The €37,000 question: would I really buy this eNiro electric car?
I drove myself mad keeping notes of every journey I undertook in the latest electric car for review. This electric-driving business can make you a bit obsessive; especially at the start. On the one hand, you worry about having enough battery power; on the other, you're thrilled at being able to cover so much ground with a single charge. For a while, I found myself scrutinising the distance to empty battery every minute. I was like a young lad playing with a new toy. Only this was deadly serious stuff. There was €37,000 or so at stake.
Ultimately, old head replaced young and I grew calm about battery power. Which moved me to the next phase and the tough question, faced in grown-up fashion: Would I buy it, right here, right now?
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The car in question was the KIA eNiro, an unobtrusively compliant battery-electric crossover that's a bit larger than the popular Hyundai Kona EV with whom it shares a platform.
After the visual exuberance of KIA's eSOUL (reviewed here on July 6), it was down to earth with the eNiro. It is less appealing to look at and I found it quite dark inside but, I suspect, its muted undertones will be less divisive than the unusual eSOUL.
The nice KIA man cleared everything so I could start my drive with factory settings. In other words, all driving data and patterns were put to one side as I started with a virginal 481km estimated range (the official figure is lower at 455km).
I am learning from driving more of these EVs not to panic in the early stages; predicted range levels can slide quite quickly, especially if your initial journey is a long one. (The 481km predicted had dipped to 234km after I'd driven 217km. That suggested real-world driving was using more power than predicted by a distance of 30km).
Part of the learning process too is how you become accustomed to saving power (regeneration) by lifting off the accelerator and gauging stopping distances more accurately without braking. It is a different way of driving. Well, it is for me as I can be a devil for braking late (but not dangerously, I promise) in ordinary petrol/diesel cars.
The eNiro, like others, also has paddles on the steering column which let you determine the level of slowdown. I have become accustomed to their use now and 'placed' the car to slow to a near-halt quite well, if I do say so myself.
And so, the days and the drives sped by and still I didn't feel the need to plug in and charge. The more urban driving I did, the more closely the convergence between predicted and real ranges became. I found it reassuring. Being able to trust the promised range (within reason) is vital and key to removing anxiety. Yes, I could have recharged and reassured myself. I didn't, partly, because it would mess up my calculations and I'm poor at maths. I did worry in case I had to make an emergency dash somewhere in the depths of night. I suppose that area remains a legitimate advantage for your fossil fuel car in that it is capable of being refuelled in a jiffy. But I held my nerve and ended with 61km of range before calling it a day.
As well as the dull interior and uninspired dashboard displays (the eSOUL's are bigger, nicer), I didn't like the drive as much as its KIA companion. I thought the steering's feel and response were well below par. I wouldn't be a fan of the driver's seat adjustment either.
Admittedly, there was good room at the back, a decent boot (451 litres) with a storage area for the charging cable.
All in all, it is a more-than-decent package (I was spoilt with the brio of the eSOUL though).
And it certainly grew on me as the kilometres climbed: comfortable, spacey and quiet. I could see it fitting the bill for many a family.
Apart from the conventional attributes of a medium-sized crossover, the electric elements certainly stand up to real-world scrutiny.
So, I left it back with 383.1km on the clock. There were still 61km in the battery, according to the computer. That would suggest 444.1km of travel between charges - a mere 11km off its officially-declared distance. Even allowing that the 61km might have been a little optimistic, it still would leave you comfortably with a range of 425km/430km at least. That is excellent.
Remember: 430km a week on one charge means you'd cover 23,000km+ a year. Our average national mileage is somewhere around the 15,000 to 17,000km mark.
So, yes, I would buy it if in the market for an electric crossover that would get me around for so long between charges.
Facts & figures
KIA eNiro electric car:
65kw battery pack; claimed range 455km. Medium range €33,495; Long-range tested: €37,495; €120 tax. Spec: leather upholstery, 17in alloys, smart cruise-control, air con, wireless charger, electric/heated/folding mirrors, heated front seats; 7in display, 7in touchscreen, TomTom, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, drive mode select, parking distance warning.