The Kia e-Niro is the best do-it-all EV in its class, with practicality, performance and range all in its favour
The Kia e-Niro is one of the very best electric cars on sale, combining impressive range, strong performance and decent levels of comfort and refinement. Kia claims a range of 282 miles – something that should be achievable with a light foot.
The Hyundai Kona Electric runs the e-Niro close thanks to its near-identical underpinnings and arguably more interesting design, but the Kia is more practical, with a big boot and lots of space for passengers. For many, the e-Niro could easily replace a small family SUV powered by a traditional internal combustion engine – there are almost no drawbacks for lower-mileage users.
2 Jul, 2019 4.2
To the untrained eye the Kia e-Niro looks more or less exactly like its hybrid siblings – only a few detail changes like a closed-in grille, blue accents on the bumpers and slightly different LED daytime running lights set it apart.
It’s a similar story Inside, where the very familiar cabin has a finish that’s better described as functional rather than luxurious; a large rotary drive select dial on the centre console is the biggest change versus other Niro models. The Kia Niro range was always meant to include an EV so its platform is devoid of some of the packaging drawbacks encountered in some of its rivals. There’s loads of interior space and the e-Niro is a very comfortable car to travel in as a result.
There’s useful tech fitted, including a linked-up navigation system that analyses the route and can tell you when to take your foot off the throttle pedal to maximise the range.
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Those looking to put their stamp on their e-Niro will be disappointed – a limited range of colours and a few accessories are all that appears on the options list. The Kia comes very well equipped as standard, but those looking to express their individuality will be better served by the chic BMW i3.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The e-Niro’s infotainment is much like that in other higher-spec Kias, which means it’s good. The eight-inch touchscreen responds fairly quickly to inputs, although the screen resolution could be a little sharper.
Yet it’s the functionality included as standard that should be praised. Sat-nav, wireless phone charging, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay all feature, as do DAB radio, Bluetooth, a reversing camera and Kia’s connected services (powered by TomTom to show live traffic and other info). On the e-Niro it’ll also show charging points near your car, along your route or at your destination.
The layout is fairly logical and easy to navigate, while the screen is well placed. There are still a few foibles –there’s one process too many for something simple, such as entering a destination into the sat-nav, and no full digital dash. But that is coming on updated Niro models.
The Kia e-Niro is a great car to drive: comfortable and refined but with warm-hatch levels of performance and neat – if not terribly exciting – handling. The car is nicely set up, its suspension working well despite the increased weight of the batteries over the hybrid versions. Bumps are ably soaked up, while body control is really good for a heavy SUV.
There’s lots of grip through corners, but it’s easy to overcome the car’s traction when accelerating from low speeds with the electric motor’s dump of low-down torque spinning the wheels before the traction control realises what’s happening. Driving with smooth pedal inputs helps avoid this (and will prolong the life of the front tyres).
Drivers are likely to be most taken aback by the e-Niro’s remarkable performance – there’s loads of punch even at motorway speeds, with instant torque available with a prod of the throttle at any speed. It’s easy to keep pace with traffic, join motorways safely and perform swift overtakes.
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There are three driving modes on offer: Eco, Comfort and Sport. The latter tightens up throttle response and adds some weight to the steering. With this mode selected, it’s feasible to have fun on a B-road, where the e-Niro’s acceleration out of corners never gets old.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
The Kia e-Niro is powered by a single electric motor with 201bhp; 0-62mph takes just 7.5 seconds. A 64kWh battery is standard and the only option for now. This is the same powertrain set-up as the Kona Electric; both are market-leading, offering a better balance between range and performance than the BMW i3 or Nissan Leaf.
Top speed is not entirely relevant in an electric car – running at the Kia e-Niro’s 104mph max on a derestricted autobahn would see the battery drain very quickly. The Kona Electric has the same top speed; both beat the more urban-focused i3 with its 99mph max.
Kia has a reputation for building reliable cars – something that’s backed up by the firm’s third-place finish in our 2019 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. A relatively low 11.4 per cent of Kia owners surveyed reported having experienced a fault with their cars, while build quality, practicality and comfort were all rated highly.
Safety is great too, with the whole Kia Niro range having been awarded a five-star rating by Euro NCAP following its crash tests. Pedestrian-detecting automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise with lane-keep assist, blind-spot warning and seven airbags (one more than in the Kona Electric and BMW i3) all come as standard.
The Kia e-Niro boasts the best warranty of any electric car on sale – seven years or 100,000 miles, plus three years of roadside assistance. This beats the similar Hyundai Kona Electric’s unlimited five-year warranty on length if not miles.
