. I actually saw an average of 5.3 mi/kWh in a sedate, sunny drive over the weekend, which equates to a potential range of 339 miles - far surpassing the Kia's official WLTP range of 282 miles.

The only thing that has been bothering me is the lack of an App for the e-Niro. I drove the new Kia Soul EV recently, which will get the company’s new Connected App to allow you to set the climate control before you get in, check on charging status and various other useful functions. Sadly, it doesn’t seem that it’s being introduced on the e-Niro, which feels like a bit of a burn for those who've bought (or want to buy) the more practical of Kia's electric hatches.

Still, you can set the climate control to pre-heat the e-Niro via the car’s settings, and of course you can set charging times to take advantage of off-peak tariffs, but it’s not as convenient as being able to control all of it from your phone. It’s about the only thing I can find to complain about, though, so life is still pretty peachy. 

Date: 24th April 2019
Mileage: 3,542
Average efficiency: 4.1 miles/kWh

 

Report 1: Introducing our e-Niro

The Kia e-Niro feels like one of those cars that we’ll be talking about forever more – destined to have its own blurb on timelines about the evolution of the car from here on in. 

But there are some questions we still want answered about the e-Niro; namely, what’s it like to live with? Because it’s all very well that it’s won every award going, including DrivingElectric’s own Car of the Year 2019, but what if it then turns out that a toddler can deconstruct the interior in six months, or that the DAB signal makes 6Music sound like Morse code, or that the windscreen takes an age to demist.

Any of that niggling stuff that can mount up to ruin the day-to-day experience of living with a car that, on a test drive, feels like the best thing for modern motoring convenience since power steering. That’s what we’re here to find out.

Mind you, in the few weeks that we’ve had our Kia e-Niro First Edition, it hasn’t put a foot wrong. My only slight area of consternation is that the maximum range is currently showing as some 230-240 miles, which is less than I’d expected given that the pre-production test car we did a lot of miles in last year was managing more like 250-260 even in cold weather.

However, I'm optimistic that our long-termer might improve on this front, as I’ve done mostly fast motorway journeys since the car arrived and nothing ruins an electric car’s range prediction like draining the battery repeatedly on the motorway. 

I’m back to normal now, which means mostly shorter local journeys, a few weekly trips into London proper (feeling smug about whirring past those Congestion Charge zone signs for free), and fairly regular weekend round trips of 150-200 miles to see family in Dorset. Given that I’m still likely to average some 800 miles or more per month, it’s still heavy usage for the average electric car in today’s climate. 

I’m keen to see how this fairly typical lifestyle stacks up in terms of the car’s range, and I also want to find out how a sensible approach to battery charging might impact the range. 

I have a 7kW Chargemaster wallbox at my house, where the vast majority of the charging will happen, and we know that keeping the 64kWh battery between 20-80% is best practice for the longevity and performance of the lithium-ion cells. I’ll be keeping a close eye on how a period of rapid charging compared to a lot of slow charging might affect the car’s range.

 

Not only that, but I have a two-year-old daughter and a big dog to ferry about (the husband gets a lift sometimes, too, if he’s lucky), so we’ll be putting the Kia’s abilities as a family car, as well as an electric car, through a thorough test over the next six months. This, in particular, is where the spacious e-Niro seems to stand apart from the Hyundai Kona 64kWh – a sister car to the Kia, which we’re also running.

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Kia e-Niro stats

Model: Kia e-Niro First Edition
Run by: Vicky Parrott
On fleet since: March 2019
Price new:  £33,560 (incl. gov. grant)
Engine: Electric motor with 64kWh battery, 201bhp
CO2/tax: 0g/km/£0
Official WLTP range: 282 miles
Cost of a full charge at home: £8.96 (at 14p per kWh)
Average cost of a 100-mile public rapid-charger top-up: £12
Options: Graphite metallic paint (£565)
Annual company car BIK cost at 20/40%: £1166 / £2332
Insurance*: Group: 28, Quote: £800
Any problems? None so far

*Insurance quote for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points