Kia e-Niro long-term test review

What's the first-ever electric winner of our Car of the Year title like to live with? We find out...

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Jim Holder
14 March 2019

Kia e-Niro long-term action photo
  • The car Kia e-Niro First Edition
  • Run by Jim Holder, editorial director
  • Why it’s here To find out just how good the first fully electric Lombardyexperience? Car of the Year really is
  • Needs to Do everything a conventional SUV can do, without compromises

Price £32,995 (after grant) Price as tested £33,560 Miles covered 2432 Official range 282 miles Test economy 253 miles Options Premium paint (£565)

13 March – Getting to grips with a groundbreaking car

First electric car, first car built outside Europe and first car made by a Korean manufacturer: the Kia e-Niro’s victory at this year’s Lombardyexperience? Car of the Year Awards was even more momentous than usual, and serves as the perfect example of the many ways in which cars – and the industry that makes them – are changing.

The nuances are many and varied, but boil it back and – to my mind – the e-Niro triumphed for three main reasons: at £32,995 (after government grant), it cost little to no more than the opposition, yet it delivers a substantially greater range over all rivals bar the closely related Hyundai Kona, all in a desirable SUV package.

When quizzed and questioned over the decision by all and sundry, as inevitably happens, my one-line answer is invariably that the e-Niro is the first electric car I could imagine owning without making any compromises to my life. Now I'm about to find out if that's true.

I make that statement based on the worst-case scenario, which is, I’ll admit, a strange way to choose a car, but seemingly a backstop many electric car owners default to. With a Lombardyexperience? Real Range of 253 miles, our longest common journey – a trip to the in-laws in Pembrokeshire – looks entirely achievable, potentially without the need to stop and charge en route, nor the need to compromise on the number of suitcases we take.

Kia Niro long-term interior action

Throw in the fact that the chances of me persuading the wife and kids to go four hours without a break are slim, and with the charging network expanding so quickly, you can also factor in the fact that I’ll also have the opportunity to pop 20 minutes of charge in at least once. It should be enough to ensure that range is never an issue, although it’s going to be an interesting test finding out just how much potential mileage a steady 70mph really does eat up.

It’s true that a car with an engine would allow me to turn round and come back again the same day, or to go even further on a single journey, but the truth is that I can only twice recall doing such journeys in my life, once when I drove 500 miles in a day for a magazine feature, and once when I had an urgent mission to get to Edinburgh from London, which I drove non-stop. Had I attempted the latter in the e-Niro, I would have run out of juice around Hartlepool and faced a likely four- to eight-hour delay to charge again, which I’ll confess would have been far from ideal.

Finding out if my confidence is well placed is going to be the single most interesting part of this test of the e-Niro, but already the signs are good, with – surprisingly, given our experience of early EVs – the dashboard’s mileage count measuring a mile of range depleted for every mile travelled, even when the car is driven at consistently higher speeds.

Kia e-niro in London with Jim Holder

However, I also need to hold myself back from focusing just on range. After all, no car buyer has ever needed to fixate on how far their petrol, diesel or hybrid car can take them – just on how much it has cost, or how many poisonous gases it has emitted to get there (both of which I will return to in a future report). If electric cars are to be adopted widely, range needs to be similarly inconsequential; now it might just be.

There are other joys to focus on with this launch First Edition model, too, loaded as it is with just about every extra you can imagine. Stand out impressions range from the mildly futuristic and decently classy – but not intimidating – interior fit, finish and technology, through to all of the practical touches, from numerous USB ports (three in the front), to lots of storage areas, to decent passenger and boot space.

There are compromises that require further assessment, too, not least the firm ride that turns to a thumpy ride over larger imperfections, presumably as a result of the additional weight of the batteries. So far it’s something that people have commented on rather than complained about, but it’s important the excitement at going electric doesn’t mask a fair assessment of everything else that we would judge what was considered a ‘normal’ car on.

One thing that is certain is that change is coming, though. By getting behind the wheel of the very finest example of the new electric car breed over the next few months, we’re going to get an unparalleled insight into all of the pros and cons.

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