Scroll down to watch my video review of the new Kia Niro.
The Kia Niro is a new crossover that also happens to be a hybrid. It’s a brand new model for Kia, built on a dedicated eco-car platform that has been engineered in isolation from Kia’s other models. Consumer demand is strong for crossovers and SUVs, and hybrids are also gaining notoriety, so the Niro seems like the perfect product to launch at this time.
The Niro slots in between the Cee’d hatchback and Sportage SUV in the Kia range. While some manufacturers have chosen to give their hybrids radical and futuristic design flourishes, Kia has conservatively styled the Niro so it will fit in well on the road with the other crossovers and SUVs. There’s a small badge on the back that reads ‘eco hybrid’ but other than that, the Niro’s relatively innocuous as anything other than sensible transport.
In terms of interior design, Kia has stepped things up a notch with the Niro and the cabin is well-built with quite a premium feel. Again everything is very conventional, but there are a few hints to the car’s hybrid powertrain including a power meter and a screen to monitor the energy flow between the different parts of the system. Kia wanted their Niro to be practical and the space inside the car is very good for the car’s compact footprint. The leg room in the back is generous as is the headroom all round. There is a 427 litre boot that’s highly practical for its size, shape and low loading sill.
The Niro’s petrol/electric hybrid powertrain is made up of a 1.6-litre petrol engine, a battery pack, and an electric motor and together the system produces 141hp. A strong selling point for the Niro is of course that it is cheap to run. CO2 emissions are just 88g/km so motor tax is €180 per year. Kia quote 74mpg for the Niro. I averaged 52mpg over a week of driving, though I did see 56mpg on some trips.
Like most hybrids, on the road the Niro is mostly a very smooth and silent driving experience. The car starts off on electric power so it is completely silent, and then the petrol engine kicks in as appropriate. Kia has opted for a dual clutch automatic transmission, which changes gear in a more natural way and with less noise than the CVT gearbox that has been common in many hybrids to date. The Niro is classed as a crossover but it’s not a particularly tall vehicle which actually helps the handling because it behaves on the road more like a hatchback than a tall SUV. The handling is not particularly exciting but it is predictable, the steering is decent enough and ride comfort is generally very good.
The problem with the Niro is that it doesn’t feel very responsive. The throttle feels lifeless most of the time and that’s okay if you’re just coasting around but if you want power quickly, it’s a bit frustrating. There is a sport mode, which you access through the gearbox, and that does solve the problem of the lifeless throttle. But you buy a hybrid for efficiency and to save money on your fuel bills so you really don’t want to be driving it in sport mode all the time! If you need speed quickly for overtaking, at least it’s an option as in the normal setting you can sometimes be left wanting for any sort of pace.
The Kia Niro is priced from €29,095, and that price includes the €1500 VRT reduction for hybrids. Niro is offered with a high spec that includes four electric windows, full leather interior, heated front seats and steering wheel, cruise control, dual zone aircon, lane keep assist, and a touchscreen with navigation and Android Auto compatibility.
The Niro is a welcome addition to the Kia range and the execution of the car is very convincing as Niro feels like a good quality product, and is spacious, practical and easy to drive. The Niro won’t set your pulse racing for performance and pin sharp handling but it’s a low emission hybrid that’s packaged in a way that will be very appealing to a lot of people.
Model tested: Kia Niro hyrid
0-100km/h: 11.5 seconds
CO2 emissions: 88g/km
Motor tax: €180 per year