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 Kia 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 it delivers respectable performance. In the e-Niro, 0-62mph is quoted as 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, that managed 0-60mph in 6.5sec. Okay, that’s not Tesla Model 3 quick, but the e-Niro is much off the blocks than the Mazda MX-30 or Peugeot e-2008. If the road is wet, such is the eagerness of its acceleration, which is on tap the moment you put your foot down, the e-Niro relies quite heavily on its traction control system to prevent its front wheels from spinning up.
Of course, when it comes to electric cars, performance isn’t just about how quickly you can get up to speed – it’s also about how far you can travel between charges. Officially, the 39kWh e-Niro can manage 180 miles and the 64kWh 282 miles; our Real Range test showed that 253 miles of driving is easily possible in the latter. That's hugely impressive because it matches how far the much pricier Jaguar I-Pace will go on a single charge, betters the Model 3 and Renault Zoe, and is beaten only by the Hyundai Kona Electric.
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 about as comfortable as it gets for an electric car in this price bracket.
It is far more controlled and settled over undulations than the ever-agitated BMW i3 or even closely related cars like the Kona Electric and Kia Soul EV. True, it has a slightly firmer edge over deeper potholes or heavily ruptured asphalt than the 40kWh Nissan Leaf and Peugeot e-2008, so they're worth considering if pure softness is your thing, but keep in mind those cars are more prone to side-to-side sway at times.
Electric cars don’t usually corner as sweetly as their petrol and diesel counterparts because of the heavy battery lurking on board. This holds true with the e-Niro – a Seat Ateca is a more agile family SUV, for example – but it still changes direction more keenly than many rivals, including the smaller Zoe, and its body remains more upright through tighter turns than an e-2008's. It steers nicely, too; the steering is pleasantly weighted and precise, making the e-Niro easy to place around town and on faster roads.
They only drawback is to do with the fact that there's an awful lot of shove going through the front wheels when you accelerate hard. Particularly along uneven roads, this means the e-Niro’s steering wheel can feel like it's connected to the front wheels via an angry snake as the car jinks one way then the other as the tyres struggle for traction. 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. In the e-Niro you just hear a muted whine as you accelerate up to speed and, at very low speeds, a curious synthesised hum to warn pedestrians of its presence.
At 70mph there's more background wind and tyre noise than there is in the really rather hushed e-2008, but the e-Niro is quieter at speed than the Kona Electric or MG ZS EV. And its brakes aren't abrupt like some EV's (the e-2008 and Zoe, for example); they respond consistently and shed speed smoothly.
You don't have to use brakes as often as you would in a conventional car if you increase the strength of the car’s regenerative braking, using paddles behind the steering wheel. The higher the level, the quicker you slow down when you lift your foot off the accelerator pedal.
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