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No longer is it just the Teslas and a Jaguar that can go a substantial distance between charges. As part of his Kia E-Niro review, Ben Griffin went to South Korea to see whether the latest affordable long-range EV makes any sense.

If there is one thing that really concerns a motorist, apart from crashing, it’s the fear of running out of fuel. All it takes is to pass one too many petrol stations and before you know it you are coasting to eke out every last drop of fuel while staring worryingly at the gauge.

Luckily for cars with a combustion engine, you are usually never far away from a petrol station and the sense of relief that comes with seeing you only had a single digit range left.

For EVs it’s a different story, however, because there are fewer places to top up your electric – although you can somewhat counter that by arguing who has a petrol station at home? Just one heavy-footed journey or a prolonged spell at motorway speeds can reduce the range to worrying levels.

That renders most electric vehicles on sale a little pointless for anything other than urban cruising. Only the Model 3 is remotely affordable and has enough electric miles in the tank to work for a typical driver – and who knows when car that will turn up.

Things have changed, though, because Kia and Hyundai have both released an electric car with a range that is genuinely less anxiety-inducing. Having driven the Hyundai Kona EV earlier in the year at the European launch event in Sweden, it was the turn of the sister Kia ENiro. This time, driving a right-hand swinger in their home country of South Korea.

What is the Kia ENiro?

Kia E-Niro review - A Tribe Called Cars

The Kia E-Niro is a built on the same platform as the Hyundai Kona EV, but it is actually larger yet more aerodynamically efficient (0.29 vs 0.32Cd). Powering both five-door cars is the same electric motor and powertrain and both share the distinction of being the only cars on the market to offer hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full electric options.

Both cars were also designed to be electrified from day, which allows the 457kg lithium ion battery – comprised 294 cells – to live in the floor of the car, helping improve handling while avoiding the downside of eating into cabin space.

Measuring 4,375mm in length, 1,805mm in width and 1,570mm in height, the ENiro is large enough for most families, especially as it has a more than respectable 451-litre boot. Much larger than a number of its compact crossover competitors.

The Kia ENiro is also blessed with a considerable amount of horsepower. Its 150kW electric motor pumps out 201bhp, resulting in a very nippy and roundabout-friendly 0-60mph (not 0-62mph) time of 7.5 seconds.

Torque, meanwhile, is a substantial 395Nm at 0rpm, and the Kia ENiro tops out at 104mph. Plenty for UK roads, especially as it gets there with some gusto. You would be hard-pressed to find a compact crossover this gutsy.

As for range, the 64kWh battery is said to be good for 282 miles, down from the originally quoted 301 miles because, according to Kia, of a WLTP testing mistake. That capacity is on a par with the budget mid-range Model 3 and not that far off a base Model S. For a car that costs £32,995 after the UK government’s now lesser £3,500 plug-in grant is applied, that is impressive.

Is the Kia ENiro the same as the standard Niro?

Kia E-Niro review - A Tribe Called Cars

Compared with the Niro Hybrid and Niro Plug-in Hybrid, the ENiro is largely similar. However, it does have various tweaks for aerodynamic reasons such as the closed tiger-grille and redesigned air intakes. It also has arrow-shaped LED daytime running lights and bright blue detailing on the interior and exterior.

It even gets three unique paintjobs, although all are rather boring (especially Pluto Brown) and a redesigned rear bumper. As a result, the car is recognisable as an EV and is better able to cut through the air, improving range, but lacks the same playful look as the Hyundai Kona or some of its other rivals.

Specification-wise, the ENiro is closest to the mid-range ‘3’ and has the name ‘First Edition’. The only option we can see is £565 for slightly more special paint, which you can definitely ignore.

Standard equipment includes LED daytime running lights, rear parking sensors, 60:40 split-folding rear seats, folding and heated door mirrors, automatic headlights, automatic air conditioning, automatic wipers and 17-inch alloy wheels unique to the E-Niro.

How does the Kia ENiro drive?

