New Kia e-Niro vs Hyundai Kona Electric

Two months ago, we named Hyundai’s Kona Electric as the best car of its kind. But has fellow Korean brand Kia made better use of the very same battery and motor with its e-Niro?...

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What Car? team
23 January 2019

New Kia e-Niro vs Hyundai Kona Electric

The contenders

Hyundai Kona Electric 64kWh Premium

List price £36,345*

Target price £36,345*

Our favourite electric car, thanks in part to its massive What Car? Real Range of 259 miles.

Kia e-Niro First Edition

List price £36,495*

Target price £36,495*

The e-Niro promises a similarly impressive range but in a more practical package.

*Not including £3500 government grant


Cars have changed dramatically since the very first, Karl Benz’s Patent-Motorwagen, spluttered into life in 1885. One thing has stayed constant, however: the popularity of the internal combustion engine. Despite electric power having promised a quieter and cleaner alternative for this entire 133-year period, it has always been sidelined due to range concerns and expense.

Kia e-Niro

But with battery capacity worries now diminished by Tesla, we were just waiting for this technology to filter down into a more affordable package. That day came with the introduction of the Hyundai Kona Electric, a car that doesn’t cost the earth but might well help save it.

The Kona instantly became our favourite electric car, but its reign might be short-lived, due to the arrival of the e-Niro from Hyundai’s sister brand, Kia. With the same battery and motor set-up, it promises similar performance in a slightly larger, more family-friendly package.


Driving

Performance, ride, handling, refinement

If you think of golf buggies and mobility scooters when you picture affordable electric transportation, the Kona and e-Niro might come as a bit of a shock. The former manages a brisk 7.1sec in the sprint from 0-60mph, while the latter is even quicker, at 6.9sec – a difference mainly down to grippier tyres, because both produce 201bhp.

Even more impressive is the amount of punch these cars have, whether you’re gaining speed on the move or from a full stop. It’s certainly great for acceleration, but it does mean you’ll feel the steering wheel writhing in your hands when you really stamp on the accelerator, especially on rutted roads. This is particularly noticeable in the Kona, and its lower-rolling-resistance tyres mean you can inadvertently generate wheelspin when pulling away if you aren’t gentle.

These tyres also contribute to the Kona feeling less composed when it’s being hustled along a twisty road. There isn’t as much grip, while the steering isn’t as accurate as the e-Niro’s, either. Even so, you would describe the latter car’s handling as tidy rather than fun. 

Hyundai Kona Electric

Crucially, the e-Niro can stop in a shorter distance from both 30 and 70mph and has a more consistent-feeling brake pedal, enabling you to stop more smoothly. 

In both cars, you’re able to adjust the level of regenerative braking (the amount of electricity harvested by the car as you slow down) from noticeable to so strong that you can drive without using the brake pedal for much of the time. You increase and decrease the severity by pulling paddles behind the steering wheel.

But these aren’t cars that you would buy for driving thrills; more important is how they behave on your daily slog. Let’s start with the burning question of range. The e-Niro didn’t quite match the Kona’s 259 miles in our What Car? Real Range test, but it came really close, at 253 miles.

The miles will certainly pass more pleasantly in the e-Niro. Regardless of speed, you’ll notice less wind and road noise, a fact confirmed by our decibel meter. Not only is the Kona louder, but it also rides less comfortably, thudding more abruptly over expansion joints and rounding off bumps less adroitly than the e-Niro.

Next: Behind the wheel >

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