Kia e-Niro long-term test review: report 2

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

Kia e-Niro in London

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 What Car? 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 6128 Official range 282 miles Test range 268 miles Options Premium paint (£565)

3 April – How far will a Kia e-Niro go on a charge?

“How far will it go between charges?” is all I seem to get asked when I step out of the Kia e-Niro. It’s a fair question, and one that dominates the minds of anyone yet to drive an electric car or with experience of an early example. But – for all good reasons – it's not one I can answer.

Now, I know that makes me sound like a poor source of advice, but the reason I can’t be sure is that I’ve never run the car from full to empty to find out. I know Kia quotes 282 miles based on its testing to official standards and that What Car?’s Real Range for the car is 253 miles. However, as with any car, the answer very much depends on how you drive and the conditions when you do so.

And that's why I’m reluctant to give a quick answer to the question. As a guide, I’d quote that Real Range figure as the most representative, but what I’m finding as I build up miles behind the wheel is that the figure can vary dramatically. The same is true of a car with an engine, of course, but there’s no question that you're more aware of the variables in an electric model.

My longest journey so far was 220 miles, from London to Essex and back, in the rush hour on the M25. A steady 55mph cruise was perfect for energy consumption, however, and I returned with 98 miles of predicted range still on the clock, giving me total potential mileage well in excess of the official figure. For those who measure consumption not in miles but in kWh, my average was 4.2 miles per kWh.

Kia e-Niro energy consumption

Conversely, and by way of comparison, my worst figures have been recorded on short urban trips with lots of sharp stops (long, gradual deceleration boosts the e-Niro's ability to take energy from its brakes and send it to its batteries) and subsequent starts from a standstill (when you have to use energy to get all that mass moving again). Interestingly, even then, the range indicator hardly fell below one mile used for every mile travelled, although the energy meter’s suggestion I was getting only 1.9 miles per kWh suggests that this average figure was being favourable.

Adding intrigue, I took to social media to find out what other owners of electric cars can achieve. With the e-Niro a rare sight on UK roads, limited to dealer demonstrators mostly until the first customers get their cars later this month, a lot of data came from owners of the closely related Hyundai Kona Electric. Alas, it seems that I still have a lot to learn, because 4 miles per kWh is held as a reasonable minimum and figures of more than 5 miles per kWh are considered achievable. So that’s my homework sorted.

But here’s a point: the reason I don’t know the range of the e-Niro is that I've never had to know. To put it another way, almost a month in now, despite having a job that can lead me all over the country, I’ve yet to encounter a journey that I can’t undertake – or, indeed, for which I need to plan any mid-drive charging.

That will change, of course; it has to for this test to be meaningful for longer-distance travellers. But it's also a fair indication of how far the capability of electric cars has moved on in the past 12 months.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Read more on our long-term Kia e-Niro >

See more long-term test reports >