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View all Kia e-Niro reviews
Parkers overall rating: 4.6 out of 5 4.6
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Game-changing SUV combines long EV range with family-friendly practicality

Kia e-Niro SUV (19 on) - rated 4.6 out of 5
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PROS

  • Fantastic to drive
  • Impressive spec list
  • A trim for everyone
  • Cheap to run and lease

CONS

  • More expensive than before
  • Sluggish automatic gearbox
  • Relatively small boot
  • Lacks rear headroom

PROS

  • Fantastic to drive
  • Impressive spec list
  • A trim for everyone
  • Cheap to run and lease

CONS

  • More expensive than before
  • Sluggish automatic gearbox
  • Relatively small boot
  • Lacks rear headroom

Verdict

The Kia e-Niro SUV is a crucial car for the Korean company, because right now it's probably the most complete electric car for the money. Given its combination of range and equipment, and that it's far cheaper than a Tesla Model X, Audi E-Tron or Jaguar I-Pace, it's seriously impressive. Other, more direct rivals than the £60k+ cars mentioned before include the Nissan Leaf and Volkswagen e-Golf.

It has a battery range that's knocking on the door of 300 miles – and has enough driver-assistance kit to make it feel genuinely of the moment. Its closest rival comes from within the Hyundai-Kia group, in the slightly smaller Kona Electric, but unlike that model, Kia is staying premium and only offering the larger-capacity 64kWh battery rather than a choice of two you get with the Kona.

It's available in a single trim level, called First Edition, and that goes on sale in the UK in April 2019 costing from £32,995 once the Government’s newly revised £3,500 Plug-in Car Grant has been applied. The only optional extra is your choice of paint.

Our first chance to sample the e-Niro was in Kia’s home city of Seoul, Korea, but these were no Asian market editions – our test vehicles were right-hand drive and in full UK specification, and will eventually make their way over on a car-carrying ship to join the company’s demonstration fleet.

Kia Niro: specs and dimensions

  • Length: 4,375mm
  • Width: 1,805mm (without door mirrors)
  • Height: 1,570mm
  • Weight: 1,812kg
  • Battery: 150kW lithium-ion
  • Motor: 64kWh electric AC
  • Range: claimed real world 282 miles
  • Performance: 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds, 104mph top speed

How does the Kia e-Niro drive?

Very well, actually – its ride is a touch firm on the roads we tried in and around Seoul, but in all other respects we came way impressed. The 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds doesn’t sound that exciting in a world where Teslas regularly dip under 4.0 secomds, but on the road it’s the instantaneous and relentless shove that makes it a great companion in traffic.

It’s far easier to dart in and out of traffic as there’s absolutely no lag in the drivetrain – something that’s all but impossible to achieve using a conventional engine-and-gearbox combination.

And crucially, it feels fast thanks to the pin-sharp acceleration. Applying full throttle is a joy, the car seeming to squat low over its rear wheels (where the heavy batteries live) and take off like a rocket.

At lower speeds you can also hear the generator doing its work – both inside and outside the car – and the mechanical whine is loud enough to warn pedestrians in close proximity in car parks and the like. It’s an unusual sound, but not unpleasant, and didn’t take much getting used to.

The adaptive brake energy recovery system is a well-resolved setup, too. There are paddles behind the steering wheel like a conventional automatic car, but instead of changing gears they adjust how much the car slows down when you lift off the accelerator, and as a consequence how much energy the car can recuperate while slowing down.

In its most aggressive Level 3 setting it’s possible to drive the e-Niro almost exclusively using the throttle pedal, which makes it great for traffic jams. However, you’ll want to dial it back on the motorway, for example, where you may not want to slow down quite so much every time you lift off.

What's the Kia e-Niro like on the motorway?

Once we’d cleared the traffic in Seoul city centre we headed out onto the highway and had our first chance to sample the suite of driver-assistance features you get as standard. Kia, and parent company Hyundai, have made huge advances in this technology over recent years and our experience driving the e-Niro in Korea highlighted this perfectly.

The adaptive cruise control works brilliantly, smoothly maintaining distance to the vehicle in front without ever braking too sharply. It only faltered once for a fraction of a second when a van in front slowed on a sliproad after leaving the motorway – we’d have simply maintained speed and carried on, whereas the Kia hit the brakes.

However, that’s an unusual issue that we weren’t able to replicate. We did find the active lane-keeping system impressive, though, with very subtle intervention and an aspiration to keep us planted in the middle of our lane. The best of these systems (Subaru and Mercedes-Benz to name a few) are almost imperceptible when driving normally, and the Kia is one such setup.

What’s the Kia e-Niro like inside?

Kia e-Niro interior

There’s a feeling of quality to the cabin, which nicely fitting trim and a solidity to its switchgear and materials. We were surprised to find at this price point there was no reach adjustment for the steering wheel, but this was mitigated by the comfortable and electrically adjustable front seats so we didn’t struggle to find a decent driving position.

In the back there’s ample headroom and kneeroom for six-foot-tall adults behind each front seat, though a fifth would be a bit of a squeeze. A folding armrest features two cupholders.

Sadly, since these cars are meant for UK roads, there was no Korean sat-nav mapping built into the multimedia system so we couldn’t test that aspect. However, the screen itself seemed clear and easy to read, with nice large fonts and icons in its menus.

It also seemed to possess enough processing power to switch instantly between features, though often this falls down when using mapping, so we’ll have to withhold judgement on that aspect.

The big question: Hyundai Kona or Kia e-Niro?

While we don’t have PCP pricing information for the e-Niro at time of writing because its predicted residual values have yet to be set, its list price of £32,995 means it’s slightly more expensive outright than the Kona, and we’re expecting a finance offering similar to the Hyundai in APR and percentage of deposit.

However, it’s also a larger vehicle, so a small price hike isn’t the end of the world – it’ll come down to user requirements. Do you need the extra space in the back and larger boot?

The Kia e-Niro on PCP car finance

UK specific PCP figures released in March 2019 show that the monthly cost to purchase a Kia e-Niro are expensive. On a typical three-year deal, laying out £3,000 deposit on 10,000 miles a year come in at £645 per month. On a similar deal, the PHEV version is £472, and the top-spec self-charging hybrid is £378. To put that into perspective, another £110 per month will get you into a Jaguar I-Pace.

You're going to have to cover a lot of EV miles to make that pay…

What will the Kia e-Niro cost to run?

If you’ve managed to swerve the high monthly costs mentioned above, then you can expect pretty low day-to-day costs. Charging won’t be too expensive at home due to the relatively long time it takes to achieve, while insurance should be low too given the level of safety kit available.

Furthermore, you can expect Kia’s seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty for added peace of mind.

The Parkers VerdictShould you buy a Kia e-Niro?

We were impressed with the e-Niro. It’s an electric vehicle that’ll work for most drivers’ lifestyles, and should prove seriously cheap to run as long as you don’t get tied into a relatively expensive PCP deal.

It’ll appeal especially to fleet managers and business drivers for the low benefit-in-kind taxation over the next three years, as while nearly all other types of car are going to be penalised, the e-Niro’s 0g/km CO2 output keeps things reasonable.

Kia e-Niro rear view

Keep an eye out for the full Kia e-Niro SUV review coming soon once we've driven it in the UK

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