When you’ve got nearly half a tonne of battery mass to deal with, it’s clearly easier to hide it in a bigger car with a longer wheelbase that it would be in a smaller, shorter one. That’s what the handling of the e-Niro teaches you, specifically by creating a more settled, stable and secure impression than the related Hyundai Kona Electric tested last year. The bigger point worth noting here is simply the lack of dynamic compromise that the e-Niro imposes.

From the way this car handles, how agile, manoeuvrable and obedient it feels, the way it grips the road and the quiet assurance with which it deals with tighter bends and roundabouts, the e-Niro just seems like a well-sorted, well-behaved biggish family hatchback. It doesn’t feel short of grip or traction compared with the average crossover hatchback, as some EVs can. It doesn’t run out of body control when driven quickly or given a testing combination of lumps and bumps to deal with. It is a very dynamically competent act, and an almost entirely blameless and vice-free drive.

Richard Lane

Road tester
Even with a half-tonne battery between the axles, the e-Niro can deliver hot hatchback performance, sound body control and nearly 300 miles of range

Which doesn’t quite mean that there aren’t one or two things it couldn’t do better, of course. The e-Niro’s steering, in particular, though well-paced, isn’t the most satisfying to use, having a little bit too much cloying weight and communicating little by way of tyre loading or contact patch feel. But, while remote-feeling, it’s a long way from obstructive or objectionable and doesn’t prevent you from enjoying what is a creditable dynamic showing overall.

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The e-Niro copes fairly well with the dynamic abuse test that is the Millbrook Hill Route – which is to say, as well as it needs to in order to feel secure and contained when driven fairly quickly on the road.

Placing the e-Niro’s drive battery down low doesn’t prevent it entirely from affecting the car’s limit handling, but it certainly helps take the sting out of the equation. The EV grips the road quite well and doesn’t roll excessively or run out of adhesion suddenly, so it’s entirely drivable even as the electronic stability control begins to chime in, which it does with subtlety but effectiveness.

Brake pedal feel remains a bit of a barrier to the act of driving both quickly and smoothly, but it gets much better in the car’s sport driving mode than it is in Eco or Eco+, where the regenerative mushiness it would otherwise suffer with is mostly tuned out.

COMFORT AND ISOLATION

Although EVs have come a long way in a few years, plenty of people will still expect a car like this to need every shred of cruising range that might be extracted from its drive battery, and therefore to run on noisy, hard-compound economy tyres; to be cradled low to the ground on its springs so as to be more aerodynamic – and, as a consequence, not to ride well; and to struggle to contain its mass over tougher surfaces, as heavier smallish cars so often do.

None of the above applies to the e-Niro. It has a ride with good noise isolation, so you don’t hear the tyres on the road any more than you expect to; and it has suspension that juggles the need to be supple over shorter, sharper bumps against the need to feel reined in over bigger ones quite well. In the latter respect, you can certainly feel that the e-Niro is heavier than the average family hatchback over long-wave intrusions taken around the national speed limit, but it’s still not a car that’s disconcertingly short on vertical body control even when you’re in a hurry.

Kia’s efforts to make the e-Niro’s body more aerodynamic and to defend against wind noise also pay dividends. At a motorway cruise, there is a little bit of wind rustle apparent around the door mirrors and A-pillars – but not enough to complain about.

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