Like a lot of car companies Kia has seen that there's a lot of good that can come out of electric cars. It has for a while now, since there are fully electric cars available, but there's a new one coming next year. It's already available in other parts of the world in a different form, but Kia is bringing the new e-Niro to the UK next April. Dubbed the e-Niro First Edition, it's designed to offer superior range to other electric vehicles, as well as plenty of room for all the stuff you might need a car for.
The 2019 e-Niro comes in two variants, but here in the UK we'll only be getting the one. Thankfully it's the one with the bigger battery, and therefore the longer range. It has a 64kWh battery with a range of 455km/282 miles, according to WLTP combined cycle testing, which Kia claims is one of the longest ranges you can get in a full-electric car. In fact, that should be enough to get you from Central London to Durham with about 10 miles to spare. Naturally Kia's testing will have come out with a 'best case' range, and the real-world limit will depend on how you drive.
While the e-Niro is quite large and pretty heavy (1,812 kg), Kia has done a lot of work improving the aerodynamics of the vehicle to improve the power efficiency. Most of that stems from the new 'tiger nose' grill, alongside some of the sleeker enhancements to the frame. As anyone who paid attention in physics (or has tried cycling into the wind) will know, the less air resistance there is the less power is needed to maintain speed. That's good for you, because it means you can get further without having to plug it in.
Speaking of which, the charging may be a dealbreaker to some. While the long range is definitely a bonus, that large battery means the charging time is not great. You're going to have to wait 54 minutes to get from zero to 80 per cent power with a standard 100kW fast charger. That's... Pretty shit. A lot of EVs have issues with charge time, but nobody wants to wait an hour around a service station waiting for their car to power up.There are only so many times you can go for a wee and potter around the overpriced WH Smith, after all. Thankfully the number of 100+kW capable chargers is increasing, otherwise you'd be stuck with the slower 50kW version that takes an hour and 15 minutes to reach the same level.
It's lucky the fast chargers do exist, though, because a 7.2kW charger (the type of current you'd get from a special charger installed at your house) takes 9 hours and 35 minutes. Eep. Then again if you're charging overnight or while you're at work this number probably isn't such a big deal.
As with any other EV worth a damn, the e-Niro does let you recoup some of your power through regenerative breaking. But, unlike some cars, it has four levels of regeneration you can flick between using paddles on either side of the steering wheel. You can flick between level 0 and 3, though the car defaults to level 1. Zero offers absolutely no regeneration at all, one offers a tiny amount, and two a bit more than that. During my drive I found that level 3 was the only one that had any noticeable effect, and as soon as I took my foot off the accelerator the car started slowing down quite quickly.
While it's not that harsh a speed change, and certainly won't save you in an emergency, Kia says that it is harsh enough that the car will activate the brake lights the second you lift your foot off the accelerator.
While that's certainly an interesting addition, the e-Niro isn't breaking any technological hurdles. It offers basically the same as every other half-decent EV company, is what I'm saying. There are some autonomous features thrown in, but they're still a long way off from the driver-free future we've been promised. They're all part of the smart cruise control feature, which allows the car to speed up and slow down based on the traffic around it. That's very helpful on long stretches of road like motorways, though because it's not a full-autonomous system it does mean you have to pay attention to what you're doing.
For starters it had a tendency to speed up a bit quickly when the car in front pulled away, not quite picking up on the fact there was a second car a bit further up the road. Likewise the braking wasn't overly fast, and so you'll be needing to keep an watchful eye out for maniacs who cut you off without looking. As ever hitting the brake pedal, even very slightly, deactivates the cruise control and most of the smart features, meaning you need to flick them back on if you want to go back to driving in the laziest way possible. The only thing that didn't switch off every time was the lane assist, but I'll get to that in a minute.
Because the cruise control is 'smart' it also comes with a basic auto steering feature which, combined with lane sensors, keep you in the right place - even going so far as to drive around slight bends in the road. Emphasis on slight, because it does not work on more severe bends in the road. So turn this off when you're not on the motorway, unless you like driving into things. Lane assist does, though, and while making some of the harsher turns off the motor it beeped at me to point out I'd gone over the line a bit. It was a surprise, really, because it didn't seem to be doing all that much on the motorway. The light would flash at me if it sensed the car wasn't in the right position, but that was about it.