Kia E-Niro review - A Tribe Called Cars

Like a crossover with a sizable amount of horsepower. The extra weight of the ENiro is far outweighed by the sheer amount of torque the motor generates, giving a pleasing and reassuringly brisk drive with oodles of mid-range grunt.

It helps that the steering, adjusted specifically for the E-Niro, is fast and un-fussy, meaning you rarely need to make much effort to get round a bend. Steering feedback is better than you expect, although the best indicator you are on the edge of grip is hearing the front wheels screech. Not that performance is such an issue for a compact SUV.

Some road noise does filter into the cabin, but less than the other Niros and this is to be expected when the electric motor gets on with its job in near-silence. A lack of wind noise helps create a quiet cabin most of the time.

I say most because the suspension, also adjusted to cope with the extra weight, can make a din when you hit large bumps. It also serves up a bouncy yet firm ride, which is really only an issue on the worst roads but there are definitely smoother alternatives. South Korea’s roads were definitely akin to what we have in the UK.

Often overlooked in reviews is the paddles on the steering wheel, used for controlling levels of energy regeneration. At 2 it’s like applying the brake, while 0 means coasting like a petrol or diesel would. You can just set it to 1 and avoid ever having to use the brakes if you drive with a gap in front, but it can be useful to increase the regen on-the-fly in certain situations.

When you do actually need to brake, the 305mm front discs and slightly smaller rears provide plenty of stopping power without being grabby, adding to what is a very easy car to drive. As for the seats, I found them comfortable over a long day of driving.

Is the Kia E-Niro safe?

Kia E-Niro review - A Tribe Called Cars

The non-EV Niro bagged itself a five-star rating and no doubt the E-Niro, though heavier and nippier, will fare well at the Euro NCAP. It helps that you get a lot of standard safety equipment, including but not limited to Ford Collision-Avoidance, which applies the brakes if you fail to see an obstacle, Driver Attention Warning, which keeps tabs on whether you are fit to drive, and Hill-Start Assist Control, which prevents the car from rolling back on a hill.

Kia ENiro vs Hyundai Kona EV

Kia E-Niro review - A Tribe Called Cars

Unlike the Hyundai Kona, the Kia ENiro is available only with the larger capacity battery in the UK market. So if you want to save some money at the expense of range, you will have to go for the Kona EV.

Other differences beyond the badge and warranty – you get 7 years with Kia versus the Hyundai’s 5 – are difficult to find. Both cars have the same output and similar exterior modifications that tell the world you are in an EV. Both get navigation and a bigger display from having a higher spec as standard.

The interiors are similar, too, although I remember the Hyundai was a little more jazzy and better at hiding some uninspiring yet sturdy plastics although it is a little smaller. The E-Niro has decent space for four adults, which is what you want in a compact crossover.

Kia E-Niro: The Verdict

Kia E-Niro review - A Tribe Called Cars

Like most electric vehicles, you pay a premium for ditching the combustion engine. But the level of practicality and versatility of the ENiro and the fact it has a decent range makes it worth considering, especially if your area is well-served by electric chargers or you can install one at home.

If you rarely drive considerable distances, it will save you money in fuel and tax while easing the strain on the lungs of those around you. All while being pleasant to drive and able to keep your loved ones safe.

Based on early impressions, the Kia ENiro and the Hyundai Kona EV fill a tempting niche for those who want to leave petrol and diesel behind, but lack the funds for one of Elon Musk’s pricier alternatives.

Kia E-Niro Review: The best long range budget EV?
If you can embrace the uninspiring look, the Kia E-Niro is a viable alternative to petrol and diesel that will reduce your annual running costs and lower your carbon footprint.
Performance
Handling
Enjoyment
Cool-factor
Usability
The Good
  • Surprisingly nippy
  • Quiet ride
  • Less prone to range anxiety
The Bad
  • Bland exterior
  • Dull colour options
  • The ride can be overly firm
3.8The Score

About The Author

Editor-in-Chief

Ben Griffin is a motoring journalist and founder of the website and YouTube channel, A Tribe Called Cars. He is also a contributor at DriveTribe.

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