Being an added-convenience crossover hatchback, the e-Niro is a proper adult-sized four-seater with room for three kids across the second row at a push. It has a 451-litre boot that is unintruded by the presence of batteries and leaves an under-floor storage cubby for your charging cables. It is a more practical family car, by all of those measures, than a Nissan Leaf and offers fully 90mm more second-row leg room than the Hyundai Kona Electric that we criticised for its shortage of cabin space. In each of those respects, then, as a particularly practical, affordable, all-electric family car, you might say the e-Niro is something of a first.
It offers a comfortable, ergonomically sound driving position, too, with all of the controls and the digital instrumentation someone already well versed in the business of driving a modern EV could want. You’ll locate a rotary transmission controller on a raised centre console, but you’ll also find what look like gearshift paddles behind the steering wheel.
They’re actually there to allow you to incrementally control the regenerative braking of the car’s electric motor that happens on a trailing throttle, and that has such an abiding influence on how different a modern EV is to drive from any combustion-engined car. Pull the right-hand paddle and the car’s regen cycles upwards to max; pull the left-hand one and it cycles back to nothing, allowing the car to coast entirely unchecked when you lift off the accelerator.
Those regen paddles are also typical of the e-Niro’s fixtures and fittings as regards perceived quality, because they’re quite expensive on the eye but much cheaper to the touch. The car’s interior door handles also look like metal but feel unmistakably like plastic – and fairly cheap plastic at that – and although much of the cabin’s lesser switchgear and other fixtures look and feel more materially solid, you do wonder why Kia didn’t spend a bit more in the areas where you can’t help but physically interact with the car.
The e-Niro’s infotainment system is very respectable, without being particularly impressive on a car of this price and type. First Edition cars get an 8.0in touchscreen set-up with DAB radio and factory navigation, the latter including European mapping (should you find yourself abroad and reticent to use your mobile data connection) as well as live traffic information provided by TomTom.
The navigation mapping detail is a bit basic, and it has that sparse, oversimple feel about the menus that smacks of something designed to work on a smaller, third-party system’s screen. Still, it works well enough. And you can, of course, use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto mirroring instead, both of which the e-Niro gets as standard, as well as wireless charging for Qi-equipped handsets.