We’ve already driven the Kia e-Niro on its launch in Korea and we were very impressed – but what’s it like to live with in the UK, and could we get close to – or improve on – its official 282 mile WLTP electric driving range?
We’ve already driven the Kia e-Niro on its launch in Korea, but that was just for one day. So what’s it like to live with for a week in the UK, when it had to cope with two long journeys, from Manchester to Malvern and back, and from Manchester to the Lake District and back? Could these journeys be completed without recharging? And what driving range did we get?
You can already buy the Kia Niro Hybrid, and the Niro Plug-in Hybrid. But now the fully electric e-Niro is available with the 64 kWh ‘long range’ lithium-ion polymer battery pack that has already appeared in the Hyundai Kona Electric.
The Niro has a practical ‘compact crossover’ body style – it’s a larger car than the Kona, with good space for rear seat passengers, and a decent-sized boot. The boot capacity (451 litres) is actually larger than that of the Niro Hybrid (382 litres) and the Plug-in Hybrid (324 litres) because the battery is mounted under the floor in the pure electric model.
Internally, the dashboard is the normal sensible and clear Kia approach. However watch out for an ‘EV’ button, providing EV information, that has been sneaked into the heating and ventilation area of the centre console. And be aware that you can’t connect a phone via Bluetooth while the vehicle is moving, which can be a pain when you’re stuck on a motorway.
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The basics of the Kia e-Niro remained unchanged from the drive in Korea; like any electric car, the e-Niro delivers a very refined and quiet driving experience, and there’s strong linear acceleration. With no manual gears or clutch, it’s also very easy to drive.
Our test of the Kia e-Niro in Korea involved a trip from Kia HQ in Seoul to the North Korean border and back. Our drive of the car in the UK involved a trip from Manchester to Malvern and back. This would have been a challenge in an EV in any event, but predictably, once again drivers managed to crash on a straight stretch of motorway with the result that the M6/M5 to the West of Birmingham was closed. This meant a big detour along the M6 toll and around the M42 – using up valuable electric range. The total distance covered to Malvern and back was 262 miles, and at the end of the trip the display was showing 55 miles of range remaining. This gives a total range of 317 miles. Most of the journey was at speeds of between 60 and 65mph. This is a very impressive result.
The e-Niro also made a trip from Manchester to the Lake District and back – again on one charge, even though speeds on the motorway were higher, at around 70mph – showing that EVs such as the e-Niro can venture beyond city limits.
All motorway driving was done in Eco mode. There’s even an Eco+ mode, accessible by holding down the drive mode button. ‘Normal’ drive mode is, predictably, perfectly fine for ‘normal’ driving. But if you select ‘Sport’ mode, then the e-Niro family crossover turns into a hot hatch. Like the Kona Electric, the e-Niro is front-wheel drive, and if you’re enthusiastic with the throttle, then the generous levels of torque (395 Nm) can overpower the limits of grip of the front tyres, especially on wet roads.
There’s no gear selector for the automatic transmission – just buttons for Drive, Reverse and Park. But you can adjust the level of brake regeneration using steering-wheel mounted paddles – which is a helpful substitute for the ability to change gear, especially on twisty, hilly roads.
Although the e-Niro is a relatively high vehicle, because the (457kg) battery is located under the floor, there’s a low centre of gravity, which assists the handling. We’re not saying that the e-Niro has engaging, entertaining handling, but there’s less roll through corners due to the low battery position. The e-Niro weighs 1,812 kg in total.
Another benefit of the e-Niro is that the steering wheel has adjustment for height and reach, unlike the Nissan LEAF, so most people should be able to get a comfortable driving position.
One issue that often comes to light on first drives of cars in the UK after international launches is the ride quality. Roads in the UK – and this is definitely the case in South Manchester – tend to be full of pot holes, and the e-Niro’s ride could certainly be more cossetting over such surfaces. However the ride quality on smooth motorways is fine.
