Kia has launched a new, lower-spec version of its ‘long-range’ e-Niro electric SUV in the wake of changes to the government’s electric car grant. The entry-level e-Niro ‘2’ was previously available only with the shorter-range battery pack that permitted just 189 miles from a single charge, but the new variant offers up to 282 miles of electric motoring.

The move means the 64 kWh battery pack is now available across the e-Niro range, while the smaller 39 kWh unit remains exclusive to the basic ‘2’ specification. Prices for the long-range ‘2’ model start at £34,945 before the government’s now-£2,500 Plug-In Car Grant is applied, making the model around £2,000 more expensive than the 39 kWh variant.

Perhaps more importantly, however, the 64 kWh e-Niro ‘2’ is now the only 64 kWh e-Niro to sneak in under the government’s cut-off point for the Plug-In Car Grant, which was changed last week. The changes mean vehicles costing £35,000 or more will no longer be eligible for the grant, which has been reduced from £3,000 to £2,500.

Kia e-Niro ‘2’ with Long Range 64kwh battery

Criticism has rained down on the government, with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) describing the decision as “the wrong move at the wrong time”. The RAC, meanwhile, said MPs were “talking the talk” on electric cars, but accused them of not “walking the walk”.

A number of manufacturers have changed their pricing to suit the new rules, dropping cars’ list prices to ensure they remain eligible for the grant. Citroen reduced the price of range-topping e-C4 electric family cars, while Vauxhall modified the Mokka-e SUV pricing.

Kia e-Niro ‘2’ with Long Range 64kwh battery

But Kia seems to have retaliated by simply shoehorning the bigger battery into the cheapest e-Niro trim level. Admittedly, that is an over-simplification, because the ‘long-range’ e-Niro also gets more power, courtesy of a 201 bhp motor that replaces the standard car’s 134 bhp powertrain. That means you get a much more competitive 7.5-second 0-62 mph time.

Aside from that, though, the 64 kWh ‘2’ is more or less identical to its 39 kWh sibling. You get 17-inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors as standard, while an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system houses the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration systems. A battery heating system is also included, designed to insulate and warm up the battery while the vehicle is plugged in, thus minimising the effects of cold ambient temperatures.

Gallery: New Kia e-Niro '2'