Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Go for entry-level '2' trim and your e-Niro will have a 134bhp electric motor coupled to a 39kWh battery pack. We haven’t tried this yet, but the same motor and battery combo is used in the Hyundai Ioniq Electric, where is delivers respectable performance. In the e-Niro, 0-62mph takes 9.5sec.
Opt for '3' or '4+' trim and you'll get a much larger 64kWh battery with a 201bhp electric motor. In our tests, this version managed 0-60mph in 6.9sec. Okay, that’s not Tesla Model 3 quick, but the e-Niro feels faster than its numbers suggest, such is the eagerness of its acceleration, which is on tap the moment you put your foot down. There’s no waiting for the performance to build; it’s all there right from the off. In fact, if the road is wet, the e-Niro relies quite heavily on its traction control system to prevent its front wheels from spinning up.
When it comes to electric cars, though, performance isn’t just about how quickly you can get up to speed – it’s about how far you can travel between charges. Officially, the 39kWh e-Niro can manage 180 miles and the 64kWh 282 miles, and our Real Range test showed that 253 miles of driving is easily possible in the latter. That's hugely impressive because it matches what the much pricier Jaguar I-Pace will do on a single charge, betters a Model 3 and is beaten only by the Hyundai Kona Electric. For context, a Renault Zoe managed 196 miles.
Suspension and ride comfort
Don’t expect to feel as if you’re floating along on a magic carpet, but the e-Niro's ride is up there with the 40kWh Nissan Leaf and Peugeot e-208's, and about as comfortable as it gets for an electric car in this price bracket.
Yes, you’re made aware of harsher bumps, such as potholes or nasty broken patches of asphalt, as they pass beneath the car, but even these don't cause a serious upset like they do in a BMW i3. And the e-Niro doesn’t jostle you about as much as the Hyundai Kona Electric or the more fidget-prone Kia Soul EV, either.
Electric cars don’t usually corner as sweetly as their petrol and diesel counterparts because of all those heavy batteries. This holds true with the e-Niro – a Seat Ateca is a more agile family SUV, for example – but it still changes direction keenly enough and its body remains fairly upright in the process.
The steering doesn’t give you a particularly great connection with the front wheels, although it’s pleasantly weighted and precise, making it easy to place the car where you want it – both around town and on faster roads.
When you accelerate hard, particularly along an uneven road, the e-Niro’s steering wheel can feel like it's connected to the front wheels via an angry snake, pulling one way then the other in your hands. However, this phenomenon is less pronounced than it is in the rival Kona Electric.
Noise and vibration
Electric cars have a big advantage over petrol and diesel models in this area because there’s no noisy, rattly combustion engine under the bonnet. There’s just a muted electric motor whine as you accelerate up to speed and, at very low speeds, a curious synthesised hum to warn pedestrians of the e-Niro’s presence.
Even at 70mph it’s still impressively quiet inside the e-Niro, with less road and wind noise than in the Kona Electric or MG ZS EV. And the e-Niro’s brakes respond fairly consistently when you press the middle pedal, making it easier to shed speed smoothly. This isn't the case in a Renault.
You can even change the strength of the car’s regenerative braking using paddles behind the steering wheel. The higher the level, the more quickly you slow down when you lift your foot off the accelerator pedal.
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