You’ll need to book your e-Niro in for a service every 10,000 miles or 12 months, whichever comes first – a relatively short service interval for an EV. Kia is known for its servicing deals that can cover up to five years of servicing, so running costs should still be very affordable.
There’s no arguing with the e-Niro’s credentials as a family car. It’s a mid-size SUV that looks more like a large hatchback than a rough-and-tumble off-roader, with a shape that’s almost entirely dictated by practicality. There’s space inside for four adults to sit in comfort and the boot is large, while the cabin boasts plenty of storage space – including a particularly useful space where the gearlever would be found on an internal combustion car.
The e-Niro is a relaxing car to drive thanks to a great driving position, clear all-round visibility and great refinement.
Overall, the e-Niro beats its nearest rivals hands down when it comes to flexibility for family life – the Hyundai Kona Electric has considerably less space inside, while the i3 is even smaller. These two are a little easier to drive around town as a result, however.
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Much like other EVs, the Kia e-Niro isn’t rated for towing – it’s worth considering a diesel-powered SUV if you need this option.
The Kia e-Niro is 4,375mm long, 1,805mm wide and 1,570mm tall including its built-in roof rails. It weighs in at a substantial 1,812kg – EVs tend to be heavy due to their batteries.
The broadly similar Hyundai Kona Electric is based on the same architecture and is just about the same height and width as the Kia, but is shorter by a couple hundred milimetres.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The Kia e-Niro is the best EV in its price range when it comes to carrying passengers in comfort. The front seats are very roomy indeed, while the rears offer more than enough space for six-foot adults. ISOfix points are supplied in the outer two rear seats.
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There’s more space for passengers in the back of the Kia than in the slightly cramped Hyundai Kona Electric – and there’s a huge difference when compared to the much smaller, more city-focused BMW i3.
Boot space – while 52 litres down on the capacity of the Kia Sportage – is still a commendable 451 litres. There’s actually more space in the back of the e-Niro than you’ll find in its hybrid siblings – the Niro Self Charging Hybrid has 382 litres, while the Niro Plug-in Hybrid has 324 litres. Fold down the e-Niro’s seats and there’s an impressive 1,405 litres to play with.
The Kona Electric has less load space than the Niro – 332 litres with the seats up, 1,114 litres with them down.
Like any EV, the Kia e-Niro should cost very little to run when compared with conventionally powered rivals. It should only cost around £8 to fully charge the e-Niro from a domestic power supply (based on an average unit price of 12.5p per kWh of electricity on an off-peak tariff), which undercuts every combustion-engined rival available by a considerable margin.
Similarly, the Kia e-Niro’s lack of traditional engine, gearbox and other associated moving parts should mean that costs of spares and repairs will be far lower than in a conventional car. Kia’s excellent warranty applies as normal to the e-Niro too, so you’ll have peace of mind during ownership.
Electric range, battery life and charge time
The 64kWh battery mounted under the e-Niro’s floor provides a claimed WLTP-measured range of 282 miles – a figure that should be achievable if you drive with a light touch. During our test, we calculated that a more accurate range in mixed driving is around 250 miles – still more than enough to fend off even the worst case of range anxiety.
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It should take around nine hours and 50 minutes to fully charge the e-Niro via a wallbox installed at home, while a 50kW fast charger will get the car to 80 per cent capacity in around one hour and fifteen minutes; find a 100kW charger and that time will drop to around 54 minutes.
The e-Niro comes as standard with a Type 2 cable for public chargers and a three-pin plug for connecting to a mains supply. Charging via a domestic supply will take a long time, though – somewhere around 29 hours for a full charge.
The Kia e-Niro sits in insurance group 28, just above its Hyundai Kona Electric relative in groups 22 to 27 (depending on trim and battery size). The BMW i3 occupies a similar range of groups 21 to 29 depending on specification, with the S model being the most expensive to insure.
Thanks to the constant and rapid evolution of EV technology, electric cars like the Kia e-Niro are particularly at risk of bad residual values. However, the e-Niro shouldn’t fare too badly after 36,000 miles and three years come trade-in time. Our experts predict that the e-Niro should hold on to a shade over 40 per cent of its value – not too far behind its various hybrid Niro siblings which manage 42.8 to 49.3 per cent. The pricier BMW i3, by contrast, should retain around 37.8 to 41.7 per cent of its value after the same period.
It’s worth noting that customer demand for the e-Niro is high – waiting lists are long, so used values should remain high in the nearer future.