Hang on – they don’t look like UK numberplates!
Good spot. They’re not. They’re Korean, because we’ve been driving these cars in Seoul shortly before they embark on a 4300-mile boat ride to our shores to serve as a training and demo fleet for British Kia dealers as they begin the push for electrification.
There’s a new Kia EV coming every year for the next three years, you see, and salespeople are going to need their in a row if the Koreans are going to succeed in the zero-emissions marketplace.
Our journey begins at the Korean automotive powerhouse that is the twin towers of Hyundai and Kia’s global headquarters, which is in a busy industrial area of Seoul. That means one thing: traffic. There are thousands of motorists constantly jostling for position on the multi-lane expressways that course through the city. It’s a frenetic place to get to grips with a new car, but thankfully at least we’re dealing with a smaller SUV here. The E-Niro’s dimensions place it a sector above its Kona cousin, but it’s still not a large car and feels neatly nimble at low speeds.
Kia E-Niro: addictive acceleration as standard
It’s nothing new for EVs to have 100% of torque available from 0rpm, but our preconceived notion having read the spec sheet of 0-62mph in only 7.5 seconds had set us up for disappointment in the face of Teslas with Ludicrous Mode and the like. Although the thrust on offer might not throw this Kia through the sound barrier, it’s still instantly gratifying and genuinely feels quick.
The steering helps here too, because its light weighting (in normal mode at least) coupled with the batteries’ location low in the platform for a favourable centre of gravity gives this 1.8-tonne SUV an agility that belies its mass. Dynamically it’s accomplished in a way that a Nissan Leaf simply is not.
Time to leave: our Kia E-Niro road trip
Once comfortable, adjusting the electric front seats and steering wheel (which oddly for a car at this price isn’t on a telescopic column, so only moves vertically), it was time for the off. Turn the drive-by-wire transmission selector to D, and our tyres squealed over the painted surface towards the car park exit.
We started with 345km (214 miles) of range showing on the digital instrument cluster, and we’d decided this has to be a real-world test: no hypermiling, full air-con or heating as required, and full use of the additional creature comforts on the spec list. A chilly wind cutting through the car park meant heating for front seats and steering wheel was welcome, while my mobile was plonked onto the ridged inductive chargepad located under the screen.
Humans still do it better
Only once did it fail to spot a van in front had left my carriageway and joined a sliproad, slowing unnecessarily. But that isn’t unusual with contemporary systems. It’s just a reminder that in reality the organic squashy part behind the wheel isn’t anywhere near redundant just yet.
Still, the 90kph (56mph) maximum speed limit hadn’t exactly given us the opportunity to wring the neck of the E-Niro just yet, so getting to know its low-speed manners was the aim of the game. The noise struck us – this driveline is highly audible, both inside and outside the car, whining and thrumming as speeds change. Of course, the lack of an internal combustion motor plays a big part here, because the baseline noise level is much lower, but we noticed quite a bit of road noise telegraphed through the 17-inch wheels. The ride felt a little harsh too – the car’s kerbweight doesn’t help here either.