The Kia e-Niro performs like a very normal SUV
Electric cars are becoming a more substantial part of our motoring future, and so they need to fit into our lives the way every other petrol or diesel does. They need to have more space, more practicality, more performance and quicker charges, not to mention substantially better ranges. No one wants to spend hours in a service station late into the evening, waiting for a car to charge and enviously staring at those filling up their tanks with petrol or diesel.
One such car is the new Kia e-Niro, the all-electric version of the hybrid Kia Niro that was launched in 2016, of which more than 11,000 have been sold in the UK. It promises almost all of the aforementioned qualities, and is wrapped up in a currently fashionable SUV body-style.
It’s an attractive car, there’s no denying that, and if you look closely you’ll notice the front grille, front bumper, 17-inch alloy wheels and rear bumper have all been changed from the standard hybrid Niro. It’s just a shame the choice of colours is rather uninspiring.
Underneath those looks, almost all of the electric technology is identical to that of the Hyundai Kona, the all-electric crossover from Kia’s sister company.
But where the Kona comes in two distinct range and performance flavours, the e-Niro can only be bought with the longer range, higher performing battery and electric motor combination.
As a result, the e-Niro performs like a very normal SUV. Drive with some care and you should be able to manage 282 miles on a single charge – and because electric motors can deliver all of their power immediately it actually feels quite quick.
While the e-Niro’s 104mph top speed is nothing to write home about, 0 to 60mph takes 7.5 seconds. That’s really impressive for a seemingly normal SUV, and four seconds faster than the hybrid Niro.
Inside has a traditional look and feel unlike some EVs
Will the e-Niro actually manage 282 miles on a full charge? Well, electric cars haven’t always had the best reputation for delivering on their figures, but Kia has taken a number of steps in the hope of building a car that doesn’t over-promise and under-deliver, like a system that pre-heats the batteries to the perfect temperature for when the weather turns cold and frightful.
Speaking of batteries and charging, the e-Niro can be topped up at charging stations, as well as at home from a proper charging point or a standard household plug.
From a public charging point it’s possible to get the batteries to 80 per cent in 54 minutes, and at home it can take up to 29 hours to reach a full charge from a regular three-pin socket.
However, if you’re buying an EV, chances are you’ll buy a proper charging point too, and won’t rely on a plug that’s better suited to powering a toaster.
How does it drive? As mentioned, the performance on offer is beyond most other normal petrol or diesel SUVs, and that’s actually quite entertaining.
Plus there’s the silence an electric car brings, a comfortable, serene quality that makes sitting in traffic a little less taxing.
The Kia e-Niro boasts a fashionable SUV bodystyle LOOKING THE PART: The Kia e-Niro boasts a fashion
THE e-Niro is comfortable too, soaking up most bumps and uneven surfaces with ease, although the steering is perhaps a little light.
That being said, you’re able to change how the car behaves with a drive mode switch on the centre console.
The three modes, Eco, Normal and Sport, make the steering a little heavier or lighter and give the electric motor an added dose of response.
As with any car though, if you’re driving for economy and trying to eke out those last few miles to avoid an unfamiliar charging point, it’s best to focus on driving smoothly; a good driver in Sport mode will still be able to out-drive someone in Eco mode with a heavy right foot.
Jump inside and you’ll notice the cabin design isn’t anything spectacular, but it feels very well built, very logically organised and quite spacious.
Where the interiors of some EVs can feel a bit mysterious to the electric car newcomer, anyone with a driving licence will feel entirely at home in the e-Niro.
Inside, there’s little changed from the hybrid Niro. There are a few exceptions, like the gear selector that now takes the form of a rotary switch rather than an actual lever.
The eight-inch central touchscreen is home to a number of new features too, with a nearby charging point locator and a menu that shows what emissions your car has saved compared to a similarly-sized petrol car.
There’s plenty of technology and safety kit as standard, as Kia is offering just one trim level from launch.
The e-Niro First Edition will include a navigation system, reversing camera, DAB radio, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, air conditioning and creature comforts like heated seats.
On the safety side you’ll find adaptive cruise control, automatic lights, a system that’ll keep you in your lane on the motorway and an automatic emergency braking system too.
Prices start at £32,995 after a £3,500 government grant for buying a full EV, and while that’s a lot of money for any SUV it’s very much in the range you’d expect for an electric car at the moment.
Kia has come a long way over the last decade, and the e-Niro is testament to that.
It feels quite quick and more fun than the hybrid Niro and offers a more useful, spacious and buyer-friendly proposition than so many other EVs we’ve been presented with over the last few years.
The latest generation of EVs are starting to feel more and more like regular cars – and that is a very good thing indeed.