The Kia e-Niro has zero tailpipe emissions and a combined electric driving range of 282 miles based on the new, more realistic, WLTP test. The city element of the WLTP test produces an impressive range figure of 382 miles. The Hyundai Kona Electric combined WLTP range is 279 miles – so the e-Niro has the edge by three miles.
As per the above, in terms of the e-Niro’s real-world range, on the launch event in Korea our drive – at an average of around 55mph – suggested a projected range of 325.5 miles – beating the (revised) official WLTP combined figure.
Our drive in the UK – at a slightly higher average speed of around 60mph – gave a projected range of 317 miles. So with careful driving, over 300 miles of electric range is possible.
The e-Niro has a battery heating system which is designed to insulate and warm up the battery while the vehicle is plugged in, minimising the adverse effects of cold temperatures.
And the e-Niro has a lower drag co-efficient (0.29 Cd) than the Niro Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid models (0.30 Cd).
Charging the e-Niro from 0-100% using a 7kW home charge point will take just under 10 hours (so this can be done overnight). A charge from 0% – 80% using a rapid (50kW) DC public charge point takes 1 hour 15 minutes. This could be done in 54 minutes using a 100kW charger.
Our Kia e-Niro 64 kWh ‘First Edition’ test car – the only spec of e-Niro available – is priced at £32,995 after deduction of the £3,500 UK government plug-in car grant. In comparison, the Hyundai Kona Electric Premium SE spec, available just with the 64kWh battery, costs £32,795 after the £3,500 grant. So the e-Niro costs just £200 more than the Kona.
Our test car was well-equipped, with items such as heated seats and heated steering wheel – key features to try and maximise the electric driving range by reducing the use of the heating when it’s cold. You can also select heating for just the driver’s side of the interior.
The Kona Electric, which shares the same powertrain as the e-Niro, has been rated very highly by us, so is there any benefit of the e-Niro over the Kona? The answer is yes, as it has more space. The e-Niro is 4,375mm long, versus 4,180mm for the Kona, so there’s 195mm of extra length. The e-Niro has 451 litres of boot space, compared to 334 litres for the Kona Electric, so that’s an extra 117 litres. With the rear seats down, the e-Niro has 1,405 v 1,116 litres – an extra 289 litres. However we did struggle to fit a mountain bike in the back of the e-Niro, so this isn’t a huge car.
One other point to note is that the Kona Electric is available with two battery sizes: a 64 kWh battery or a 39kWh battery, whereas in the UK the e-Niro is available only with the ‘long-range’ 64 kWh battery (although the 39kWh battery is available in Europe).
The e-Niro has a Benefit in Kind tax rate of 16% in 2019/20. Along with other EVs, the BIK is then due to reduce to 2% in 2020/21. The e-Niro also has a 7-year / 100,000 mile warranty.
The Kia Niro is also available as a Hybrid and a Plug-in Hybrid.
We’ve now proven – twice – that you can achieve over 300 miles of electric driving range from the Kia e-Niro. It also has a practical body style, and at just under £33,000 after the recently revised (ie. reduced) UK government plug-in car grant, it’s relatively affordable.
We’ve already rated the Hyundai Kona Electric very highly; whether you prefer the design of the Kona or the Niro is a subjective thing, but the e-Niro offers similar benefits to the Kona, but with more space. Therefore, for addressing many of the common objections to EVs (such as insufficient driving range, high price, impractical body styles etc), and for leap-frogging past the likes of the Nissan LEAF in terms of driving range, the Kia e-Niro maintains its initial Green Car Guide rating of 10 out of 10. Car buyers typically say they would want an EV with a driving range of at least 300 miles before they would buy one, so now there’s no excuse.
Is there any way to improve the e-Niro? As with the Kona Electric, an all-wheel drive option would deliver all that torque to wet roads more effectively than front-wheel drive. Perhaps the styling could also be a bit more exciting (the grey colour of the press cars doesn’t help). But the biggest challenge at the time of writing is getting hold of one. We’re aware of many people that want a Kia e-Niro but there’s a wait of many, many months. So Kia has produced a hit in the form of the car, it just needs to ramp up production to satisfy demand.