Minor refresh keeps Kia's affordable electric crossover among the best all-rounder EVs on sale today

What is it?

This is one of the best electric cars you can buy, but updated a little bit for the 2020 model year. However, it's little changed in important ways from the excellent all-rounder that deservedly collared the 2019 What Car? Car of the Year Award, becoming the first battery electric car to do so.

To judge by Kia's press blurb, the changes are mostly to interior gadgetry and decor. There’s no change to the 201bhp electric motor, nor to the 64kWh lithium ion battery pack carried under the steel monocoque body, both of which help to make this car special.

Neither have the rather solid prices changed: the buyer stampede that followed this car’s What Car? accolade make it clear that consumers' judgement is that it’s worth the money. Especially since it carries a seven-year/100,000 mile warranty.

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What's it like?

The equipment spec has changed to a typically Kia trim level, and this is one of the brand's more luxurious configurations. First cars had a First Edition spec that was out of kilter with the hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Kia Niro also offered in the UK. Now the trio match one another. Our test car is unofficially a 4; UK customers will instead be offered a 4+, which gains a three-phase 11kW AC charger to speed up home-charging with a compatible wallbox.

The dominating interior facet for the 2020 e-Niro is a larger touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard (now 10.25in). Material quality has also been enhanced: there are tasteful piano black touches on the fascia, along with somewhat more brushed chrome brightwork to give an air of improved quality that works. 

With the new infotainment comes some software improvements, principally a 'lane follow assist' function that works better than the crude and unloved 'lane keep assist' of the first car that seemed to wrestle you for wheel control, There’s also now a forward collision warning alert that recognises pedestrians and cyclists as well as other vehicles.

Down in the bowels of the car is a new heat pump that gathers battery heat and uses it to warm the cabin in winter. The only exterior change is a very welcome set of LED headlights.

The 2020 e-Niro driving experience is fascinating: we criticised the First Edition for a tolerable but lumpy ride and for intrusive road noise, possibly because much of its development engineering was done in Germany, where they just don’t have the coarse, noisy surfaces that abound in the UK. The low-rolling-resistance tyres can’t have helped, either.

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In this latest edition, both matters seem to have improved, if marginally. The road noise is still there, but it doesn’t seem quite so intrusive. The ride quality — at least against the new Kia Soul EV — is considerably better. Meanwhile, the car keeps its inviting persona and excellent packaging made all the more inviting because the suite of improvements comes at no extra cost.

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Should I buy one?

If you’re homing in on a family-sized electric crossover, frankly you’re crazy if you don’t do the Kia deal. This is still the best practical electric car proposition going – for the performance (0-60mph in 7.8sec), for the range (accurately claimed at 282 miles) and for that seven-year warranty.

Small wonder it has been so difficult to buy an e-Niro. And with the advent of this improved 2020 edition, it's unlikely to get easier.

Kia e-Niro 64kWh 4+ specification

Where Gloucestershire, UK Price £36,145 (after gov't grant) On sale now Engine Electric motor plus 64kWh lithium ion polymer battery Power 201bhp at 3800-8000rpm Torque 291lb ft at 4000rpm Gearbox Single-speed, direct drive Kerb weight 1812kg Top speed 104mph 0-62mph 7.8sec Range 282mpg (WLTP) CO2 0g/km Rivals Hyundai Kona Electric, Nissan Leaf

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Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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Add a comment…
Bimfan 26 June 2020

The cabin still looks a bit

The cabin still looks a bit low rent, at least in photographs and why can no-one come up with a nice grille design for electric cars? Other than that, this is at the front of the group for now in terms of range and useability.

The Apprentice 26 June 2020

Bimfan wrote:

Bimfan wrote:

The cabin still looks a bit low rent, at least in photographs and why can no-one come up with a nice grille design for electric cars? Other than that, this is at the front of the group for now in terms of range and useability.

Agree about the grill, it would have looked better if the bonnet just carried on smoothly to the bumper and a nice bigger badge mounted on it near the front edge. The boot looks excellent for a family car. I would very happily run one as a company car if I were allowed.. sadly many employers are still too suspicious and/or ignorant of EV's yet.