Kia e-Niro: long-term test review

Mileage: 932 miles
Efficiency: 3.6 miles/kWh

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Spring has sprung, and that feels like an appropriately green time of year to get our hands on the new Kia e-Niro.

This is a model that could represent a new beginning for mainstream electric cars – even more so than its sister, the Hyundai Kona Electric, and the ever-popular Nissan Leaf. After all, the Kia’s excellent 282-mile WLTP combined driving range is on par with the 64kWh Kona’s, but the e-Niro is a bit cheaper and usefully more spacious.

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My lifestyle should be a good challenge for it. I tend to do a jaunt into central London every week, involving a 60-mile round trip of around 70 per cent motorway and 30 per cent very slow urban stuff. On top of that I’m often off on longer trips for business or to see friends and family, which will put a spotlight on the public charging infrastructure, despite the Kia’s range.

I’m also keen to find out what effect battery maintenance will have on how far we can go. In my role as associate editor for DrivingElectric.com – Auto Express’s sister title – I get loads of queries about the best way to look after batteries, and we know from various expert engineers that keeping the car between 20 per cent and 80 per cent charged is best practice. Apparently, doing so can even improve the driving range, so we’ll try that and find out how it goes.

On top of that, temperature is also a concern, given its huge impact on battery performance. So we’ll be paying close attention to how the bungeeing weather conditions of a British spring affect the Kia.

Currently we’re seeing what I suspect is a worst-case scenario, with a range of roughly 230 miles in cold weather and driving an unusually large amount on the motorway in the first few weeks. We’ll see how time, better weather, more measured charging and a bit more town use change that.

Our e-Niro is a First Edition. This is the only trim currently available and comes with everything you could want, including leather, heated seats, and the excellent nav and media touchscreen, complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Wireless phone charging, climate control, and even adaptive cruise with lane-keep assist (which give a semi-autonomous mode) are also fitted.

The one option we have is premium Graphite metallic paint, at £565, and the only features I suspect I might miss are LED headlights and a head-up display. Still, that’s hardly a big problem on a car that promises such great value for a long-range EV.

And yes, I know you probably can’t get hold of one for a year; the Kia is all sold out for 2019, because of battery-supply issues. However, company sources tell us that the problem will begin to ease next year and supply should be back to normal by the end of 2020. With other firms – notably Peugeot, Citroen and Vauxhall – launching electric cars in the next 12 months using batteries from the same source, let’s hope that’s right.

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Aside from the major cloud of a 12-month wait on current e-Niro orders, the fervour and enthusiasm for the car are remarkable. There’s such goodwill for it from every quarter, and we’ve already been stopped a few times by random interested parties who want to know more. It feels like the Kia really is making a dent in the wider buying public’s conscience, rather than simply intriguing the electric-car enthusiasts.

On a non-electric, but equally critical, note, I also have a big dog and a two-year-old daughter, so I need a big boot and a durable interior if the Kia is to stand the test of many months of muddy boots and paws.

So there’s the crux of it: how much will the range vary, and can we improve it just by looking after the battery carefully? How does the public charging infrastructure stand up to regular long motorway trips? And is this a good family car?

After all, no matter how far it goes, if it makes your kid sick and the dog miserable (or vice versa), no amount of saving the planet or our money will be worth it.

Finally, while the Kia e-Niro already feels like a flat-out game-changer, it still needs to justify its cost. And you can get spectacular diesel or petrol family cars for the same price, not least of which is the Skoda Kodiaq.

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

source: AutoExpress Car Reviews (autoexpress.co.uk)

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