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What Car? Electric Car Awards in association with ONTO

Electric Car Awards 2021: Best electric small SUV

With electrified cars now coming in all shapes and sizes – and available to suit every budget – we’ve named the best models in every class. Here we look at the best electric small SUV...

WINNER: Best electric small SUV

Kia e-Niro 64kWh 2

Electric Car Awards 2021 logo

The Kia e-Niro holds bragging rights over all the other cars listed in these pages, because so far it’s the only fully electric car ever to win our overall Car of the Year title.

Before its triumph in 2019, if you wanted an electric vehicle (EV) with a long enough range to be your only mode of automotive transportation, you’d need to remortgage the house and buy a Jaguar I-Pace or Tesla Model S. But Kia’s SUV showed that you could have an excellent range in a brilliant EV for a lot less cash.

Two years on, the EV landscape has changed quite dramatically, but one thing remains the same: the e-Niro is still picking up awards.

Kia e-Niro 2021 interior dashboard

A recent update to the car has made it better than ever, with equipment levels being shuffled around to enable the e-Niro with its biggest, 64kWh battery to qualify for the Government’s £2500 electric car grant (for cars costing less than £35,000) in entry-level 2 trim.

And that’s the specification we’d go for. You still get luxuries such as adaptive cruise control and a digital instrument panel, and while the upper trim levels bring more kit, they cost too much to qualify for the grant.

There’s also a cheaper version of the e-Niro with a smaller, 39kWh battery, a less powerful electric motor and an official range of around 180 miles. But for the sake of a £2000 saving, you’d be sacrificing a lot of extra miles from a full charge and therefore a lot of peace of mind on longer journeys. The 64kWh version is definitely worth the extra.

Kia e-Niro rear

And if you get one, you’ll have a car that’s comfortably better in most ways than its rivals at the non-premium end of the market. The Citroën e-C4 and Vauxhall Mokka-e are decent electric SUVs, but the e-Niro has them beaten when it comes to handling (which is very tidy), practicality, performance (sufficient to give plenty of hot hatches a fright) and range. Kia’s exemplary seven-year or 100,000-mile warranty just sweetens the deal.

You might view the closely related and similar-priced Kia Soul EV and Hyundai Kona Electric as alternatives, too, but the e-Niro is roomier inside than the Kona and has a more settled and cushioned ride than both.

Inside, the e-Niro may not have the visual pizzazz of the Peugeot e-2008, but it’s built to last and comes with a perfectly decent 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system. For a ‘small’ SUV, it’s big on space, too. The boot will easily manage the luggage for a family holiday, and you’ll struggle to find anything in this price bracket with more accommodating rear seats.

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See all of our Electric Car Awards 2021 winners >>