New Kia e-Niro 2019 review

With a 282-mile range, the new Kia e-Niro is an affordable electric car that’s viable for the masses

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

With every passing month, the progress in technology makes electric vehicles an ever-more appealing prospect for the average motorist. The Kia e-Niro – alongside its Hyundai Kona Electric sister car – is among the first that fully make the grade. Here is a spacious five-door family car that offers the performance, range and charge times to make electric motoring viable to all but the highest mileage drivers, at a price that matches those of a high-spec petrol alternative.

This is the new Kia e-Niro. The Korean company hopes it will put to rest the doubts of electric car sceptics – namely price, performance and range – more convincingly than any car since parent company Hyundai launched the mechanically similar Kona Electric in 2018. 

However, while the pair are closely related in terms of platform and powertrain, the Kia wraps its clever tech in a more conventionally-styled and more practical package. The all-electric Niro looks very similar to its hybrid and plug-in hybrid stablemates, albeit with some subtle design changes.

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Look closely and you’ll notice the new 17-inch alloy wheels, fared-in grille and a sleeker front bumper. The back features revised trim to match that at the front, too, helping contribute to a more aerodynamically efficient shape.

Inside, it’s much the same as other Niro models. That is, there’s a functional but rather plain looking dashboard, a slick infotainment system and enough room for five. One of the few changes sits in the centre console: gone is the standard gear selector, with a rotary dial taking its place. This tweak opens up a little extra storage space, too. 

The 451-litre boot is a generous size (bigger than a Nissan Qashqai but some way down on a Peugeot 3008 or SEAT Ateca), and it has space beneath the floor to store charging cables.

For now, there’s only one trim level to choose from. The First Edition is very well equipped, featuring heated leather seats, a reversing camera, forward collision warning, lane keep assist, and a JBL stereo. Curiously, LED headlights aren’t available, however.

All very conventional so far, but it’s the powertrain that is of greatest interest. The e-Niro gets a 201bhp motor that drives the front wheels; like the 64kWh battery pack, the motor is shared with the Kona Electric. Unlike the Kona however, a 134bhp, 39kWh version won’t be coming to the UK.

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The motor’s output lifts the e-Niro’s performance well beyond those of the existing hybrid and plug-in Niros, and once the hefty shove of torque is taken into account, it feels much more sprightly than any family car this side of a hot hatch – especially around town. It’s enough to chirp the outside front wheel when accelerating hard out of a tight corner or a junction.

There’s a pair of paddles behind the steering wheel to control the strength of brake regeneration. While it’s not quite possible to drive the e-Niro with one pedal as you can in a Nissan Leaf, the three levels (four if you include the ability to coast) allow you to make the most of the car’s charge. 

And that brings us on to the e-Niro’s range. Kia states that, on the tougher WLTP test procedure, the crossover will be able to cover 282 miles on a single charge. In urban driving, the official figure climbs higher. In other words, the overwhelming majority of drivers will only need to top up their e-Niro once a week – if that.

Of course, the process of charging still isn’t as simple as a two-minute refill in a petrol car, but hook the e-Niro up to a 100kW fast charger and 54 minutes later you’ll have topped up the batteries from zero to 80 per cent. That’s enough for between 226 and almost 300 miles depending how you use it. 

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And then there’s the price. At £32,995 after the £3,500 government grant has been taken into account, the e-Niro costs only a grand or so more to buy than a top spec Qashqai, and undercuts the 3008 by more than £3,000 in its highest-grade GT BlueHDi 180 trim. The Peugeot answers back with a more attractive design, but the Kia all but matches it for kit yet comfortably beats it in terms of performance and running costs – especially if you can charge at home on an off-peak energy tariff. 

So are there any downsides? Well, sprightly performance aside, those looking for a genuinely entertaining driving experience won’t find much to excite them. While the heavy battery gives the e-Niro a low centre of gravity, the fairly early tend towards understeer kills off the fun. It’s not exactly a big gripe in what is primarily a sensible family crossover, though.


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