The new e-Niro is Kia’s second full electric vehicle, and follows on from the Soul EV that had an official range of just 132 miles.
On the road
On the road
The new e-Niro is Kia’s second full electric vehicle, and follows on from the Soul EV that had an official range of just 132 miles. The e-Niro takes that figure and runs (a long way) with it, coming into the market with an official 282-mile range that equates to a comfortable 250 in the real world.
That’s a big step over the 200-ish official figures that were seen as major progress even a year ago, and brings electric vehicles into range for a significantly larger population of drivers.
1. The lane-keep assist function is horribly intrusive and quickly finds itself disengaged. It could do with the ability to geofence so it only operates on major roads.
2. It is a shame the charging point is mounted at the front of the car, which means you have to got nose-first into spaces rather than the text-book way of reversing in.
3. The e-Niro has been styled to make is subtly different to the other versions, if you're looking.
The bad news, which we’ll get out of the way straight away, is that availability of battery components is something of an issue across the industry, not just for Kia, and does mean lengthy waits. Kia, and its sister brand Hyundai with its Kona EV model, are already quoting lead times well into 2020, and are at the point of taking expressions of interest rather than actual orders for the car. Things should start to clear as we move into next year, but for the short-to-medium term, demand is hugely outstripping supply.
So will your e-Niro be worth the wait?
The full electric version has been styled to look slightly different from its hybrid and plug-in hybrid siblings, including a unique grille that houses the charging port, redesigned air intakes and LED daytime running lights, revised rear bumper and blue trim highlights, as well as its own 17-inch diamond-cut two-tone alloy wheels. The cabin gets a different design, too, with the main point being the new centre console that is opened up to provide more stowage space thanks to a shift-by-wire rotating dial for selecting drive functions, rather than the previous gearlever.
The infotainment has been predictably updated with electric vehicle-specific features such as the navigation locating charge points, as well as showing trip and lifetime CO2 reductions versus driving an equivalent petrol car. It also allows the driver to set a departure time and climate control temperature, so the car heats or cools the cabin accordingly while still plugged in to preserve range.
At present, the e-Niro is only available in the launch First Edition specification, and Kia is still debating exactly how to proceed when supplies start to free up next year. There may be more than one trim option at that point, but for now the First Edition keeps things simple with a pretty comprehensive specification that includes the collision assist, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control safety systems, wireless phone charger, keyless entry, seven airbags, heated steering wheel, front parking sensors and eight-way powered driver’s seat.
Unfortunately, some of the safety systems aren’t particularly pleasant to use, with the adaptive cruise control way too conservative in terms of the distance it will follow behind other cars, while the lane-keep assist is extremely intrusive, leading to a feeling of the driver fighting the car. It’s also too far through the menus to easily switch on and off, so you tend not to re-engage the system on motorways for example, where it is more useful.
On the inside, the e-Niro is more practical than most electric cars, with the 451-litre boot comparing with 405 litres for a Nissan Leaf and just 341 for a VW Golf. It also compares well with the Niro PHEV, which has to package both engine and batteries, leading to a 324-litre boot space. The regular hybrid has only 382 litres.
Within that space, the e-Niro has handy under-floor storage to stash the charge cables out of the way, particularly useful if they’re a bit damp.
The Kia also offers plenty of space for four adults, although the rear seat is set at a slightly odd angle that leaves passengers pointing a touch upwards with their knees in the air. Up front, the seats could also be a little softer and more welcoming – it feels a little like you’re sitting on them rather than in them.
Kia says the Niro was designed with the various powertrains in mind from the start, rather than adapting existing models for electric power, and claims that the ride and handling in particular was readily adaptable to the all-electric powertrain and its increased weight. The e-Niro is more than 200kg or nearly 15% heavier than the plug-in Niro, but still rides and handles with more comfort and dignity than some other EVs that struggle to manage the added weight.
It’s also as punchy as you’d expect from an electric vehicle, enjoying that immediate initial surge of acceleration while an internal combustion engine would still be getting going. The 150kW drivetrain is the equivalent of 201hp, giving the car a 0-62mph acceleration time of 7.5 seconds, quicker than the Hyundai, Nissan or Volkswagen rivals.
The Drive Mode Select system allows the user to choose between Normal, Eco and Sport modes, slightly altering the steering and powertrain. Eco is useful for journeys where maximising the battery range is more important than performance, softening the throttle response and limiting maximum torque, but Normal mode is good enough to the extent that you rarely need to use the sharper Sport setting.
The e-Niro is also fitted with a Coasting Guide Control system that, when the sat-nav is set, alerts the driver to the best time to ease off the throttle when coming towards a junction or roundabout to maximise regeneration. That regen level – energy recouped by the car under deceleration to replenish the battery – can be adjusted using the paddles.
