The brand new 2021 Kia Niro EV (otherwise known as e-Niro) is a fully electric five-seater SUV. It has the same size battery as the Hyundai Kona, which easily got more than 480km of range (and sometimes more than 500km) when we had it for six weeks.
I have been keenly waiting for the e-Niro to come to Australia because it's bigger than the Kona (which was a bit small for rear-facing child seats and bulky prams) so I think it could be the answer to an affordable (in electric SUV terms) for families of four or five.
So is the Niro EV the first reasonably sized, priced and practical electric SUV that isn’t more than $100k in the Australian market? Let's find out how good it is as a BabyDrive…
Well, I think the brand new 2021 Kia e-Niro could easily go unnoticed, its looks are understated and it doesn't shout about being electric. Apart from its closed front grille, it doesn't really differ in looks to the hybrid (HEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models that have a mesh grille instead.
It is lovely and quiet to start and to drive and although I didn't drive it very far this time, it was definitely smooth and I enjoyed the ice cream van/whale song sound it makes to warn pedestrians that you're coming!
When it comes to family practicality the e-Niro does not disappoint! When installing child seats there is room for three child seats across the rear seats! WOOP WOOP! It feels quite spacious in the back when you are installing them and there is just the right-sized gap between the seat backs and retractable roller blind to post the top tether straps through to the boot.
There are ISOFix points in the two outer rear seats and top tether anchorages across all three seat backs.
Legroom is fantastic in the Kia e-Niro and we found we could sit a 186cm driver in front of the rear-facing child seat or a 186cm adult passenger behind that driver.
Another great practical aspect for families is the boot space. The Niro EV's boot can fit 10 shopping bags, which compares well to the Hyundai Kona Electric that holds just 9 shopping bags. For reference, the similar-sized Kia Sportage holds 13 and the Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge PHEV holds 12.
It's also really deep, meaning tall items such as bassinets will go underneath the retractable roller blind, which itself is better than a parcel shelf so you don't have to store the shelf somewhere if you need to transport something larger in the boot.
There is also ample space for a twin stroller to fit in the boot (I struggled even with a single stroller in the Kona) with a couple of bags of shopping underneath the roller blind…
…or a medium-sized dog would fit in the boot of the Kia e-Niro.
Being electric the Kia Niro EV is lovely and quiet to start and just has a kind of gentle whale song sound, like the Hyundai Kona electric, it's a great thought that you are travelling along not burning through fuel and it is very smooth to drive. I could also sit with the aircon running while my baby is napping without wasting fuel and without a noisy engine running and polluting the local area.
You can watch the energy flow in the driver's display screen while you are driving along and see the battery range clearly too (quite encouraging to see 472km on that readout too).
A favourite thing of mine in the e-Niro is the ‘driver only' aircon button…
…this is great for when you are travelling on your own in the car after dropping the kids at school or daycare and you don't waste battery cooling the whole car.
There are aircon vents in the back of the Kia e-Niro too which is great for keeping the kids cool in the back.
When it comes to storage in the cabin, the Kia e-Niro is pretty good. Perhaps the most striking thing is the storage shelf in the central console and the rotary dial for gear selection
There are two cup holders in the central console and in a fold-down armrest in the central back seat. They are all a good size to hold reusable and disposable coffee cups.
The glove box and central boxes are able to fit everything a small family would normally need and an iPad and wallet both fit in the glove box with the manual.
There is a glasses case in the ceiling and all the door bins will hold a large refillable water bottle.
The media system in the Kia Niro EV is quite simple and easy to use. The less expensive S version I tested does have a voice memo function but not sounds of nature (white noise generator), like all the other latest Kia and Hyundai cars, as you have to get the top-spec Sport version for that.
It does have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is great.
Also within the media screen is the battery and energy information.
So there's more than enough room in the Kia Niro EV for my family of four AND I can charge it using the power of the sun, which feels pretty fantastic for my purse and the planet!
I cannot WAIT to get a longer drive to see how far that battery can take us but in the meantime, we're going to test the PHEV version in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned for that.
There's no ANCAP rating for the Kia Niro EV but the hybrid version got five stars in Euro NCAP testing, scoring 80% in the child occupant protection category.