The e-Niro’s electric motor certainly isn’t silent when working hard – although it’s quieter than an internal combustion engine would be when asked to perform in the same way. It makes a high-pitched electronic whine under load, layered against a gentle turbine whizz as the rotor gathers speed, that’s not loud or bothersome, and isn’t without intriguing audible character.
It’s interesting that, just as its partner brand Hyundai did with the Kona Electric, Kia has engineered a very slight but perceptible instant of hesitation into the e-Niro’s throttle response – albeit one that only seems to apply when the car’s accelerating away from standing.
Dip deep into the right-hand pedal and the e-Niro accelerates with real purpose, right from the moment its driven axle begins to turn – but there’s a split second of delay between the movement of your right foot and the animation of that axle. It’s something that some EVs don’t have, and it’s plainly there to help ‘normalise’ the electric driving experience for those who’ve spent decades driving combustion-engined cars and won’t be used to such a rapier connection between pedal input and system output.
On the run, the e-Niro starts out feeling really brisk up to about 50mph, its potency beginning to tail off slightly above that speed as we’ve become used to from directly driven EVs, but remaining punchy enough to feel authoritative and swift even at motorway speeds. The car goes from 30-50mph in 2.4sec: a tenth slower than the Kona Electric managed, but also only two-tenths slower than the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S we tested in 2016. From 60-80mph, it’s an order slower – but still almost a second quicker than a BMW 520d.
Arguably even more impressive than the instant, seamless muscle of the e-Niro’s powertrain, however, is how controllable the car’s adaptable regen settings make it. Being able to choose exactly where and how quickly the electric motor recovers kinetic energy is critically important to both the drivability and the energy efficiency of an EV, and the e-Niro’s paddles allow you to do just that.
The car also has something called Predictive Energy Control, which uses its radar cruise control sensors to measure your closing speed to any car in front and can automatically blend in motor regen on your behalf if you want it to.