As the first electric small SUV on the market, the e-Niro’s rivals come from either the lower-medium hatchback segment in the form of the VW e-Golf and our CCT100 Electric Car of the Year, the Nissan Leaf, or the Hyundai Kona EV small crossover.
It’s worth noting the tax issues around electric vehicles. Despite Benefit-in-Kind bands being something of a shambles thanks to the Government's lack of clarity, we’re now close to the point where they start to make real sense as company cars, with the BIK band dropping from the current tax year’s 16% banding to just 2% next year for all zero-emission cars. That means e-Niro monthly BIK payments for a 40% tax payer go from £194 this year to just £24 a month from next April. That's a heck of an incentive when the hybrid version will be up at £223 a month, and that’s on a £27,900 100g/km petrol-electric hybrid.
The Niro’s taller stature and comprehensive specification are among the reasons it costs more than any of its rivals, apart from the Kona electric in its even-better-specced Premium SE trim level. At 32.9%, the electric version suffers weaker residuals than the 40.6% of the PHEV or 44.1% of the regular hybrid Niro, but it does just about out-point its electric rivals, with all covered by 2.0 percentage points. And EV residuals are rising.
On overall running costs, the extra price and lower RV of the e-Niro makes the plug-in or regular hybrid versions look better whole-life cost value. But it’s completely down to journey patterns. Do enough miles to make the fuel saving really count, but not so many that the battery range becomes an operational issue, and there will be genuine savings for driver and company. But if not, then other powertrains, be they PHEV, hybrid, petrol or diesel, will come into play. Understanding how a car is used is vital, and in the right situations there is nothing that will better suit a driver than the e-Niro thanks to its size, space, equipment and range. It’s just a shame that there’s such a big queue to get hold of one.
The electric Niro completes a trio of alternatively fuelled versions of Kia’s crossover, joining the regular hybrid
that arrived in summer 2016 and the plug-in hybrid launched in late 2017.
Based on the Niro concept car from the 2013 Frankfurt motor show, the Niro range is the first Kia model to feature all three types of electric powertrain, a feat achieved only once before in the UK, by Hyundai with the Ioniq.
The ‘self-charging’ hybrid costs between £23,845 and £28,045, with the plug-in hybrid’s single trim level costing £31,195, a £3150 step up to go from between 86-100g/km depending on spec level to the 29g/km model capable of an official 30 miles between charges.
Going from Niro PHEV (pictured) to full electric Niro is a rise of £5300 in list price, although the electric car is eligible for the Government’s £3500 plug-in car grant, which brings the cost within reasonable levels.
Kia’s electric portfolio also includes PHEV versions of the Optima saloon and estate, while the replacement for the Soul model – Kia’s first EV – will only come in pure electric form when it comes late this year, using the same drivetrain as the e-Niro.
What they said
What They Said
"Niro self- charging and plug-in hybrids have already been immensely popular with fleet customers and e-Niro is building on that success with its 282-mile range. It is a viable company car for all but the very highest-mileage drivers."
"Price is now at a level that puts the car into the mainstream, and with EV residual values strengthening, the whole-life cost proposition is becoming increasingly attractive. BIK is favourable and will become even more advantageous with upcoming threshold changes. None of this comes at the expense of standard spec either."
John Hargreaves, head of fleet and remarketing, Kia Motors UK
Need to know
Three things we like...
There's plenty of stowage upfront in the Ev's revamped cabin
Adjustable regeneration using the paddles is a useful feature
The charging cables tuck away handily under the boot floor
...And one we don't
Kia suffer an issue every EV does - plugging in or unplugging in the rain is not fun at all
The e-Niro has that nice EV punch of acceleration immediately from rest and is otherwise unremarkable to drive, which is itself an achievement for an EV.
Along with the Hyundai Kona EV and Tesla models, the e-Niro offers a battery range that banishes anxiety for most situations.
Excellent boot space, good interior storage and decent rear space, although the back seats feel like they are at a slightly odd angle.
One single well-equipped trim level offers decent kit including a reasonable level of safety equipment, although some premium features aren't available.
A few slight changes from the other Niro models give the car some individuality, but it's not the most striking of styling work.
Comfort and refinement 9/10
The electric Niro rides better than some EVs and is predictably quiet on the move.refinement is pretty good.
Good space and reasonable quality, although there is a mixture of decent and less-good plastics. The front seats also feel a touch thin.
The system isn't the most advanced to look at, but delivers in terms of usability.
Whole life costs 8/10
The electric Niro has a lower RV and much higher whole-life cost than the PHEV or hybrid versions of the car. However, the costs start to work in its favour the greater the mileage you can cover.
CCT opinion 8/10
The Niro goes a long way to make range anxiety a thing of the past.
The e-Niro boosts the logical and financial case for EVs and is a practical and well-equipped car to live with. It's just a shame about the long wait to get hold of one.