Since the Soul EV was a combustion-engined adaptation, the e-Niro can be thought of as Kia’s first purpose-built electric car; although, since hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Niro are also available, that may seem a slightly troubling notion to contemplate.
It may therefore be more helpful to explain that both the Niro and e-Niro are built on a platform designed from a clean sheet to accept electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid powertrain options. It’s the e-Niro that offers the most power and the best claimed performance statistics of the three, being priced at the sort of 20% premium over and above the PHEV version that you would expect of a performance-tuned hot hatchback compared with a mid-range model.
The e-Niro has a 64kWh drive battery with two and a half times as much storage capacity as the Soul EV had five years ago; which, for the moment, is significantly more than the majority of similarly priced EVs offer. Because it’s a purpose-built EV, it carries that battery between the axles and under the cabin floor, where it doesn’t adversely affect the car’s storage space or weight distribution. The liquid-cooled, lithium ion battery weighs 457kg all on its own, and makes for a car with an unladen weight claimed at a whisker over 1.8 tonnes – and which we measured at a whisker under that threshold.
That makes it particularly heavy, of course, for a car that sits somewhere between a Ceed and a Sportage on outright size – so it’s a good job Kia didn’t forget to include a motor ready to move that mass easily. The e-Niro’s AC synchronous electric motor drives the car’s front wheels directly through a fixed ratio, but produces 201bhp of peak power and 291lb ft of torque. Which, for the record, makes for a better power-to-weight ratio than a Seat Ateca 1.5 TSI FR, and more torque to weight than one or two lower-order hot hatchbacks we could mention.
Suspension for the car is via MacPherson struts at the front axle and a multi-link rear. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels, wrapped with 215-section tyres, are the only options available – and while the latter are the same size as the ones on the related Hyundai Kona Electric we tested only last year, they’re Michelins rather than Nexens. Since the Hyundai suffered with questionable grip and traction, that may well prove to be a significant point to note.
Relative to other Niros, meanwhile, the e-Niro gets extra noise insulation in its A- and B-pillars and more noise-insulating front subframe bushes, in all cases to counteract the greater perception of wind and road noise that the absence of a humming combustion engine can cause.