A prestigious Car of the Year award has been given to an electric vehicle (EV) for the first time.
The Kia e-Niro was given the title by car-buying magazine and website What Car? at its 42nd annual awards ceremony.
It can be driven for 253 miles between charges, according to tests in real-world conditions.
The award comes after alternatively fuelled vehicles – such as plug-in hybrids or pure electrics – increased their share of the new car market from 4.6% in 2017 to 6.0% last year.
The market share for diesels fell from 42.0% to 31.7% over the same period amid growing concern over their impact on air quality and uncertainty about how they will be taxed and treated in the future.
Petrol cars saw their market share rise from 53.4% to 62.3%.
What Car? editor Steve Huntingford said: “The demand for electric cars has grown exponentially in recent years, and 2019 is shaping up to be the biggest year yet.
“Most of the leading manufacturers have plans for new EVs, and the fact that the Kia e-Niro was able to beat all its petrol and diesel rivals to win the 2019 What Car? Car of the Year award shows how far this technology has developed.
“The e-Niro stood out because it addresses the key issues of cost and range that have traditionally prevented many motorists from taking the plunge into EV ownership.
“Here is a spacious and practical family SUV that demands very few compromises.”
A study for motoring research charity the RAC Foundation found that growth in EV use could be stalled by limitations in the public charging network.
The mass market appeal of ultra-green vehicles may be restricted without widespread, reliable and easy-to-use charging points, the report warned.
The Government’s Road To Zero strategy features a huge boost for EV charging infrastructure, including the installation of hundreds of thousands more charge points.
RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said: “This recognition for the e-Niro is in part down to its significant real-world range which makes it – and the growing number of other EVs available in the showroom – an attractive proposition to drivers who worry whether the electric car they’re thinking of buying will get them to where they’re going without the hassle of having to recharge.
“However, with reports that supply is running behind the growing, though still small, public demand for battery-powered cars, it is up to industry to show that they can deliver the vehicles people increasingly want to purchase.”