It's been three years since the Niro was introduced in the UK, and just a year since the pure-electric e-Niro hit the market, and the latter is still winning awards left, right and centre.
Despite sharing the same bodyshell, the e-Niro arrived with some design tweaks to make it appear more modern and vibrant. Now Kia has rolled out those changes to the rest of the range bringing the mid-size crossover bang up to date.
On the outside of the car, you'll immediately notice the new lights at the front, where the standard projection headlamps have been redesigned to incorporate Kia’s cool ‘ice cube’ design. The bumper has been revised, and now houses LED daytime running lights with a double-arrow design. The fog lamps, if fitted, are also LED now.
It’s the same changes at the rear, with a revised bumper that is finished with a silver-painted skid plate and incorporates new light reflectors and rear fog lamps in the corners. The rear LED lights have been updated slightly, too.
More significant updates have been made across the range inside the cabin, with the most obvious change being a revised dashboard. Where there was once a rather dull swathe of grey plastic, there’s now a swept piano-black blade across the width of the car that also houses a new 10.25-inch infotainment screen, at least on ‘3’ grade cars and above. The material quality has been improved, with soft-touch plastics abound, and silver or satin chrome highlights dotted around.
The infotainment package includes UVO, Kia’s connectivity package that brings live traffic information, weather forecasts, points of interest, fuel prices, and even details of potential on- and off-street parking including price, location and availability. It’s not flawless, but works well and allows for easy customisation of the screen - there are one, two or three panels you can display n the screen at any time, each of which can be changed and personalised to your own needs. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both present, too.
Finally, the Niro now gets a suite of extra safety equipment and driver-assist technologies. The existing adaptive cruise control will now operate all the way to a standstill, making queuing traffic a breeze. Lane follow assist ensures the Niro follows traffic in convoy-style, staying in the middle of the lane or assisting with lane changes, right up to motorway speeds.
The hybrid combines a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor powered by a 1.56 kWh battery pack. Like all hybrids, it's not intended to offer huge miles on electric power, instead combining both the electric motor and the petrol engine to perform as efficiently as possible. That said, anecdotally roughly 50% of urban journeys should be covered with the engine switched off.
New steering-wheel-mounted paddles hint at some driving entertainment. The six-speed automatic gearbox is certainly more responsive than the usual CVT effort found in hybrids, and the paddles add extra control for more enthusiastic driving. Independent suspension all round creates a fine balance between on-road comfort and driver engagement.
Financially, buyers will benefit from improved economy over a regular petrol-powered car, with an official economy figure of as much as 58.9mpg, but there are few tax benefits to take advantage of.
Niro Plug-in Hybrid
Plug-in hybrid models make a stronger financial case for themselves, especially with company car drivers. Emissions of just 31.3g/km from the Niro PHEV means corporate users will be facing a BIK burden of just 16%, dropping to 12% next year. With a targeted range of 30 miles on electric power alone, the majority of the average drivers journeys will be completed without a drop of petrol being used.
With more battery power available to draw upon, the Plug-in is marginally quicker than the Hybrid, so also includes the new paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
Being such a new model, the e-Niro sees the fewest changes, as most of the updated cosmetic touches were present at launch. The paddle shifters won’t be coming to the EV model - electric cars don’t need a traditional gearbox, so there’s nothing to shift.
However, the paddles remain, adjusting the amount of regenerative braking from ‘barely noticeable’ to ‘surprisingly firm’. Under normal circumstances, it’s possible to drive the car without ever touching the brake pedal thanks to the paddles.
With a 64kWh battery pack available, performance figures are improved in the e-Niro, with 62mph arriving in a rather zesty 7.5 seconds. Drive sensibly and a range of 282 is possible before needing to plug in and recharge, with personal experience showing that a target that high isn’t unachievable.
Like the Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid, the e-Niro also comes with a seven-year warranty, limited to 100,000 miles, a warranty that includes cover the battery pack.