Sadly lane assist doesn't help you switch lanes on the motorway either, so you'll have to do all that yourself. Yes it's hard that even in 2018 the AI isn't good enough to do such *complicated* manoeuvres for us. At least that means there's one more obstacle to prevent the robots from enslaving us all.
At this point the car nerds probably want the specs. Specs are good, and let you compare the e-Niro to the regular Niro that still uses a tank of petroleum-derived fuel to get about. Well the top speed you can get from the 64 kWh motor built into the e-version is 104 miles per hour, and can get from 0-60 in 7.5 seconds. I suppose you'll be wanting to know what it's like to drive, too?
Well driving a car is driving a car. The e-Niro is a very quiet machine, obviously, so you can hear a lot of what's going on outside as a result. Not the worst thing in the world, but it'll be a shock if you've never driven an electric vehicle before. The ride itself is nice and smooth, and you don't have to feel like you're fighting with the damn thing to get it to do what you want. One thing I will point out, though, is that it had a tendency to start moving forwards as soon as the brake was disengaged. Not very fast, granted, but it's a weird feeling to have a car start moving forwards before you've ever touched the accelerator. It nice for going up hills, though, seeing as how you don't have to deal with the lurch as gravity tries to fling you back the way you came.
Thankfully the handbrake is a doddle to engage, and disengages by itself as soon as your foot hits the go pedal. Which is handy, and a lot more useful than those hefty lifting handbrakes from manual cars.
There's nothing about the e-Niro that struck me as off. The only issues I had stemmed from the fact I was driving in South Korea, where the rules of the road are very different to how they are here. There were points where it's permissible to do u-turns on the local equivalent of a dual-carriageway, right in the middle of the city, but without any rules for merging. No rules beyond "fuck you, I'm here, get out of the way" anyway. Also the speed limits are quite small, like they seem to be in the US, and the maximum I could do without breaking the law was 90km/h (56mph).
Being the motoring badass that I am I obviously did not stick to such a paltry limit when the roads were clear (and there were no speed cameras about), but sadly it meant I couldn't really get up to the full 70-80mph speeds we'd enjoy here in the UK. It's comfortable too, and even my 6'4, long-legged self had enough room for all my appendages. Just about, mind, but that's true of literally every car I've ever driven. Clearly car manufacturers are more concerned with the knees of rear passengers than they are of tall people who want to spend an entire journey sprawled out as much as possible.
Other notable features available include compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth,DAB radio, a Qi wireless charger, an 8 speaker JBL sound system, an 8-inch touchscreen with European sat-nav and traffic updates, parking sensors, a reversing camera, as well as solar glass. The rest of the interior is very much what you'd expect in any car, mainly because they all need to be basically the same if they want to be road legal. The upholstery is leather, which I could honestly do without, but I suppose it is much easier to clean that way.
There's even a light-up gauge on the inside that shows you how your recharge is doing at a glance. Bits of it turn blue, in case you were wondering.
There's also a lot of storage space. It only has the standard five seat system you'd find in most cars, but they can fold down to increase the capacity of the already-hefty boot. It has 451 litres of cargo space, which Kia says is larger than you'll find in any other plug-in-only electric car. Obviously there are some comparable plug-in hybrids, but the point is this one is going to be handy if you need to carry lots of stuff around with you - whatever it may be. Maybe you have to lug baby stuff around, your partner has a tendency to ove rpack their suitcases, or you just happen to have a lot of dogs. Perhaps you just want to stock up on Costco chicken while it's cheap.
It's more than big enough for a couple of people to sit in, too, in case you decided like pulling over to the side of the road to stare at the scenery.
If you've read this and decided you the sound of it, you should know that the e-Niro First Edition will be hitting the UK on 1st April 2019. Prices start at £32,995 (which includes the EV car grant deduction), which isn't cheap, but you are getting a lot of car for your money. That price also includes a seven year/100,000 mile warranty, which covers the whole car - battery and all. In case you're one of those people that buys into the fear and things it might burst into flames at any given moment, or degrade after five journeys.