The Kia e-Niro does what few of the current crop of electric vehicles can manage. It offers a complete EV (electric vehicle) experience for the people. While Tesla may still be pushing the boundaries of EVs, its cars come with a price tag which puts them out of reach of the many.
Meanwhile offerings such as the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe occupy the opposite end of the market, providing an entry-level proposition to those who want to take their first step in the all-electric future – they are small however, and with less range per charge, limiting their appeal.
The e-Niro falls into an affordable bracket and while it’s not 'cheap', you do get plenty of bang for your buck here, and plenty of tech.
It’s built on the same platform as Kia’s standard, mid-size SUV Niro, but the blue accents around the bodywork highlight that this in an all-electric offering. Plug in, charge up, and off you go.
EV in disguise
The first thing we noticed about the Kia e-Niro is the fact it doesn’t look like a hybrid or electric car. The quirky styling of the Toyota Prius, BMW i3, Tesla Model S and co. are a jarring presence on our roads, but the e-Niro could easily glide past you and you’d never know it was quietly saving the planet.
Of course, if you were listening, you’d notice the e-Niro doesn’t produce any engine noise thanks to the presence of its electric motor, rather than a traditional combustion engine. Visually your clues are the subtle blue highlights on the front and rear, signaling – to the observant passers-by at least – you are doing your bit to help the environment.
While the lack of eye-catching design may disappoint some, it’s not a negative point as it has allowed Kia to focus on what’s actually important. Making a good EV.
Inside, the cabin is spacious, comfortably accommodating four adults on long journeys, and you can happily pop three kids in the back seats. There’s plenty of storage too, with deep door pockets, a cubbyhole built into the central armrest between the front seats, and a sizable, 451L boot.
As this is an SUV, you get an elevated ride height, providing an enhanced view of the road, while overall the Kia e-Niro doesn’t feel all that much bigger than a standard family saloon.
Comfort features such as climate control, heated seats and a heated steering wheel are all included as standard too, making the e-Niro an enjoyable place to be.
Hit the road and you’ll be surprised at just how light and agile the e-Niro feels as you flick it through corners and accelerate on straights. There is a slight bit of lag when you initially push the accelerator to the floor, but the electric powertrain catches up quickly and delivers a welcome surge of force to get you moving.
Charge me up
Kia claims you can get 282 miles from a single charge with 'mixed use', which you'll be unlikely to hit, but we managed around 260 miles which is still a respectable performance.
One of the nice things about electric vehicles is being able to top them up at home, and the Kia e-Niro comes with a home adaptor which lets you plug directly into your standard household socket – although you're looking at 29 hours plus to charge from 0-100%.
That's a long while to wait for your car to recharge, but leave it overnight and the e-Niro should regain around 20%, which works out at roughly 50 miles, and you're not going to be pulling up outside your house on 0%.
It's easy to charge, and there are three lights on top of the dash (and visible from outside the car) providing you with a rough, quick-glance indication of the current charge level of the car.
If you have a dedicated car charger installed at your home you’ll be able to reduce this charge time, and if you find a fast public charger you could see top-up times tumble to around an hour (with a 100W connection).
It’s the public chargers – or lack of – which is still one of the biggest stumbling blocks for electric vehicles. It’s hugely dependent on your location, with busy, built up areas usually offering a high number of charging points, but they're much harder to come across the further out you go.
This means there’s still a certain amount of range anxiety with the e-Niro, and long trips need some planning to ensure there are suitable chargers en route.
Chargers are only going to become more abundant in the coming years, but it’s something you need to consider if you’re thinking of purchasing the Kia e-Niro today.
The tech we want
The best part of the Kia e-Niro is the level of technology that's included in the price. There’s a sizable touchscreen display in the center console, with an easy to use and responsive interface.
The EV page gives you various stats regarding the battery in the car, including current charge level, estimated recharge times, and the location of the nearest public charging point if you were to get caught short when out and about.
Manufacturer-provided satellite navigation can be hit and miss, but the system Kia uses is one of the better ones, although it’s still no match for Google Maps when it comes to usability and functionality.
The good news here is you can take advantage of Google's (or Apple's) mapping service in the e-Niro, as the car supports both Android Auto and Apple Carplay. This allows you to connect your smartphone via the USB port at the base of the center console, and then use the mapping apps along with music applications such as Spotify on the e-Niro’s touchscreen display.
It works well, and you can use the on-wheel controls to manipulate music playback from your phone and trigger your handset’s smart assistant (Siri or Google Assistant) for voice commands – which also work well.
Another nice addition is the wireless charging pad just above the USB port, allowing you to top up a compatible smartphone without having to plug it in.
Add to that the easy to use cruise control and adaptive lane assist – which gently nudges you back to the middle of your lane if it detects you getting a little too close to the edge – making driving the e-Niro even easier. And yes, there’s a reversing camera too, so it’s even easy to park.
The Kia e-Niro is surprisingly well-equipped, it has got a range which should be able to deal with most modest commutes and school runs, and it has got plenty of space for people and their stuff. It may not dazzle with design, or blow you away with speed, but it has got plenty to give at a price which is more attainable.
- John McCann is getting behind the wheel to give you an alternative look at the wealth of cars – and the tech inside them – available today. From super-fast sports cars to tech-packed hatchbacks, he'll take you through a range of makes, models, power and price tags in his regular TR Drives column.