03 Mar 2020 | 09.30 pm
Road Test: Kia e-Niro
400+ kilometres could boost sales
03 Mar 2020 | 09.30 pm
Kia’s e-Niro is an EV with the range and equipment fit-out to tempt more motorists into an electric vehicle, writes Mark Gallivan
Kia managed a surprise hat-trick win at the Continental Irish Car of the Year 2020 awards, scooping two category awards for the boxy e-Soul, as well as winning the overall Car of the Year award. It was the first time the top award went to a battery electric vehicle (BEV), reflecting the zeitgeist rather than market sales, as EVs accounted for under 3% of total car sales in Ireland during 2019.
Total new car registrations for 2019 amounted to 117,100, down 6.8% on the previous year. Diesel accounted for 47%, petrol 41%, hybrid 9%, electric 3%, and plug-in hybrid 1%. 3,440 new electric cars were registered in 2019 compared with 1,230 in 2018. Imported used cars totalled 113,930, a 13.1% increase year-on-year, and most of them were diesel or petrol. Automatic transmissions saw a 22% increase in 2019 while manuals declined by 17%.
While the e-Soul won friends with journalist jurors, it struggled to be equally appreciated by members of the public when I tested it. The boxy shape and flat roof appeared to be one step too far for many people. A compromise is possible with the e-Soul’s sister car, the Kia e-Niro. It is fitted with a 64Kw battery and, crucially, offers a similar electric charge driving range of more than 400 kilometres.
The e-Niro BEV joins the Niro PHEV (plug-in hybrid model) in the range and is powered by a 204hp electric motor with 400Nm torque that gets to 100km in 7.8 seconds. In reality, the power overwhelms the front wheel drive system, and the front tyres break traction under hard acceleration. This is an inevitable downside, making low-down torque difficult to fully exploit. The e-Niro is best left in Eco or Normal driving modes, with the Sport option reserved for when travelling at over 30km/h.
The e-Niro impresses most not just with its claimed range but actually achieving it. Kia has also done a decent job in making the e-Niro drive like any normal crossover, with driving dynamics on par for the segment. The heavy battery adds weight, and this impacts ride quality compared with the hybrid Niro. However, with this car switching to electric is feasible once you have a domestic charger at home and you mainly limit your trips to shorter journeys.
The e-Niro is fitted with a strong list of standard equipment. This includes leather upholstery and steering wheel, 7-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, 17-inch alloys, radar cruise, forward collision assist, lane-keeping assist, autonomous emergency braking with heated front seats.
Up to now, range limitations have prompted green-tinged motorists to favour hybrids. Going fully electric will take a good degree of convincing, and Kia’s e-Niro and e-Soul are a step in the right direction. However, even with rebates EV prices are still way beyond what the average motorist can afford.